Thomas Jefferson Elder Community Center

Circa 1889





The T. J. Elder Community Center

is managed by

The Washington County Elderite Association, Inc. 

316 Hall Street

Sandersville, Georgia 31082



Email - [email protected]

Evolution Of The Elder Schools

T. J. Elder High and Industrial School 1889-1959 / T. J. Elder Elementary and High School 1959-1970


Education for African Americans within Sandersville began in Springfield Baptist Church. A year or so later, Professor Elder, with a small group of students, founded the Sandersville High & Industrial School. With the indomitable insight of Professor Elder and the assistance of his wife Mrs. Lillian Phinizy Elder, this school became the symbol of the intellectual attainment of many citizens as well as people of the surrounding communities. The Elder School has occupied three different sites.


From 1891 to 1950 the school on Hall Street contained grades 1-11. There was no graduating class in 1951 because the curriculum was being developed for 12th grade. The first class of twelfth graders to graduate was in 1952. On January 21, 1959, the school moved to a new building on Hines Street that housed grades Fifth through Twelfth, while Kindergarten through Fourth remained at the original site. Both facilities retained the name of T. J. Elder. After the integration of schools in 1970 the Hines Street school be­ came T. J. Elder Middle School and the original building on Hall Street became T. J. Elder Primary School.


Professor Thomas Jefferson Elder

Professor Elder was born in Oconee County, Georgia. He hardly knew his mother because she lived away in the home for whom she worked. She left him and his only brother with other people. They at­tended Knox Institute in Athens when they were youngsters. He states in his biography that Mr. John Meeks, a white man provided for them after his mother died. He cared for them for several years in Athens and later in Atlanta, they worked and saved their money and were able to attend Fisk University. He later attended Morgan Park Military School and Cook County Normal in Chicago.

Professor Elder came to Washington County in 1888 at the invitation of a Preacher to take charge of a Washington County School. After two years he built a school which was named the Sandersville High & Industrial School and was later renamed the Thomas Jefferson Elder High and Industrial School.

A Rosenwald Plan School

The Rosenwald Plan Schools were named for philanthropist, Julius Rosenwald. Through his work with educator Booker T. Washington, he established a charitable fund to as­ sist communities in building schools for black children in the rural south. He intended for schools receiving grant assistance to serve as a model of modern school architectural designs. Most of the Rosenwald Plan Schools have an "H" design.


The Thomas Jefferson Elder School was built with the "H" design, following the stipulation of Rosenwald that the grant funds be matched by the people in the community.


T. J. Elder Community Center

The T. J. Elder Community Center is on the site of the original Elder School. Cultural, academic, and special activities are held here for the community. An auditorium with a stage provides space for concerts and other large group activities. There is one classroom/meeting room, kitchen, computer lab, and a museum with artifacts, archives, and memorabilia of the Elder Schools.