Educator husband’s name added to Conway elementary

Portraits of Preston and Florence Mattison were unveiled during the renaming ceremony at what is now Preston and Florence Mattison Elementary School in Conway. Previously, the school was just named for Florence Mattison, a longtime schoolteacher in the district.
Portraits of Preston and Florence Mattison were unveiled during the renaming ceremony at what is now Preston and Florence Mattison Elementary School in Conway. Previously, the school was just named for Florence Mattison, a longtime schoolteacher in the district.

CONWAY — Florence Mattison, a longtime teacher in the Conway School District, had an elementary school named for her in 1981, but her educator husband’s name was added last week.

It is now the Preston and Florence Mattison Elementary School.

Florence Mattison taught for 20 years in the Conway School District, beginning in the fall of 1926.

In 1923, Preston Mattison was named the principal of Pine Street School in Conway, where he served until 1947. The school originally housed African American students in first through eighth grades.

Conway School Board President Andre´Acklin applauded the name change.

“They were partners in education … I did know Miss Florence. I didn’t know Mr. Preston; I didn’t have the opportunity to meet him. It looks like she was the voice behind a lot of things that were done when he served as principal at Pine Street.

“I think it’s just important for our community that the district would recognize Mr. Preston as a pioneer in education,” Acklin said.

Preston Mattison also played an active role in the community, according to a press release. “During his tenure, he was instrumental in convincing the school board of the need for a high school building to be constructed to serve African American students at Pine Street,” the release stated.

“I grew up with the Mattison family, so I got with some of the family members, and they were all in, in terms of adding Mr. Preston’s name,” Acklin said.

In May, the Conway School Board unanimously approved a proclamation to make the name change. The celebration and of the new name was Monday. New portraits of the Mattisons were unveiled, and third-graders sang “Agents of Change.”

Acklin said David Grimes, a member of the Conway City Council, brought the contributions of Preston Mattison to the attention of school-district Superintendent Greg Murry.

Grimes, a member of the Faulkner County Museum Commission, said he read a “fascinating history of the Pine Street School,” which was published by the Faulkner County Historical Society. He saw that Preston Mattison had been an administrator.

Grimes said he forwarded that information to Murry and the school board members.

He said he thought about the fact that in 2016, Betty Courtway’s name was added to Bob Courtway Middle School in Conway. “Well, Preston was very involved with all that [education], too, and it might make some sense to think about adding his name,” Grimes said.

Bob Courtway, who died in 1997, was a longtime Hendrix swim coach. He was also a volunteer swim coach at Conway High School and a school board member in the district. Betty Courtway, who died in 2016, taught kindergarten for 25-plus years in Conway, primarily at Ellen Smith Elementary School.

Another school in the district named for a couple is the Raymond and Phyllis Simon Middle School, named for the former superintendent, Raymond, and his wife, the district’s first director of technology.

Anthony Wayne Hoskins, chairman of the executive board of a volunteer group planning a Pine Street School Museum, said in an earlier interview that Pine Street High School closed in 1967 when the Conway schools were integrated. The elementary school stayed open until 1969 or 1970, he said.

The old gymnasium and the elementary school building are still on the grounds of Greater Pleasant Branch Baptist Church and are still used.

Florence Mattison Principal Gary Logan said the Mattisons should serve as role models for the students by the strong examples the couple set.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.