'We Will Rebuild:' Murphy High alumni association launches restoration fund
 By Sally Pearsall Ericson | sericson@al.com
on December 27, 2012 at 12:58 PM, updated December 27, 2012 at 1:18 PM

Theodore Kearley took this photo of Murphy High School's entrance on Dec. 26. The "S" has been recovered, but other pieces of the sign are still missing. (Courtesy of Theodore Kearley)

MOBILE, Alabama -- In the aftermath of the devastating tornado that struck their historic school on Dec. 25, Murphy High School alumni are raising money and making plans to get their campus back in shape.

The school’s Facebook page is up to 846 friends, and the Murphy High School Alumni Association’s website, www.murphyalumni.org, has a “tornado restoration fund” donation link. The motto: “We Will Rebuild.”

Also, Murphy’s band director, Stan Chapman, had some good news to report Thursday from the campus, where cleanup efforts were underway. The band room may need to be bulldozed, he said, but the instruments and music are in good condition and the uniforms are being dry cleaned. Chapman believes that the band room was damaged by a direct hit from one of the portable classrooms nearby. The instruments will be stored in a warehouse at the Mobile County Public School System’s central offices in west Mobile, he said. The Mighty Marching Panthers are scheduled to march with the Conde Cavaliers in the first Mobile Mardi Gras parade of the season on Jan. 25, he added. “My plan is to be there,” he said.

Chapman urged Murphy graduates to make their voices heard. “The most immediate need is for everyone who’s a Murphy High alumnus to contact their state legislators, because they’re the ones who will decide about the insurance money and make sure it is properly applied to Murphy,” he said. “They need to make their feelings known. Let the legislators know that we’re concerned and we’re watching them.”

The MHS Alumni Association already had a restoration fund in place before the storms, which was used for projects around the campus, said Theodore Kearley, treasurer. The group has also started a tree restoration fund to be used for maintenance on the numerous oak trees on the Carlen Street property. “We’d just kicked that campaign off in the last six months,” he said.

The Alumni Association’s fundraising efforts, for now, will be geared toward long-term restoration of the trees, Kearley said, once repairs to the buildings are complete. “We’re collecting that money now, knowing that down the road, we’ll need landscaping funds,” he said.

Other fundraising ideas include a benefit concert and block party, but planning is still in the early stages, Kearley said. Murphy High School’s alumni are eager to help, he said, particularly given the national attention the school has received since the tornado. He has heard from graduates across the country via email and Facebook. 

Restoring Murphy should be a top priority, he said, noting that in addition to being an important part of Mobile’s history, the school is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Donate online at www.murphyalumni.org, or send checks to Theodore Kearley, P.O. Box 66158, Mobile, AL 36660. Make checks payable to Murphy Alumni Association, Inc. and specify "Tornado Restoration." For more information, email Kearley at tfkearley@aol.com.