Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

1955 DEBATE CHAMPIONS

Morning Star, July 30, 2006, pg. 10

We had a great book signing at the Farmer’s Market in the Market Place last weekend for my new book “Growing Up in Albion.” Thank you for your participation. If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, copies are available at the Albion Chamber of Commerce or from yours truly. On page 100 is the photograph we are featuring this week in this column, as well as the story which would go with it.

Most towns in Michigan have a listing of their high school championship teams under the city limits sign when you enter their locality. These help bring prestige to a city and to the local school system as a reminder of some of their accomplishments. Perhaps our Albion signs ought to be expanded. State championships are not just limited to athletics.

During the 1950s, Albion had a string of state championships in a special academic “sport:” debate. Albion High School’s debate teams were led by faculty member Ethel Fleenor for many years, who did an outstanding job of training forensic champions during her long and fruitful teaching and coaching career.

One of those spectacular years was 1955, when our AHS team won the Class A-B state championship at the finals tournament held in Ann Arbor on April 30. The tournament was sponsored by the Michigan High School Forensic Association. Our AHS debate team was wholeheartedly supported by the Albion community. Seven chartered Greyhound busses filled with 300 enthusiastic supporters traveled to the Rackham Auditorium that day with a state police escort, cheering our team to victory.

At that tournament, Albion defeated Hazel Park to win the championship. Clinching the victory were students Arthur Farley and Richard Clifford, who won a unanimous 3-0 decision over their Hazel Park counterparts. The assigned topic was “free trade,” with Albion arguing against it, and Hazel Park for it. When the winner was announced, Albion’s supporters began cheering and singing the school songs. The victory was capped by a big forensic banquet later that day at the Michigan Union ballroom.

It was the third state debate championship Albion had racked up in six years to that time, the others being in 1950 and 1952. In that 1954-55 school year, Albion won 21 out of 22 debates. For many years the numerous forensic winners plaques (there were lots of them) won by Albion hung/sat in the packed trophy cases at Washington Gardner High School. They were somewhat triangular in shape, and quite easy to remember. They were removed when Washington Gardner High School was converted into a Junior High School in 1967. I don’t know their whereabouts today.

From our Historical Notebook this week is pictured the 1955 Class A-B State Champion Debate Team from Albion High School. Seated front row, left to right: Marsha Pasick (note: a cousin of yours truly), Richard Clifford, Arthur Farley, and Virginia Baldwin. Standing in the back row: Paul Irwin, John Garland, coach Ethel Fleenor, and Graham Bryce. How many of our readers were part of Albion’s debate teams under the leadership of Ethel Fleenor, or were among those 300 supporters who took the busses to Ann Arbor on that day in 1955?


1955 Class A-B State Champion Debate Team

Next: ALBION 100 YEARS AGO--AUGUST, 1906


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