THE HISTORY OF THOMAS JEFFERSON HIGH
The following article was written years ago by Carlos McDonald, a top graduate from Jefferson High School in 1953. After attending Texas Western College, Mr. McDonald received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering as well as Masters in both Electrical Engineering and Physics. He also earned a PhD in Physics from New Mexico State University. Mr. McDonald was honored as an “Outstanding Ex” in 1962 and1975. This piece was later reprinted by Leona Curry, Secretary to the Principal.
THE EARLY DAYS
The history of Thomas Jefferson High in El Paso, Texas started before World War II when citizens in the vicinity of Burleson Elementary began to talk about the need for a secondary school. Little was done until after the war.
In 1946, the educational facilities in El Paso were overcrowded. Spatial limitations were particularly evident at Bowie High School, El Paso High School, and Austin High School. These three establishments offered secondary education to students throughout the entire city. To remedy the acute lack of space, a new high school was undoubtedly needed. A committee from the Burleson Parent Teacher Association went to the school board to discuss this matter.
Many other meetings and petitions led to the board’s decision to construct a new high school on the grounds of Burleson Elementary, 4700 Alameda Avenue, and surrounding property, which amounts to nearly seven and one-half acres. J.M. Whitaker was appointed principal of both Burleson Elementary School and Burleson High School. By 1951, Burleson Elementary was relocated south of Paisano Drive.
With the school board’s approval in 1948, Mr. Whitaker and the Parent Teacher Association decided to name the high school after Thomas Jefferson. This historic figure was notable in many regards. He was the third President of the United States of America, one of the first proponents of a general school system in this country, and an influential member of the committee which drafted the Declaration of Independence.
In the process of ordering football and band uniforms, Mr. Whitaker and the Parent Teacher Association chose silver and scarlet as the school’s colors. Amongst the myriad suggestions for mascot, the winning selection of a fox was submitted by Lawrence McConaughy. Roy Wilson, appointed director of the band, composed the official school and fight songs. His wife, who had been writing poems for years, developed the lyrics.
On September 6, 1949, the school opened its doors to hundreds of students for the very first time. Many traditional activities were started in the initial years; the selection of a ROTC queen, the annual ball, a senior prom, the awarding of “J” sweaters, and other activities have become customary. With each passing year, Jefferson High School reminds us, “Once a Fox-Always a Fox.”