History of Tech High School: 1911 - 1987


...or Would you believe that Tech and Central both began in 1911?


- by Gene Gill, Tech 1951

Preface  (Please click on any small photo to enlarge it)

Gene Gill , T'1951

Gene Gill, 2010

In April of 2007, a new website debuted on the World Wide Web, titled "Memphis Tech High Alumni" and it featured yearbook photos of every graduate of Tech High from 1922 to 1987. #56  It also included a history of Tech, and the traditional articles about Tech being the first school in Memphis and older than Central.  The website has been successful and continues to grow and evolve.  I created this website as part of a "love-affair" with a very special Memphis high school and the website has remained a labor of love for me.  As a loyal Tech graduate, I never considered questioning  the basic history of the school - until now.

During the early part of 2009 I discovered a web page called "Ray Holt's Memphis School Articles Collection", which contained newspaper articles pertaining to education in Memphis from 1845 to 1922.  I read a few of them and suddenly began to think "Maybe Tech isn't as old as we've thought, after all".  I continued reading and in June  2009 gradually began adding some of the articles to the "Memphis Tech Alumni" website.


Dave French, Tech 1969, loyal contributor to the website, also began reading the Ray Holt articles and re-thinking the beginning of Tech.  We both agreed that the history we knew might be questionable.  Dave began collecting vintage postcards which pictured the "castle on Poplar Av".  All of the postcards had different names for the same building, such as "The High School", "Memphis High School", and "Vocational High School".  We didn't understand why.  A breakthrough occurred in July 2010 when Dave found an amazing antique pin for sale on EBAY.  The pin was for Memphis High School and the "castle" on Poplar was engraved on it.  We knew "the castle" as Old Tech and we had heard of Memphis High School, but we knew nothing about it.  So we both began to devour the Ray Holt articles and the legend became more confusing than ever.  It took quite a while to sort it out, but we gradually learned that there was only one public high school in early Memphis and this one high school moved several times to different buildings and locations.  That one public high school was named Memphis High School.

Below are some of the postcards that Dave found on Ebay.

Dave French, T'1969 Dave French, 2010

1898 MHS pin

1898 MHS pin

"Memphis High School"               

"High School Building"

           "Vocational High School"

Rob Jolly, T'1970 Rob Jolly, 2005

M. Thoni, IC 1969 M Thoni White '10

During the early research, we were sure we had discovered the truth about Tech, but additional proof and validation was needed.  Finding it was a problem because we lived far from Memphis and the Memphis Library.  Dave contacted Memphian and Tech historian Rob Jolly, Tech 1970, about scanning some of his collection regarding the Memphis High School.  In October of 2010, Rob Jolly came on board.  At the beginning he was not 100% sure that he believed what we were saying, but he still volunteered to do library research.  After a week of research, Rob was convinced that we were on the right path, and now was totally with us. 

In addition, Dave contacted  Memphian and "honorary Techite" Maureen Thoni White, Immaculate Conception 1969, who also began to do library research for us. 

We have now validated the history of Tech and it's not what we had once believed.  Tech and Central  began at the same time - both dating from September 1911.  The history presented below is unique and for the first time, reinforced with documented and historical evidence.    
                    - Gene Gill,
 November 2010

The CAST in this Drama:  It is necessary to know some background about early education in Memphis.

Memphis Board of Education.  In the early history of Memphis education, the board had a penchant for naming schools after the streets where they were located - and then shortly afterwards, renaming the school for a prominent educator.   To complicate matters, in various publications from the board and in city newspapers, the schools were constantly referred to by their original "street name" rather than by their new name.  This habit obviously caused a great deal of the  misinformation and confusion about the origins of Tech High School, as well as other Memphis schools.  The final blow was when the board threw out most of its early records in the late 50's. 


Memphis Newspapers of the time followed the lead of the Board of Education and continued to refer to schools by their "Street Name" long after the board had renamed the school for an educator.  There were from 10 to 15  newspapers in Memphis during the early years and they all did this - as well as sometimes using BOTH names in the same article.  Of course, this perpetuated the inconsistencies that one finds when trying to research the early schools in Memphis.


Market Street School, built in 1872, was the first brick public school in Memphis.  It was for grades 1-6, but there was also a small section for "higher education".   In 1877 the Market Street School was renamed Smith School and in 1920, Christine School - but  everyone continued to call it the Market Street School.   It gets more complicated.  When Memphis High School was formed in 1877 by the merger of the girl's and boy's high schools, it moved to the top floor of the Market Street School.  In our early research we had thought Memphis High School had its own building on one corner and the Market Street School on the opposite corner.

Then we discovered the Memphis Directories posted on the Shelby County Register of Deeds website.  One day while re-reading the 1888 directory,  I noticed that both schools were listed separately but they had the same address and different principals.  That was a breakthrough:  One building - two different schools.  From 1877 to 1891, Memphis High School continued to occupy the top floors of the Market Street School.  Enrollment steadily increased to the point that a new high school was necessary.    Click # 1,  2,  3,  4. 59 or on the footnotes at the bottom.


Linden Street School In 1892,  a new school was built on the grounds of the Linden Street School and was named Linden Street High School, and then changed to Leath High School, after a school superintendent.  All the staff from the Memphis High School moved to this new school and the name "Memphis High School" was not used for the next 6 years.   Actually, before moving here they had already begun using Leath "Grammar" School as an annex because of over-crowding.  It's not clear why the Board of Education didn't call this new building Memphis

High School - unless it had something to do with the facility being built on land already occupied by Leath Grammar School.   Leath High School grew rapidly and within a couple of years it was was once again obvious that a new and much larger high school was needed.  The Board of Education settled on a lot where the old Memphis Market was located - the corner of Poplar and Yates.  The new building opened in 1898 and the Leath High School building is then used as a Junior High School.  Click  # 5,  6,  7.  or on  footnotes at the bottom.


Poplar Avenue "Castle".  No building had more names than "the castle" on Poplar.  At various times it was called "Poplar Street School", "Poplar Avenue High School", "Old Poplar School", "Memphis High School", "Vocational Grammar and High School", "Vocational School", "Crockett Vocational", "Crockett Technical", "the Old Tech building", "Old Tech High", "Home of Hope Night School", "Memphis Board of Education", etc".   However, the castle was built specifically for Memphis High School in 1898 and that school occupied it until it closed in 1911. 

When the building opened in 1898, the Memphis High School name was resurrected and the entire staff from Leath High School moved to the new building.  A decree was issued from the Board that Memphis High School is now the ONLY high school in Memphis.  Thus the Poplar Avenue building became known as Memphis' first high school.  When Memphis High School closed in 1911 the board didn't have an immediate use for this building.  Since they had tried for many years to build a "Manual Training School", they created Memphis Vocational School just for this building, and the building gradually became far better known as the "old Tech building".  The history of this building is key to the misinformation as well as to the true history of Tech.  Click # 8,  9,  16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 58  or on footnotes at bottom


Fowlkes Grammar School.  At various times it was also called "Folks", "Folkes", "Jefferson High", "Jefferson Annex",  and "Memphis Board of Education".  This building is part of Tech's history because it was used as an annex to relieve the crowded conditions of Memphis High School, and later as an annex for Crockett Technical, and even an annex for Central High.  When it was no longer used for a school, the Board of Education occupied the building.  The building burned in 1964 and was demolished.   Click  #10. or on footnote at the bottom.


Hope Night School.  There have been writings by others that Hope Night School was the forerunner of Tech.  We proved very early that this was not true.  The Board of Education itself was partially to blame for this legend, because they published photos of "the castle" after the Vocational School opened there.  On the photo they identified it as "Vocational High School - home of The Hope Night School".  They did not mention that these were two separate schools in the same building and that the Vocational School also had a separate night school program.  

Being in the same building is the only association these two schools ever had.  They never merged.  And the founder's daughter recognized in her memoir that the Hope Night School closed in 1928 "simply because there's no longer a need for it".  Click # 11 12 13 14 15 45,  or footnotes at the bottom.


Central High School always claimed that it went back to Memphis High School in 1887.  Yes it does,  and so does every new high school built in Memphis since 1911, including Tech.  However, Central was not a continuation of the Memphis High School.  The MHS name was only used when there was ONE high school in Memphis.  The Board of Education was keenly aware that the city was growing and that new high schools would be needed in all parts of the city.  Their plan was to start with one new school in a central location and name it Central High.  At the same time, the board stopped using Memphis High School as a name because there would 

never again be just  ONE  Memphis high school.  Central High was not a name change.  It was a newly created school.  Central dates from 1911 - PERIOD.  In their early yearbooks, when talking about their history, it's possible that Central might also be partially responsible for contributing to misinformation about Tech's origins.  Click # 25 26 27 28 29. or on footnotes.


...And Finally - the History of Tech  It's always been available, but just needed to be organized and interpreted.


Vocational Grammar and High School 1911-1917


Tech goes back to 1911, when a NEW school was created by the Board of Education. #16, #18, #58    There's no dispute that the newly created Memphis Vocational Grammar and High School is the beginning of Tech.  In June of 1911, the board had a building - "the castle", at 317 Poplar, for which they no longer had any use.  They created the new vocational high for this building, specifically "to take the load off the new Central so they wouldn't have to build a 2nd public high school for some time" #17.  Thus the new Central High and the new Vocational High Schools both opened in September of 1911. # 19 21 22 23.  44.

The "castle" had originally been built in 1898 specifically for Memphis High School and that school occupied the building until 1911, when the Vocational School took over the building.   Since there would eventually be high schools in all parts of Memphis, the Memphis High School name was dropped after June of 1911 and never used again. #20

When the school opened, there were 4 teachers and 73 students.  That first year, the enrollment grew to 188 students.  In 1912-13 enrollment grew to 272,  and then to 284 in 1913-14, 347 in 1914-15, and 469 in 1915-16. #57  In 1916 the Vocational School was recognized by the Christian Science Monitor newspaper.  #62  The High school grew so fast that It wasn't long before "Grammar" ceased to be a part of the school's name.  In 1917, the Smith-Hughes program #55 was added to the Vocational curriculum.  #24  In the same year, this government program presented the school with $20,000 in Federal aid to be used to develop and expand their curriculum.  #61

The rare photos below, from a booklet published by the Board of Education, show some 1911 classrooms at the Vocational High School.  We had also hoped to have a list of the teachers in 1911 when the Vocational School opened, but the earliest list we have located is 1916.  #40    

Sewing Class 1911 Shop Class 1911 "Domestic Science" 1911

Although "the castle" now houses the Vocational School, it is significant that you understand the Board of Education and the newspapers continue to refer to the school as "Poplar Street School" or "the old Memphis High School", as if they are all the same.  The confusion about the origin of Tech is beginning.  




Crockett Vocational High School 1918-1920


The name was changed to Crockett Vocational School in 1918, in honor of Mrs. E. J. Crockett, who was a dedicated and much loved pioneer of early education in Memphis #30.  This is the same school, same location at the 317 Poplar "castle" - only the name has been changed.   Under principal J. W. Curtis, the school grew, but in the fall of 1918, J. L. Highsaw, who had been a teacher at the new Central High, became principal and the enrollment begins to soar many times over #32.  He will begin a drive to have "Vocational "  in the school name, changed to "Technical",  as well as a campaign for a new and much larger school building.  The board is willing to build a new school but can't find the funds.  Would you believe the colors of the Crockett Vocational High School at this time are RED and GOLD?  #31 

  Mrs. E. J. Crockett


The ROTC is organized in 1918 and Crockett Vocational becomes the first Memphis school to organize the military unit.  For the next 6 straight years it wins the annual competitive drill in the city.

The additional government funds provided by the Smith-Hughes act allows the school to increase enrollment and it quickly becomes overcrowded. 
#61  1920 marks the first class in the South to graduate for Vocational Teaching under the Smith-Hughes program. #55  Long-time Tech Assistant Principal Effie E. Wright is in this class.  #33.

We recently learned that a yearbook was printed in 1919, named "The Craftsman".  This may be the earliest "Tech" yearbook?  And we have now added a copy of this 6 page yearbook to the  Yearbooks section of the website.

Newspapers continue to refer to the school as the "Old Poplar Street School" or "the old Memphis High School", and occasionally "the Vocational School".   The confusion about Tech's origin continues. 




Crockett Technical High 1921-1927


The name is changed again in 1921 to Crockett Technical High - it's the same school, same location at the 317 Poplar "castle" building.  The school colors are changed to BLUE and GOLD.  Although the Crockett Technical High name does appear in the Commercial Appeal in 1921, the newspapers often refer to the school as the "Vocational High School" .   It should be noted, however, that the school begins to call itself "Tech High School"  in yearbooks and all school publications.  This is long before the Board of Education official date of 1928 for "Tech High" .

The school continues to dominate in the city ROTC Competitive Drills #34.  Attendance is up so much that there's no place to go.  The board takes over a building across the street for some classes.  The Gym is now used for classes and there's no place to play.  Additional classes are held in the nearby Jefferson Annex #10. 51.  J. L. Highsaw continues to push for a new and larger Technical school to be built #36


The first "Tech" yearbook (that we know about) was published in 1922 and was named "The Dynamo".  The Dynamo is published every year until 1927.  It's printed in the school's print shop.  (Note:  We now have a copy of a 6 page yearbook printed in 1919, named "The Craftsman").  Some of the Championships won by "Tech High" in 1924-26:  Championship of the world in School Banking, Interscholastic Championship of Memphis in Military Drill won for 6 years, Interscholastic Championship of Memphis in Debating, Interscholastic Championship of Memphis in Girls' Basketball, Tri-State Championship in Boys' Basketball, Triple Tie for Football Championship of Memphis, Interscholastic Championship of Memphis in Wrestling, Boxing, and Golf, Championship of the United States in Safety Designing, and many more. #48

The students call their school "Tech High" as early as 1926 #46, and in 1926-27, perhaps earlier,  the school nickname was "The One Hundred Per Cent School" #47 The 1926 yearbook was printed in the school's shops and was lovingly dedicated to the "entire staff" #49.   Newspapers begin to call the school "Tech High".

A newspaper article in 1921 refers to the school as "Tech High", and that name catches on with everyone
#35.  By the time the school moves to the new Tech High building in 1928, the newspapers have become so conditioned to calling the "castle" building "the Tech building", that they will continue to call it "the Tech Building" until it is demolished in 1965 #52.  We are sure the legend started that Tech is the oldest high school, simply because it became so closely identified with the oldest high school BUILDING in Memphis.  Tech and the "Poplar Street School" or "Old Memphis High School" or "the castle" have become synonyms.  The confusion about the origin of Tech is complete. 

   The Castle is demolished

The photos below are the last taken of the 317 Poplar classrooms before the move to the new Tech at 1266 Poplar.  They show the crowded conditions at the old school.

Bookkeeping English Arithmetic   Americanization

Lumber Grading



Commercial Art





Memphis Technical High 1928-1987 


J. L. Highsaw finally gets his new building and a new school name.  The name is changed to Memphis Technical High  and the "new school" holds September classes in their new building at 1266 Poplar.  No one has ever disputed that Vocational High, Crockett Technical and Memphis Technical aren't the same school.  And although everyone knows that Tech goes back to the Vocational High School, the Memphis Technical name didn't officially begin until 1928 - and that's the date the Board of Education uses for the founding of Tech.

To make way for the new Tech Building on Poplar, the Board of Education acquired the old Van Vleet Mansion and 20 acres.

 Van Vleet Mansion

Tech Lions at Gate

Certain architectural elements of the old mansion were retained for the architecture of Tech - notably the classic four front columns and portico.  In addition, two stone lions, two giant urns, a curved stone seat, stone sun dial, and large mahogany book cases all became part of the new building.  The new Memphis Technical High building opened in September 1928, and was one of the finest schools in the country, with all the latest equipment.   #37 38

We had hoped to list the teachers who opened the Memphis Tech High building in 1928, but the earliest list we have is for 1929 #41.  The 1927 list of teachers is also available so it's possible to determine who came from the Crockett Tech building and who might be new #50 Beloved teacher and Assistant Principal Alice O'Donnell passes away in 1931.  Effie E. Wright becomes Assistant Principal in 1931, retires in 1950 and passes away in 1957.  J. L. Highsaw retires in 1957 and passes away in 1962.  William A. Bourne becomes Principal in 1958, retires in 1975, and passes away in 1987.  William C. Kobeck becomes principal in 1976.  Robert Terell, Assistant Principal 1976-81, was the first black administrator.  We currently have no names of later administrators, other than Ira Spillers, who was principal when Tech closed in 1987.    In a 1963 newspaper interview, long time teacher Mary Ormond Butler says "I introduced the first National Honor Society to Memphis when I was at Tech High".  #60

The first yearbook is published in 1928 and is called "The Sentinel".  There are actually 4 quarterly yearbook publications in 1928.   In 1929 the yearbook name is changed to the "Tech High Review" and this name will remain on the yearbooks until the last one in 1987.  There 1975 yearbook is cancelled by Principal Bourne, due to "lack of sales".

World War II begins in 1942.  Over 1500 Tech High boys serve on the battlefronts of the world.  More than 100 die or are reported as Missing in Action.  #5354.  The class of 1943 placed a Small Memorial on the grounds of Tech in memory of their classmates who died in the war. >

             1943 Memorial

In 1963, Tech was the first Memphis school to be integrated.  It's not the best of times nor the worst.  The first black student is Willie Walker, Class of 1965.  For an excellent accounting of integration at Tech, written by Tech teacher Carolyn Elliott, Click on > #39.  Mandatory busing arrived in 1975 and many "whites" began sending their children to private schools.   The Memphis public schools will never completely recover from "white flight".   In 1974 Tech has 192 graduates in the senior class, 178 in 1976, 149 in 1977, 114 in 1982, and the last class in 1987 had only 55 graduates.

After closing Tech in 1987, the Board of Education re-opened the building as "The Pyramid Academy" - a school for students who couldn't make it in a regular school environment.  The Pyramid Academy principal was never friendly toward the Tech alumni who wanted to collect the old Tech trophies, photos, and other memorabilia, for posterity.

In 2009, the Pyramid Academy name was changed to "Northwest Preparatory School" and Michael Smith was assigned as the new principal.  He has been very receptive to Tech alumni and allowed Don Hild, Tech 1950, Tom Moxley, Tech 1944, and Rob Jolly, Tech 1970 to take all memorabilia related to Tech.  Mr. Larry Lipford, the Building Supervisor, has always been cordial and helpful to Tech Alumni.  He helped find the large, early class photos that hung in the main office, the trophies, and

a major coup - The Tech Ledger, a book containing address information about every person who registered at Tech from 1929 to 1952.  Sue Lee Johnson, Tech 1951, scanned all 772 pages of the Tech Ledger for the Alumni website, along with photos of most of the trophies, as well as most of the yearbooks.  Sadly, none of the Memphis museums were interested in the memorabilia and because it was quite extensive, it had to be "farmed out" for safe-keeping.  Before any items were released to anyone, they had to agree to repair or refurbish the item and to maintain it.  Information regarding the dispersal of some of the Old Tech High memorabilia appears in the Epilogue below.

        NW Prep Sign at Gates

The Tech Ledger Some Early Trophies Some Later Trophies 1929 Class Photos Nat Honor Soc 1938-1980
Some prominent "Techites"
Null Adams - Newspaperman - Founder of "The Quill-Scroll"
Claude Armour - Mayor of Memphis.
James Autry - 1951. Ed. "Better Homes-Gardens", author 10 books.
Norman Brewer - 1952 - Newscaster.
Aubrey Epps - 1933 - Major League Baseball player.
Gene Bearden - Major League Pitcher.
Doris Bowden - 1933. Movie Actress "Grapes of Wrath".
Bobby Bragan - 1936. Major League Baseball player.
Ace Cannon - 1952. Musician. "Godfather of Sax".
Burton Callicott - 1926. Artist-Teacher. Painted murals, Pink Palace.
Bob Cheevers - 1961. Grammy winning songwriter.
Ray Godman - 1949 - Drag Racer.  Inter. Drag Racing Hall of Fame.
Alice Hall - 1939 - First Maid of Cotton.
Bob Lewis - Former director of programing Memphis WHBQ.
Clifford Poland - 1936 - Movie/TV underwater photographer.
James C. MacDonald - Memphis chief of Police.
Early Maxwell - 1923. Entertainment entrepreneur.
Beth Miller - 1948. Broadway actress.
Charles Miller - 1960. Artist - painted murals Leonard's Fox Plaza.
Charlie Musselwhite - 1962. Musician "Chicago Harp style".
Don Nix - Song writer, Record Producer, Creator "Memphis Sound".
Roy Nixon - 1952. Shelby County Sheriff - 1st Mayor of Shelby Co.
Curtis Person - 1931. Golfer.
Kay Starr - 1940. Singer.
Thornton Utz 1933 - Artist. Painted 50+ "Sat. Evening Post" covers.
Travis Wammack - Musician - "fastest guitar player in the South".
William Walton - Co-founder of Holiday Inns

Tech Alumni websites:  Bill Lamkins, Tech '60 was the first to add information about Tech to the WWW.  His 1960 and 1961 class rosters are still on the internet.  Gene Gill, Tech '51 added a website for Tech 1951 in November 2001.  Bill Lloyd, Tech '52 added his website for Tech 1952 in October 2002.  Nancy Tucker Douglass, Tech '50 added her website for Tech 1950 in May 2005.  Bill Tucker, Tech '57 added his website for Tech 1957 in August 2005.  Gene Gill added the Tech Alumni website in April 2007.  As of this writing, all of these pages and websites are still on the internet.  Please support the website of your choice by your visits.  Tech is also represented on Wikipedia - the online Encyclopedia,  and on the social network, Facebook.

Tech 1960-1961

Tech 1951

Tech 1952  


Tech 1950

Tech 1957

Tech  Alumni





We are amazed that no historian has come forward sooner and stated that "Tech and Central are the same age and both schools began in September of 1911".   While it did take us several months to find this information, it has always been available for others to discover.  However, there were times during our research when it almost appeared as if some sources wanted to suppress the history in order to perpetuate the legend that grew up around Tech.

In trying to sort out the confusion surrounding the origins of Tech, my conclusion is the Board of Education might be responsible for much of the confusion because of inconsistencies in their policy of naming schools.  In addition, the Poplar Avenue "Castle" is the key to the origin of Tech if you are able to decipher the many names of that  building and place them in the correct time-frame.  The confusion was perpetuated by newspaper articles, which sometimes called the schools by their street names and sometimes by their official name - often in the same article.  
Note #42 Article about the Memphis High School  Reunion in 1935 shows how the newspapers continued the confusion.
Note #43 A more recent "Ask Vance" article continuing the confusion - and a response to the article from Gene Gill.


The dispersal of some of the Tech Memorabilia:
The Tech Ledger:  Tom Moxley, T'44, Memphis TN.
Most of the Trophies: 
WWII Memorial Plaque:  Bill Johnson T'51, Olive Branch MS
National Honor Society Roster:  Tom Moxley, T'44, Memphis
1921 ROTC Photos:  Rob Jolly, T'70, Germantown TN
1929 Class Photo:  Chuck and Dave French T'70, T'69
1930 Class Photo:  Bob Breazeale, San Antonio TX
1931 Class Photo:  Dr. Patty Ray, Memphis TN
1932 Class Photo:  Johnnie Van Eaton, Atoka TN
1933 Class Photo: 
Richard Carruth, Newburn TN
1934 Class Photo:  Robert Judd, Memphis TN
1936 Class Photo:  Sid Gammon, Southaven MS
1937 Class Photo: 
Joe Lyle T'50, Jackson TN
1938 Class Photo:  Charles French T'38
1939 Class Photo:  Linda Hild Delong, Ridgeway, SC
1954 Class Photo: 
Cortez Smith T'52, Germantown TN

The history of Tech ends, for now, with a new mystery.  It's a mystery because the newspaper articles are very difficult to decipher and they seem to be full of contradictions.  It goes something like this:  As early as 1897 the Board of Education was interested in building a "Manual Training" school.  By 1905, they became obsessed with "Manual Training" - the precursor of "Vocational Training".  They wanted to build a manual training school in Memphis to keep up with what was going on in the North.  This was long BEFORE there was talk of building a new "centrally located" high school.  In 1907 the Board got as far as planning to build the manual training school on the back lot of the Memphis High School on Poplar.  They argued about this because some on the board members wanted to take over the nearby Jefferson Street School for the manual training School, and others wanted to build a new, separate manual training school in a different location.  They actually got a $300,000 bond for a new manual training school, but couldn't find a bank who would secure the bond.  One article in 1909, even talks about securing a lot on Bellevue for the Manual Training School.  And another in 1909 talks about building a "central" school on Bellevue and adding an Industrial Department to the school, possibly in a separate building. (Can you imagine Tech and Central on the same campus?)  The mystery doesn't end here, because we could not find anything relating to a final decision or a conclusion.  The articles about this abruptly end in late 1909.  We'll let some future historian sort through the maze of paperwork to clarify this part of history.  One thing is clear though:  The board had been thinking of a "Manual Training" or "Vocational School" long before they actually opened the new Memphis Vocational School at the 317 Poplar "castle" in 1911.  Click to read some of the articles >   MT1,   MT2,   MT3,   MT4,   MT5,   MT6,   MT7,   MT8,   MT9,   MT10,   MT11 


Gene Gill, Tech 1951 - November 2010 



For a very interesting article about that antique Memphis High School pin engraved with an image of that new school, circa 1898... 




The material below is documented evidence of the "History of Tech".  Click on any number or note below to see the full article.  If it's a PDF File, please use the Back Button to return to this page.

1. 1867 Memphis Ledger showing the Male High and the Female High Schools are separate schools in 1867.
 2. 1872 Memphis Directory listing the Adams Male High School and the Court Street Female High School
 3. 1872 article describes the opening of the new Market Street School.  PDF File

1877 Memphis Directory with separate listings for Memphis High School and Market Street School - but at the same address, with different Principals.

 5. 1891 article describes the new Leath High School.
 6. 1892 article describes the Leath High School and Leath Grammar School being built.
 7. 1898 article describes that Leath High will no longer be a high school and will be used as a Junior High.
8. 1898 article describes the plans for the new Memphis High School  building on Poplar.

1898 article describes the opening of the new Memphis High School at 317 Poplar.

 10.   1964 article describes the history of the old Jefferson School building (annex) and the fire of 1964.

1911 Board of Education brochure showing "Vocational School (Home of Hope Night School)".  It implies that they might be the same school.

 12.   1911 Board of Education brochure with description of Hope Night School.  They don't mention that Hope and Vocation are two different schools in the SAME BUILDING.
 13.   1920 article showing Crockett Tech and Hope Night School co-existed and that both offered night classes.
 14.   1920 article showing Crockett Tech and Hope Night School co-existed in the same building.

1930 Lillian Johnson, daughter of Hope Night School founder, in her memoir, says the school is "no longer needed"


1911 booklet published by Board of Education stating that the Board authorized the creation of the NEW Vocational Grammar and High School for the Poplar Avenue Building and that it opened September 1911.

 17.   1911 article verifying that the Board says it had "no other use for the Poplar Avenue building" and will use it for the new Vocational School and that this will "take the pressure off the new Central".
 18.   1911 article with another verification that the Vocational High is a newly created school .
 19.   1911 Board of Education "Progress Booklet" which states that "the Vocational School was organized in the Poplar Avenue building that had been occupied by the Memphis High School for so many years".
20. Memphis Directories showing no listing for Memphis High School after 1911.  That name has been retired.

1913 Board of Education booklet describing the Vocational School. 


1917-18 Another letter verifying the Vocational School

 23. 1927 Article in the Tech Sentinel stating that "Tech began as the Vocational High School"
 24. 1917 Article about Smith-Hughes being introduced to the Vocational School curriculum.

1923 Central Yearbook talks about using the Jefferson Annex.


1923 Central had 2 Yearbooks this year.  This one also talks about using the Jefferson Annex.


1923 Central Yearbook states that there was "...one public high school...the Poplar Street School".  This is how legends get started.


1923 Central Yearbook #2 continues to say "...the Poplar Street School is now known as Crockett Tech".


1925 Central Yearbook refers to Tech and "the Poplar Street School".  There was no school named the Poplar Street School - but there was a BUILDING on Poplar that was built for the Memphis High School in 1898.   Central and the newspapers may have said "the Poplar Street School is now Crockett Tech" so many times that Tech started to believe it was true.  What they really meant was "The old Poplar Street Building now houses Crockett Tech" or "Crockett Tech is located in the old Memphis High School Building". 

30. 1922   Board of Education "Forum" stating that Crockett Technical is named in honor of Mrs. E. J. Crockett

1932 article mentioning that the original colors of Crockett Tech were RED and GOLD.


1919 Article about "Vocational High" expecting largest class in history.  It takes newspapers some time before they refer to the school by its' Crockett Technical name.

33. 1920 First class in the South graduates from Crockett Vocational in "Vocational Teaching" under Smith-Hughes.
34. 1921 Crockett Tech continues to dominate in the ROTC competitive drills.
35. 1921 The newspapers begin to call the school "TECH".
36. 1927 Tech Yearbook.  J. L. Highsaw continues to campaign for a new and larger technical school building.
37. 1927  The Board of Education acquires the Van Vleet Property on Poplar as a campus for the new Tech.
38. 1928  The Tech Sentinel has a great description of the entire school.

1963  Tech is the first Memphis school to be integrated.  This article is about that integration and the first black student, Willie Walker.

40. 1916 List of Vocational High School Teachers.
41. 1929 List of Memphis Tech High School Teachers.
42. 1935  Two newspaper articles about the Reunion of the 1919 Memphis High School Class, which shows how casually they refer to the school's name.  the Press-Scimiter refers to "Memphis High School Reunion" and later to "The Poplar Street School Reunion".  The Commercial Appeal refers to the "Old Poplar Street School Reunion" and never mentions Memphis High School in the entire article.
43. "Ask Vance" article about Crockett Technical High School and Gene Gill's response.
44. 1926 Yearbook.  Another verification from Alumni Assoc that Tech began in 1911.
45. 1927 Yearbook.  Verification that Tech has its own very strong Night School.
46. 1926 Yearbook.  Students call their school "Tech High" as early as 1926.
47. 1926-27 Yearbooks.  The school's nickname-motto "The One Hundred Per Cent School".
48. 1924-26 Yearbooks.  Lists of Championships won by the school.
49. 1926 Yearbook.  Dedicated lovingly to the entire staff of the school.
50. 1927 Yearbook.  The 1927 Faculty List at Crockett Technical.
51. 1926 article about the Crockett Tech building being over-crowded and in bad shape.
52. 1965 article about the demolition of the old Memphis High School and Crockett Tech building.
53. 1945 Yearbook ...more than 100 Tech boys lost their lives in WW2.
54. 1946 Yearbook ... Memorial list of those who lost lives - although not all of them.
55. What is the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917?
56. Help us find the missing 1924 "Dynamo" Yearbook.
57. Vocational High School enrollment.
58. 1911 - Another article stating that the Board of Education created a NEW Vocational School in 1911.
59. 1920 article about Smith School (Market Street) name changed to CHRISTINE.
60. 1963 article where Mary Ormond Butler says "I introduced the 1st National Honor Society to Memphis...".
61. 1917 Christian Science Monitor article about Smith-Hughes Act giving the school $20,000 in Federal money.
62. 1916 Christian Science Monitor article recognizing Vocational education in Memphis.

For more archives:  http://register.shelby.tn.us/ and then click on "Ray Holt Memphis School Article Collection"








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