The history of Douglass High School began seven years before it was officially named Douglass High School. It was January 5, 1891
when the Oklahoma City School Board met to establish the public schools of Oklahoma City which included the Colored School. The
Colored School started one month later with Jefferson Davis Randolph as principal. The two room school was located at the back of a
wagon yard on the south side of the street at the southwest corner of Reno and Harvey. A year and a half later the school moved one block
east on Reno.
On June 8, 1897, J. W. Sharpe was elected principal of the Colored School and in October, 1898, Principal Sharpe asked the students to
name their school. They selected the name of Frederick Douglass. Under Principal Sharpe, the school relocated to 421 E. California.
George F. Porter was elected principal of Douglass on July 1, 1902 and it was under his principalship that the first graduates received their
diplomas on May 26, 1903. Six weeks later James Henry A. Brazelton was elected principal and served for 12 years.
During the Brazelton principalship, Douglass burned down and was re-established at 221 E. California. On September 13, 1915, Thomas
R. Debnam was elected as principal of Douglass Junior/Senior High School and served until July 1, 1918 when S. R. Youngblood was
elected principal. It was the same year that Mrs. Zelia N. Page Breaux, daughter of Langston University's President Inman Page was added
to the staff in the music department.
On September 1, 1921 Inman E. Page was elected principal of Douglass. Two years later Mrs. Breaux organized the first Douglass High
School Band with 24 members. He served until 1935 when C. O. Rogers became principal.
By September of ’27, the Douglass High School band was featured at the opening of the Oklahoma State Fair. Mrs. Breaux developed
outstanding musicians who became famous locally and nationally. Among them were Jimmy Rushing and Charlie Christian. Ralph
Ellison was a student under Mrs. Breaux, however, he found that his talent was in writing but he had a great appreciation for music. Ellison,
the only Douglass High School Pulitzer Prize winner, wrote about his Douglass experience in his book, Shadow and Act. It was the
direction of Mrs. Breaux that the Douglass High School Band eventually went to the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1935 where they drew
national attention with drum majors W. A. McCauley and Alonzo D. Williams. It was where Mrs. Breaux met Duke Ellington who became a
friend of Mrs. Breaux. Ellington came to her funeral in Oklahoma City.
It was in 1925 that Emma Lee Jones Freeman won the Annual Queen Contest and was featured in the first yearbook published by
Douglass High School students. In 1925, the Hi-Y was organized with Professor Fay Everett as sponsor. In 1934 prior to the change in
principals, the cornerstone was laid for the new Douglass at N. E. 6th and High Streets. In the Page Stadium dedication game on
November 7, 1934, Douglass High School defeated Muskogee Manual, 7-0. Thirteen days later the first Douglass Alumni Association was
October 1936, Clifford Williams wrote the lyrics to the Trojan Song and Mrs. Breaux added the music in 1939. It was September 1937
when Nellie Douglas, trumpet and Dorothy Jean Swope, saxophone and twirlers Ratha Mae Duckett and Mildred Bunn broke a 14 year
male tradition to become the first females in the Douglass band.
By 1938, Douglass High School was accepted and accredited by the North Central Association.
On November 11, 1939, Butch Watkins scores the only touchdown as Douglass defeats Tulsa Washington, 6-0, for the first time in history.
In January 1940, the first student council is organized and in June, Frederick Douglass Moon became principal of Douglass High School
where he served until 1961, becoming the only principal to serve over 20 years at Douglass in its history.
In 1945 under Dr. F. D. Moon, two bond issues passed which proposed a new building at N. E. 9th and Eastern streets. It was 1945 when
Douglass’ basketball team defeated Elkhorn, West Virginia in Nashville to become National Black Basketball Champion. Moses “Pi Yi”
Miller is named football and basketball coach at Douglass.
In 1946, Douglass beat Wewoka 42-47 for the Class A state basketball title. A year later Jake Diggs was named assistant football coach
and served in that position until 1962 when he became football coach after Moses Miller was named Assistant Principal.
In 1948 when Consuela V. Tompkins and Mrs. Cernoria M. McGowan Johnson with the Urban League sponsored the first statewide
speech tournament at Douglass Junior/Senior High School. It was the year that George L. Buford was named band director and Mrs.
Evelyn Strong was named vocal music instructor replacing Mrs. Zelia N. Page Breaux. Coach Miller realized his dream of an All Star game
in 1948. The All Star games continued until 1955.
It was during the 1950’s when numerous milestones in history were reached. August 15, Wyatt Jeltz was named assistant principal of
Douglass. Ronald Lee was the first student to give an address in the Oklahoma State Senate chambers. A third bond issue passed
concerning the proposed new Douglass High School on N. E. 9th and Eastern.
Henry Curtis, Walter Dillard, Frank Wilson, George Counts and Jake McDonald attended the first interracial Hi-Y and Tri Hi-Y officers training
camp at Camp Parthenia in 1951. It was the same year Earl Scarborough won the “I Speak for Democracy” contest sponsored by the
Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. Douglass graduate, Ralph Ellison received the National Book Award for his best seller, “The
Invisible Man” that year and the next year Monroe Huel won the “Mr. Oklahoma” trophy in lifting completion.
Jessie Mae Thomas won the City-Wide Science Fair and participated in the National Science Fair in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in 1953.
Another bond issue passed in conjunction with the new Douglass High School.
It was November 6, 1954 when trophies won by Douglass students in Interscholastic Meets in 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, and 1954 were put
In January 1955, Douglass dedicated the new gymnasium t 10th and Carverdale and May 1st, Dr. Benjamin Mays, president of Morehouse
College was keynote speaker at the dedication of the new Douglass High School at N. E. 9th and Eastern. July 1st, Lawrence Cudjoe was
named basketball coach. It was November 3rd when Capitol Hill defeated Douglass, 13-6 in the most publicized interracial athletic contest
in the state of Oklahoma. Prentice Gautt was captain of that team with Russell Perry as co-captain.
April 11, 1956, George Chaney played Concerto for Piano and Orchestra with the Oklahoma City Symphony and in August, Prentice Gautt
became the first Black football player to play in the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association All Star game. The first issue of
“Trojan World” was printed in December of that year. October of that year, Prentice Gautt became the first Black to play football for the
University of Oklahoma.
In June of 1960, Anthony Watson was a member of the U. S. Olympic team participating in Rome, Italy. In November of that year, Douglass
won the city softball crown (girls) for the first time. July 1, 1961, Osby M. McDaniels was named principal at Douglass Senior High School.
Mrs. Sarah Jane Bell was named Librarian of the Year by the University of Oklahoma in 1963. That same year, Douglass won the first of
three straight state championships in track under Jake Diggs. Lovie Ziegler and Carolyn Miles placed high in the Oklahoma preliminaries
of the Miss Universe pageant. In August of 1964, Zelbert Moore became the first Black graduate in journalism at the University of Oklahoma.
August 1, 1966, John Sadberry became principal and served four years. A. Visanio Johnson became the first of four Douglass graduates
elected to serve in the Oklahoma State Legislature. The other three were Freddye H. Williams, Angela Z. Monson and Constance N.
Johnson. Lee Maur Benefee was ordained as the first Negro Episcopal Priest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin diocese in December. In January
1967, Henry C. Hawkins became the first Douglass graduate to be a full-time writer for the Daily Oklahoman. In October, Riley Leroy Pitts
died in Vietnam and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, posthumously. April 17, 1968, Douglass High School Student
Council passed a resolution to oppose integration/desegregation of Douglass. The Student Council President, Charles Wesley Morgan, III,
class of 1968, stated that he “would rather burn it down and plant cotton; at least it would have economic value.” In 1969, Arthur A. Fletcher
was appointed Assistant Secretary of Labor by President Nixon. Mrs. Jessye J. Moore (foods teacher) attended the White House
Conference on Foods Nutrition and Health.
In 1970, Jake Diggs became principal and served until 1974. That same year Thurman Vernon White, class of 1968 Valedictorian, was
selected to attend the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and international Affairs at Princeton University. Ralph Ellison was named
professor at New York University. In 1973, Jake Diggs was inducted into the Oklahoma Coaches Hall of Fame. In 1974, Frederick
Douglass Moon was elected as president of Oklahoma City Public Schools Board. In December of 1975, Dr. Frederick Douglass Moon
and Wyatt F. Jeltz died 13 days apart. Dr. Harold Crain became principal of Douglass and served until 1976 when Dr. Betty Williams
became principal. Dr. Edward Berry followed Dr. Williams as principal in 1978. Dr. June Dawkins became principal in 1979 ending the
1970’s era at Douglass.
In 1984, Evelyn D. Moore was named acting principal to finish out the year for the ill June Dawkins. That year, Anita G. Arnold, class of 1957,
became the first person from the state of Oklahoma to serve a four year appointed term as a member of the National Democratic Site
Selection Committee which selected Atlanta, Georgia as the site for the 1988 Democratic Convention. In 1988, Lawrence Cudjoe is the
third Douglass coach inducted into the Oklahoma Coaches Hall of Fame. Don Elkins served as principal of Douglass from 1984 until 1986
when Ronald H. Poole succeeded him. Poole was followed by Dr. Floyd L. Coppedge in 1988.
Dr. Walter O. Mason, III became principal in 1991. He was followed by Dr. Sally Cole who served until 2001 when Jimmy D. Dew became
principal. On January 9, 1991, the Alumni Association sponsored a luncheon to celebrate the 100th anniversary and Horace Stevenson,
class of 1957 became the first $1,000 contributor to the Scholarship Endowment. Willa D. Johnson, Class of 1957 becomes first African
American female City Council member in 1994.
Vallene Cooks became principal in 2003 and served until 2007. Dr. John Q. Porter, Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent
appointed Dr. Cedric Gray from Memphis, TN to serve as principal in July 2007, however, Dr. Gray resigned a few weeks later and returned
to Memphis for personal reasons.
In 1995, Anita Arnold, Class of 1957 brought arts integration, a professional development program for secondary teachers sponsored by
the John F. Kennedy Performing Arts Center in Washington, D. C., to Oklahoma City. Arts integration is widely used throughout Oklahoma
City to engage students in the learning process. That same year, Mustard Seed Development. Arnold brought the Smithsonian Institution to
Oklahoma City for the first time when the 100th anniversary of Duke Ellington Exhibit was showcased at the Omniplex. Because of these
and other community contributions, she received the prestigious Governor’s Arts Award for community service in 2006.
In 1999, the University of Oklahoma named a building, “The Prentice Gautt Academic Center” for 1956 Douglass Graduate Prentice Gautt.
In 2003, he was granted an honorary doctorate from OU. In 2004, the Big 12 Conference, for whom Gautt worked, named its postgraduate
scholarships in his honor. Two months after his death, he was posthumously given the 2005 Outstanding Contribution to amateur Football
Award by the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame. On the 50th anniversary of Gautt breaking the color barrier, 2007, every
Sooner football player wore a helmet decal bearing the number 38, Gautt’s number.
In 2000, Russell M. Perry was inducted into the Oklahoma City Public Schools Wall of Fame and in October 2004, Wallace Johnson was
also inducted into the Oklahoma City Public Schools Wall of Fame. Both are 1957 Douglass High School Graduates.
In 2005, the new Douglass High School was opened next door to the Douglass High School, 900 N. Martin Luther King Ave. Frederick A.
Douglass IV, great grandson of Frederick A. Douglass, visited the school and did a theater performance the same year.
In the 2005-07 school years, Black Liberated Arts Center (BLAC), Inc. selected Douglass High School as the school to initiate a
comprehensive arts education program for students and teachers. The program brought in trainers from the Kennedy Center and an
internationally renowned Brian research Expert, Dr. William McBride to train teachers, world renowned artists and local artists to perform
programs for Douglass and established an after-school Tap dance program taught by internationally renowned tap dancer, Robert L. Reed
who danced with Sammy Davis, Jr., Altovise Davis, and Debbie Allen.
In 2007, Anita Arnold initiated a fund-raiser among Douglass alumni to buy a grand piano for the school to replace one of the two 50-year-
old grand pianos. Wallace Johnson provided a substantial lead gift. The fund-raiser was so successful that the alumni and two other
contributors were able to purchase a 7 1/2’ Grand Piano and two studio pianos for Douglass High School. The class of 1957 had the
greatest number of donors with the most money given to the project. The YWCA of Oklahoma City later donated a student practice piano.
One Oklahoma City Public Schools District acknowledged that this gift of pianos established a legacy that will live on for another 50 years.
In 2007, the United States Senate voted unanimously to confirm Tim D. GeGiusti, a Douglass High School Graduate, as a U. S. District
Judge in Oklahoma City. He received the highest possible recognition from the American Bar Association when he was named an
Oklahoma “Super Lawyer” in 2006.
|The History of Douglass High School
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
By Anita G. Arnold, Class of 1957