Robert E. Lee High School (Jacksonville)
|Robert E. Lee Senior High School|
|Location||Jacksonville, Florida, USA|
|Colors||Blue and Gray|
Robert E. Lee Senior High School is a four-year secondary institution in Jacksonville, Florida. It was named after Confederate States of America general Robert E. Lee. It is one of the two oldest Jacksonville high schools operating in situ, --that is, at their original sites. The other school is Lee's traditional rival, Andrew Jackson High School.
Lee is part of the Duval County magnet school program. Eligible students at Lee can earn concurrent credit through the Jacksonville Early College High School program. They receive high school credits from Lee and college credit from Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) for the same courses.
Lee students can also specialize in courses through the Engineering Academy or the Math and Science Magnet Program. In addition, there is a Liberal Arts curriculum. The Early College, Engineering, Math and Science, plus Liberal Arts courses of study are known as Lee's four learning communities.
Avondale or Riverside?
Neighborhood identities are important in a big city like Jacksonville, but the location of Lee High School is ambiguous. Is it in Avondale or Riverside? The general definitions of the two neighborhoods have changed over the years. Avondale began as a small developed area in the early 1920s, but grew through the 30s. Riverside was once a much larger neighborhood, until construction of Interstate 10 and I-95 permanently separated it from its northern section in the 1950s.
Today, the twin neighborhoods are bound by the Interstates to the north, Roosevelt Boulevard to the west, Big Fishweir Creek to the south, and the St. John's River to the east. The river shore generally runs in a diagonal direction from southwest to northeast.
There is no distinct official boundary between the two neighborhoods, but the mythical dividing line is Willowbranch Creek, since it is the geographic center. This places Lee High in Avondale, although very close to the creek and squarely in the general area where Avondale fades into Riverside.
Many journalists over the years have called Lee a "Riverside school." Adding to the confusion is the architectural similarity of the two neighborhoods. The private, non-profit organization Riverside Avondale Preservation has protected the structures of both neighborhoods since 1974, but few residents use both names, when identifying landmarks.
The use of the hyphenated name Riverside-Avondale is rare in conversation. Residents use either Avondale or Riverside. In spite of the journalistic tradition, Lee High School is technically located in Avondale. The endless debate is reminiscent of the Frank R. Stockton short story "The Lady, or the Tiger?" (1882).
The architecture of Lee High School has long been a source of pride for students and alumni. Architect Victor Earl Mark (1876–1948) designed Lee High School with William B. Ittner of St. Louis in 1926-27. Both architects also designed Andrew Jackson Senior High School at the same time, which explains the striking similarity between the two school buildings. Mark studied under famed Jacksonville architect Henry John Klutho from 1907 to 1911.
The school was dedicated to Robert E. Lee on his birthday, January 19, 1928. Jacksonville's three newly constructed high schools—Lee High, Andrew Jackson High, and (Julia E.) Landon High—replaced Duval High School (c. 1873–1927), the city's original secondary institution for white students. The three new schools were built to meet the needs of a growing city. Black students at the time attended (Old) Stanton High School (c. 1905-53).
The main structure of Lee High School is notable for its beige bricks and top floor off-white stucco. It is handsomely framed by four gabled transepts, which in turn are framed by ground-to-roof stacks of alternating small and large cornerstones. The top floor stucco of the four transepts feature a coat of arms, in which a central figure reaches for a star on the left, while a tree occupies the right side. Also unique are the two front arch doorways, which sport an impressive amount of "radiating" stonework.
The main building has an auditorium and a large courtyard. The football stadium is in the school's "backyard." A field house was added between the stadium and the back of the school in the 1940s. Later, a first floor addition on the original structure's right side accommodated a meeting room, a cafeteria expansion, and the boys' locker room. The basketball gym was built to the right of the school, and the shop and music buildings were located behind the original building to the left at end of Donald Street.
Around 1964, the school board converted (Julia E.) Landon High School to a junior high school. This made Lee and Jackson the two oldest Jacksonville high schools operating at their original sites.
In 1965, a group of Lee High School students formed the band My Backyard. The band, led by singer Ronnie Van Zant, was renamed Lynyrd Skynyrd after coach Leonard Skinner sent guitarist Gary Rossington to the principal's office for wearing his hair long.
Lee High, like other Duval County schools, was desegregated in two stages. The faculty was integrated during the years of 1968-71. Full student integration took place during the 1971-72 school year.
In May 1980, the Lee High School Jazz and Symphonic Bands earned Superior ratings at the Florida Bandmasters Association (FBA) State Contest. Samuel McCreary was the spring semester band director. Lee Band's previous director was Homer St. Clair. Lee, along with other North Florida bands, competed at the FBA state competition held that year at Florida State University (FSU).
In the early 1980s, the school constructed an outdoor pool between the gym and the original building. Before that time, the swim teams trained at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd Pool, located about a mile north. Lee Pool is used by the athletic teams and physical education classes during the school year. In the summer, it becomes a free public pool operated by the City of Jacksonville Parks & Recreation Department.
On November 24, 1986, Lee was ravaged by a fire that destroyed the library and many classrooms. The fire damage was estimated at US$ 4.5 million. After the fire, the Robert E. Lee High School Restoration Committee was formed by Lee alumni to help raise money for restoration.
The cafeteria and the library were expanded during the restoration. In 1991, a new two-floor classroom building was built behind the original structure to accommodate the addition of Ninth Grade. Lee had been a three-year high school since its opening in 1927. Part of the old shop building was torn down to make way for the new two-floor building. The field house was also expanded in 1991.
Lee was one of 11 schools nationwide selected by the College Board for inclusion in the 2006-10 EXCELerator School Improvement Model program. The educational partnership, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was designed to raise Lee's graduation rate and improve college readiness, especially among minority and low income students.
The engineering program also earned two honors from the Florida Engineering Society (FES). Jeffrey G. Cumber was recognized as the 2010 Teacher of the Year, and Lee won the School of the Year title. Cumber and Lee High School respectively received $500 checks from the affiliated Florida Engineering Foundation (FEF).
The Lee High football team is featured in Jason Tetlak's 2010 comedy/documentary 3rd Down & Forever. The film chronicles Tetlak's futile attempt to become a professional football player. The then 31-year-old Whitehouse Elementary art teacher practiced with the Lee Generals as part of his training.
Total enrollment rose from 954 the first year to about 2000 in the 1950s. It generally declined to about 1200 in the late 70s. It reached a low of 777 during the 1990-91 school year. After the incorporation of Ninth Grade in 1991-92, the total number of students slowly rose to a high of 1900 in the 2005-06 year. As of February 2011, a total of 1732 students attended Lee.
The racial composition of Lee High has varied since full integration of Duval County students began in the 1971-72 school year. Robert E. Lee became a majority black school in the late 1980s. Then, it was majority white during the years 1991-96. It has been majority black since the 1996-97 school year. 
Recent enrollment statistics suggest that Lee is slowly becoming a multicultural school. Since desegregation, black and whites have been the largest student ethnic groups, but Hispanic students topped 100 in 2007-08, after 16 years of general growth. If this trend continues, the presence of Spanish in Lee's hallways will become more commonplace.
A total of 1829 students attended during the 2008-09 school year. Of that total, 63.6% were black, 23.3% were white, 6.5% were Hispanic, and 4.5% were Asian. One student was Native American and 36 were of unspecified ethnicity. The number of Asian students surpassed 50 in the 1992-93 year, but the group has fluctuated between a high of 82 and a low of 44.
- J.E.B. Stuart Middle School
- John Stockton
- Eugene Butler Middle School
- Central Riverside
- S.P. Livingston
- Ruth Upson
- West Jacksonville
- John Gorrie Junior High School (Former feeder school)
- Lake Shore Middle School
- Hyde Park
- John Stockton
- Ruth Upson
- West Riverside
- Paxon Middle School
- Kirby Smith Middle School
- (Magnet school is fed by all other magnet elementary schools.)
The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) lists football statistics from 1963 to the present on its website http://www.fhsaa.org/records/. Since 1964, the Lee Generals have won seven postseason titles:
|1964||2A||State Sub-Champion||Virgil Dingham||Lee 17, Clearwater 0|
|1977||4A||District Champion||Corky Rogers||Lee 14, Neptune Beach Fletcher 10|
|1979||4A||District Champion||Corky Rogers||Lee 28, St. Augustine 6|
|1980||3A||Regional Champion||Corky Rogers||Lee 30, Palatka 7
Lee 26, Milton 0
|1984||3A||District Champion||Corky Rogers||Lee 7, Middleburg 3|
|1995||4A||Regional Semifinalist||Ed Barrett||Lee 32, Jacksonville Andrew Jackson 0
Lee 28, Tallahassee Rickards 17
Lee 21, Eustis 13
|1996||4A||Regional Semifinalist||Ed Barrett||Lee 21, Jacksonville Englewood 0
Lee 49, Crawfordville Wakulla 14
Lee 24, Alachua Santa Fe 14
Lee High School is part of one of the most architecturally unique areas in the country. The Avondale and Riverside neighborhoods feature a diverse collection of early Twentieth Century architectural styles. After the Civil War, Jacksonville residents began buying property southwest of downtown, in what was once a collection of plantations. They constructed houses and mansions and they dubbed the new suburb Riverside. The neighborhood's development peaked from 1895 to 1929. Avondale, an additional neighborhood farther to the southwest, was developed during the 1920s and 30s.
The houses of both neighborhoods reflect a large variety of architectural styles: Tudor, Georgian, Bungalow, Art Deco, Shingle Style, Prairie Style, Gothic Revival, Colonial Revival, Jacobethan Revival, Eclectic/Exotic, and Queen Anne/Victorian. Avondale, the younger neighborhood, also has several houses built in the Mediterranean Revival style, which was in vogue during the 1920s.
The twin neighborhoods have six public parks: Boone, Fishweir, Memorial, Riverside, Willowbranch, and Willowbranch Rose Garden (formerly Variety Rose Garden). There are also four historic commercial areas: Five Points, Park & King, Park & Dancy, and Avondale Shopping Center.
Lee High itself reflects the Open Air architectural values of the Progressive Education Movement (1875–1955). The Progressives felt that schools should resemble the outdoors as much as possible. Lee High School's numerous windows bring in a lot of natural light. So, the original building is less dependent on artificial lighting. This is one of the "green" advantages of historic buildings.
The original building's courtyard, roomy stairwells, and ample hallways give students a healthy amount of physical space. Before air conditioning was installed in the late 1980s, the natural ventilation helped the school "breathe." Students found the air temperature very comfortable from October to April. Lee was also blessed with radiators for the winter. September and May were the only months when the heat and humidity were a consideration. The Open Air Style was a reaction to the dark, crowded, and poorly ventilated buildings that plagued poor school districts.
New construction and renovation
The Lee High School buildings are undergoing some major changes. A new three-story classroom building has been completed on the left side of the original structure at the end of Donald Street. Its beige bricks and top floor stucco reflect the architecture of the original building, but it does feature a modern glass and steel atrium.
The surviving section of the old shop building was torn down to make way for the new addition. However, the music building has been spared. The new building will eliminate the need for the portable classrooms presently occupying the old driver's ed range near the southeast end zone of the football field.
Lee has torn down the circa 1940's field house to make way for a new, large cafeteria to accommodate its 1700-plus students. In the original building, the right side addition, which housed the old cafeteria kitchen and the boys' locker room, has been torn down to restore the structure to its original architectural footprint. The front office will move into the old cafeteria space, and a new exterior doorway has been constructed.
Lee is also building a new boys locker room on the right side of the gym. The girls locker room will expand to incorporate the old boys basketball locker room at the front of the gym.
Moreover, the original building is undergoing a major interior renovation during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years. Students are attending classes in temporary portables placed on the football field. For the 2011 and 2012 football seasons, the Lee Generals practiced at Lackawanna Alternative Education Center, and played their "home" games at Ed White High School. The renovation will upgrade the electrical system for wireless computers, eliminate shell walls that interfere with cell phones, and replace wooden floors and walls that date from the 1920s.
- Hoyt Axton, actor, singer, songwriter, All State football player
- Catie Ball, Olympic swimmer
- Edgar Bennett, Florida State University and Green Bay Packers running back
- Don Bessent, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher
- LeRoy Butler, four-time All-Pro safety for the Green Bay Packers
- Ander Crenshaw, Representative for the 4th district of Florida
- Clarence Denmark, Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver
- Sheck Exley, pioneering cave diver
- Ken Fallin, caricaturist for the Wall Street Journal
- Earl Leggett, Chicago Bears tackle
- Angelo Liteky, chaplain in Vietnam, Medal of Honor recipient, later renounced
- Stetson Kennedy, author, folklorist, human rights activist
- Allen Lynch, economist
- Members of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd
- Mark McCumber, professional golfer
- Ron Meeks, defensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts
- Jessica Morris, actress who has appeared on American soap opera One Life to Live
- Stephen Nicholas, National Football League player for the Atlanta Falcons
- Corky Rogers, winningest football coach in Florida
- Hans Tanzler, former mayor of Jacksonville
- Harmon Wages, Atlanta Falcons fullback, Gatorade actor
- Members of the band 38 Special
- Jimmie Edmondson Jr. Son of famed comedian Professor Backwards and USAF Vietnam Vet.
The FHSAA Fast-Pitch Softball records date from 1988. Lee was a powerhouse during the 1990s:
Year Class Title Coach Results
1995 4A Regional Finalist Leon Barrett Lee 7, Ponte Vedra Beach Nease 3 Lee 10, Tallahassee Rickards 0 Lee 1, Jacksonville Bishop Kenny 0
1996 4A Regional Finalist Leon Barrett Lee 18, Jacksonville Englewood 1 Lee 3, Crawfordville Wakulla 1 Lee 3, Alachua Santa Fe 2
1997 4A Regional Quarterfinalist Leon Barrett Lee 3, Jacksonville Bishop Kenny 2
1998 4A Regional Semifinalist Leon Barrett Lee 2, Green Cove Springs Clay 0 Lee 9, Pace 3
1999 4A Regional Quarterfinalist Leon Barrett Lee 3, Jacksonville Bishop Kenny 1
Who was first?
While Lee and Jackson are the two oldest Jacksonville high schools still operating on their original campuses, one could argue that Stanton is the oldest operating secondary institution in the city. Stanton opened in 1868 in downtown Jacksonville as the first school in Florida for African American children. It first served as a primary school, and later became a grade school (1-8) by the early 1890s. From 1894 to around 1905, Stanton slowly incorporated grades 9-12.
In 1938, the downtown campus became Stanton Senior High School. Other elementary and junior high schools had opened by this time to serve black students. During the 1953-54 school year, New Stanton Senior High School opened on West 13 Street. The downtown campus served as a junior high school the same year, and then became Stanton Vocational High School. So, there were actually two Stanton High Schools from 1954 to 1971, the year Stanton Vocational closed.
After integration during the 1971-72 school year, New Stanton continued as a predominantly black school until the 1980-81 year, when the school board converted the West 13 Street campus into an academic magnet under the name Stanton College Preparatory School. Since 1980, Stanton has ironically been a majority white school.
The Stanton High School name dates from the early Twentieth Century, but is no longer connected to the original downtown campus. Lee and Jackson have never been separated from their original buildings. So, Stanton can claim the title of oldest operating high school in name, but Lee and Jackson have the oldest living connections to their respective geographic locations. They are the oldest operating high school campuses.
Of course, the very first secondary institution was Duval High School. It opened circa 1873 at Church and Liberty Streets, but was destroyed by the Great Fire of 1901. After operating in temporary locations for a few years, the present brown brick structure opened in 1908 and served Jacksonville until 1927, when it closed in favor of Lee, Landon, and Jackson. The 1908 school building now houses apartments.
Duval High's status as the first among firsts is an ironic one. It survived the 1901 Fire as an institution and was housed in a new building in 1908 at 605 Ocean Street, but Jacksonville built its first suburbs in reaction to the devastation, and eventually built three new high schools—Lee, Jackson, and Landon—to replace Duval. The then-named Board of Public Instruction decided to close Duval, because the Springfield neighborhood had begun to deteriorate in the 1920s, and most white high school students lived in the suburbs by that time. Landon became a junior high school around 1964. So, only the Lee and Jackson campuses have graduated over 80 high school classes—and counting.
- Dusinberre, Jaime L. Early College Assistant Principal. Robert E. Lee Senior High School. Personal Interview. 22 Nov 2010.
- Bigelow, Lee E. Public Schools of Duval County, Florida: Items of Fact and History Affecting Past and Present Conditions. Unpublished manuscript. Library Project Works Progress Admin., 1939. Jacksonville (FL) Historical Society Archives. Swisher Library. Jacksonville U. 35.
- "Lee Shines with Rare National Distinction." The Resident. June 2010. 4.
- Smith III, Richard David. "Pass or Fail: Local Teacher-Turned-Filmmaker Jason Tetlak Documents His Brief Career as an NFL Contender." Folio Weekly. 8–14 June 2010: 32.
- Jung, William F. (Fall 2006). "The Last Unlikely Hero: Gerald Bard Tjoflat and the Jacksonville desegregation crisis – 35 years later". Duke Law Magazine 24 (2). Retrieved 2006-12-12.
- Hall, Denise. Principal. Robert E. Lee Senior High School. Personal Interview. 22 Nov 2010.
- Lisska, Emily Retherford. Executive Director, Jacksonville (FL) Historical Society. Personal interview. 11 June 2010.
- Robert E Lee High School Annuals
- Official site
- Official Lynyrd Skynyrd history website
- LEE-SPN Schoolsite
- LEE-SPN Website powered by podbean