Thomas Jefferson High School (San Antonio)
|Thomas Jefferson High School|
In omni uno
|723 Donaldson Ave.
San Antonio, Texas 78201
|School type||Public, High School|
|School district||San Antonio ISD|
|Color(s)||Red, White and Blue|
Thomas Jefferson High School
Location in Texas
|Architectural style:||Mission/Spanish Revival|
|Added to NRHP:||September 22, 1983|
|Designated NHL:||June 29, 1983|
Thomas Jefferson High School is a public high school in San Antonio, Texas and is one of ten high schools in the San Antonio Independent School District. Completed in 1932 at a cost of $1,250,000, it was the third high school built in the city.
Sitting amid 30 acres of land on the inner northwest side of San Antonio, is the beautiful and historic campus of Thomas Jefferson High School. It was built in 1931-32 with the assistance of local artisans and craftsmen. In 1929 only two high schools existed in San Antonio, Brackenridge High on the South Side of town and Main Avenue High on the North. While Brackenridge was somewhat new at that time, the Main Avenue High campus was showing its age and due to population growth in the northern half of the city, it was also extremely crowded.
The citizens of San Antonio passed a $3,700,000 school bond proposal and the newly founded senior high school referred to in Life magazine as “the most outstanding high school in America” was to be the last project in this public school building program. The San Antonio Independent School District, with the recommendation of Superintendent Hartley, purchased a 33-acre tract of land known as Spanish Acres for $94,588.75. It was a site overgrown with weeds and mesquite trees, accessible only on horseback because there were no roads past Fredericksburg Road at the time.
The School Board along with Phelps and DeWees, project supervising architects, recommended the architectural firm of Adams and Adams to design the building. Created in a Spanish Moorish design to reflect its proximity to The Old Spanish Trail, it was to be an expensive building costing more that $1,250,000. School District officials were criticized for this extravagance during the Depression Era when hundreds waited in bread lines and families went hungry. The structure looked like a luxury hotel, a university campus, or a palatial residence built like a Spanish estate [see Architecture].
The construction of the school in 1931-32 did put food on the table for the families of many local workers. Local artisans in the Works Progress Administration Program (WPA) built most of the structure and their logo still remains on tiles in the library at the school. Eight mule-drawn rigs were used to dig the 35-foot deep holes for the foundation. An Italian immigrant, Hannibal Pianta and his son Eugene did the elaborate carvings that create the columns of the entryway at the main entrance. The ornamental concrete was made in sections using concrete molds located at the Pianta Company on Fredericksburg Road and then transported to the site. The Pianta family also did the ornamental work at the Aztec theater, and their grandfather contributed to the elaborate stonework at the Texas State Capitol. The interior of the school and a special hexagonal pond located in an interior patio are all ornamented with decorative tile in the Spanish motif created by Tony Lozano of Redondo Tile.
Construction began in the fall of 1930 and when completed in January 1932, it was like no other school in the entire country. The building itself, in Spanish-Moorish design, is built around two large patios, with a large silver-domed tower and a sub-tower. The roof is made of red Spanish tile and wrought iron balconies protrude from the windows.
The Auditorium has a capacity of 2,000 students, an inclined floor leading to a sunken orchestra pit and, in back, an enclosed movie projection booth. A large ornate proscenium arch in a half circle crowns the stage. The school was the first to have its own gymnasium and its own “Heraldic Coat of Arms” created by Max Fredrick of Adams and Adams. The crest is cast on all four sides of the tower dome and bears the motto “In omni uno” or “All for one and one for all.”
When it opened, Jefferson High School held regular classes in history and math, but also featured classes in manners, dancing, and radio broadcasting. The nearly 1,400 students who chose to transfer from Main Avenue High School picked the name Thomas Jefferson High School, the colors red and blue, and the mustang as their mascot. Before the end of its first decade, Jefferson High School had become nationally and internationally known.
In 1937, Jefferson High was chosen out of 1,500 schools as the most outstanding high school in America. The following year, March 1938, Life Magazine featured the story of Jefferson High School in pictures. Twentieth Century Fox filmed two movies on the Jefferson campus: “High School” starring Jane Withers in 1938 and its sequel “Texas Girl” also with Jane Withers in 1939. On March 14, 1938, Paramount Pictures began making a special newsreel of Jefferson as America’s most modern high school. By the close of 1938, Jefferson had appeared in Life, The American Weekly and several European publications; in 1947 it also appeared in National Geographic magazine.
The feature in Life Magazine had a cover photo of two of the famous Jefferson Lassos, a pep club founded by Miss Constance Douglas in October 1932. The uptown cowgirl look of the group featured a blue flannel skirt, blue bolero jacket, red satin blouse, a pearl gray Stetson hat and a lasso. In April 1940, in support of the war effort, shots were made for a new short film, “Lasso Wizards” as entertainment for servicemen overseas. In 1944 the students had bought enough war bonds to buy forty Jeeps and an airplane for the Air Force which was named “The Spirit of Thomas Jefferson”. By November 1942, (the school?) had added 500 beds to the 105 bed emergency hospital, which led any other agency in Texas at the time. Thomas Jefferson High was behind the war effort and was ready for any emergency.
To preserve the unique heritage of the school, the Student Council of 1982-83 sought to have the building declared a city Historical Landmark. On May 15, 1983 after approval of the School Board, the San Antonio Historical Society and the San Antonio City Council made it official. On July 30, 1983 the Texas State Historical Society voted unanimously to make the structure a state landmark as well. The Society also recommended to the Federal Department of the Interior that Jefferson be listed on the National Register of Historic Places and both the landscaping and architecture were approved on September 22, 1983.
Over the years, both the school building and the student body have received national and international recognition in newspapers, magazines, and films. The school has produced numerous outstanding alumni in the fields of government, the military, communications, education, athletics, science, the medical and legal professions, business and the fine arts. Thomas Jefferson High School remains a cornerstone of the community today. With its Spanish Moorish design, it reflects the cultural diversity of the City of San Antonio as it reminds us of the many possibilities and talents of those who built it during the hard times of the Great Depression.
Its Moorish/Spanish architecture make it a visually distinct element in what was the old Woodlawn district.
In 1983 Jefferson was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1995, it was included in the Local Historic District by the City of San Antonio. In 2010, Jefferson was honored to be selected as Grammy Signature Award Winner.
School Song 
THOMAS JEFFERSON ALMA MATER
There is a school we all love well,
‘tis THOMAS JEFFERSON
Her glories we all always tell,
Our THOMAS JEFFERSON.
On field and campus winning boys
And girls all ready stand for
Dear old THOMAS JEFFERSON
Our Alma Mater Grand
Dear old school of mine,
I’ll sing thy praises everywhere,
Dear THOMAS JEFFERSON.
FIGHT SONG - (FIGHT THE TEAM) ACROSS THE FIELD
Fight the team across the field
Show them Jeff High is here
Set the Earth reverberating
With a mighty cheer
RAH! RAH! RAH!
Hit them hard and see how they fall
Never let that team get the ball
Hail! Hail! The gang's all here
So let's beat the Bears now!
For who! For whom!
TJHS Historical Preservation Society 
The Thomas Jefferson High School Historical Preservation Society is a Non-Profit IRS Designation 501(c)3 Organization.
The Society's stated mission is:
- Preserve and conserve the historic exterior and notable interior spaces of the Thomas Jefferson High School, 723 Donaldson Avenue, San Antonio, Texas.
- Preserve and conserve historic memorabilia and artifacts that are of significance to the present.
- Educate the community about the significance of Thomas Jefferson High School as a San Antonio Historic Landmark and as a Texas Historic Landmark listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The purpose of the TJHS Historical Preservation Society is to provide a focal point for the leadership and involvement required to develop and implement plans to preserve and encourage the continued preservation of buildings, objects, and places related to the historical significance of Thomas Jefferson High School and its architectural and natural beauty. We want those who walk through its doors today, those that have come before, and those in the future to continue to be guided by the richness of Jefferson's heritage.
TJHS Historical Preservation Society wants to inform the public of our efforts and invite those who would step forward to help us in our efforts. TJHS Historical Preservation Society is honored by your commitment to the historical preservation of Thomas Jefferson High School.
Distinguished Alumni 
- Rick Bullock, set basketball scoring record at Texas Tech University
- Peggy Feldman, First female captain, Anapolis Swimming Team
- Emily Burrer Foster, Tennis Coach, Trinity University, Third in Nation in Singles
- Pat Knight, NFL Official
- Corky Nelson, Football Coach, University of North Texas
- Laura Neugebauer-Groff, Head Coach UTSA Volleyball
- Tommy Nobis, All American
- Charlie Parker, Track
- Gabriel Rivera, All American
- Kyle Rote, All American
- Perry Samuels, Track
Arts & Entertainment 
- Holly Dunn, Country Music Artist
- Marcia McClain, former soap opera star; TV Commercials; stage
- Chris Pérez, Grammy Award Winning Artist
- Stewart Pratt, wrote closing theme for "Happy Days"
- Arch Campbell, movie critic, TV, Washington, DC
- Gilbert Velasquez, Multi-Grammy Award Winning Music Producer
- Michael Nesmith, musician, actor, The Monkees
- Tom Murrah, Vice President, Victoria Bank
- George Geiser, Construction
- Robert W. Harrell Construction
- Pat O'Connell, Construction
- Willard E. Simpson, Engineer
- Bert Riemenschneider, Ph.D., Texas Instruments
- W.W. McAllister, Jr., Banker
- Blair Labatt, Labatt Company, Wholesale Grocery
- Charles Gunther Orsinger, Orsinger Buick
- Bernard Rapoport, co-founder of American Income Life Insurance Company
Business - Lawyers 
- Cecil Bain
- Lester Louis Klein
- Bradford Francis Miller
- Bruce Waitz
- Bond Davis
- Burleson Smith
- Robert T. Sautelle
- C. Stanley Banks, Jr.
- Robert Lee Bobbitt, Jr.
- John W. Goode, Jr.
- Gerry Goldstein
- Albert McNeel, Jr.
- Joe Rollins (deceased)
- George McCall (Mac) Secrest
- David C. Frederick (He has argued more than 70 appeals, including 41 in the US Supreme Court)
- Jim Lehrer, MacNeil/Lehrer Report, PBS
- Allen Ludden (deceased)
- Dr. Doug Harlan, writer
- Greg Simmons, local TV
- Sam Saucedo, local TV
- Kenneth Rodriguez, Pulitzer Prize Winner
- Bill Watkins, Radio/TV Commentator, San Angelo, Texas
- Bruce Hathaway, local radio
- Gina Galaviz, local TV
- Steve Hahn, local radio
- Byron N. McClenney, Chancellor, San Antonio College
- David Frederick, 1983 Rhodes Scholar
- Bob Chambers, Superintendent, Lackland School District
- Frank E. Gerth, III, Ph.D., Managing Director, Harbor Branch Foundation (marine Science Research Project), Dt. *Pierce, Florida
- Dr. Sterling Wheeler, former Vice President of Southern Methodist University; Methodist minister; Peace Corps, *Africa; Public Relations, Cummins Diesel; Professor, Incarnate Word University
- Keith Stewart, Ed.D., Psychologist
- Diane Daugherty, Ph.D., Northern Illinois University
- Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez
- John H. Wood, Jr. (deceased), Federal Judge
- Blair Reeves, Fourth Court of Appeals
- Preston Dial, Fourth Court of Appeals
- Rose Birnbaum Spector, Texas Supreme Court Justice (rit.)
- John F. Onion, Court of Criminal Appeals, Austin
- Fred Biery, District Judge
- Phil Harris, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 2
- Robert G. Lee, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 4
- Joe Alderete, City Councilman
- Gus Garcia (deceased), First Mexican American to go to the Supreme Court to argue a case and win
- Peter Michael Curry, District Judge
- John Yates, District Judge
- Tony Fero, District Judge
- Bill Harris, Assistant District Attorney, Bexar County
- John Steen, former City Councilman
- Ed Garza, former Mayor of the City of San Antonio
- Julian Castro, Mayor of the City of San Antonio
- Joaquin Castro, Texas Legislature
- Leticia Van de Putte, Texas Legislature
- Oscar Trevino, Mayor of the City of North Richland Hills
- Lt. Col. Robert G. Cole (deceased), a Commander in the Invasion of Normandy, World War II, Medal of Honor recipient, Cole High School is named for him
- Brig. Gen. Lillian Dunlap, first general in Nursing Corps from Texas
- Lt. Millett A. Strayghan, Jr., POW for 40 months, World War II
- Maj. Gen. Alfred Valenzuela
Physical Science 
- Aaron Cohen, former NASA Deputy Director
- Robert Floyd Curl, Jr., Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1996
- W.E. Moerner, chemist
Health Science - Dentists 
- Richard Dickson
- Don Oefinger
- John Nixon
- C. Roger Macias Jr., D.D.S.
Health Science - Physicians or surgeons 
- Lee Allen Koontz
- August Berchelmann
- Charles M. Manhoff
- David A. Berchelmann, Sr.
- Jim Mims, III
- Curtis Heinrich
- Dennis Galindo
- Richard Morales
- Nan Ellzey
- Sam Miller
- Dan Knauf
- Frank N. Fore
- Don Quick
- Ron Rodriguez, M.D., Ph.D., program director, Urology, Johns Hopkins Hospital
- Louis Hafken
- Homero R. Garza, M.D., M.P.H.
- Leroy Denman
- Albert Biedenharn, Jr.
- Fidel Chamberlain
- Albert Maverick, III
- John Camp
- Reagan Houston
- Marcia Nasatir
- Blair Reeves
- Toby Reyna
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23.
- "History of Thomas Jefferson High School". Thomas Jefferson High School Historical Preservation Society.
- TJHS Historical Preservation Society
- "National Register of Historic Places - State Listing". National Parks Service.
- "List of Local Landmarks". City of San Antonio.