Harding Academy (Memphis)

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Harding Academy of Memphis
Memphis, Tennessee
Type Private, Christian, co-educational
Established 1952
President Trent Williamson
Grades 18 months–Grade 12
Gender co-educational
Enrollment 760
Campus East Memphis (18 months–Grade 12) and Cordova (18 months–Grade 5)
Color(s) Blue, White, Red
Mascot Prowler
Nickname Lions
Yearbook The Shield

Harding Academy is a co-educational, Christian school serving students from age 18 months through grade 12.


The Early Days—Memphis Christian School[edit]

Memphis Christian School opened in 1952 with 192 students in grades K through 6. Mary Nell Hardeman Powers served as the first principal. During that year, the school acquired the King Mansion where the Harding University Graduate School of Religion (now the Harding School of Theology) is located on Cherry Road at Park Avenue. The 1953-54 school year opened at the new 57-acre (230,000 m2) site, and grades seven and eight were offered for the first time. Mrs. Powers wrote the school alma mater that year.

For the 1955-56 school year, the ninth grade was added. Mr. Marion Hickingbottom became the new principal. The following year the school received approval for the first time from the Tennessee State Board of Education. During the spring of 1957, Harding College in Searcy, Arkansas was asked to take over the school. Harding’s Board of Directors voted unanimously to assume the oversight of the school. That decision included moving the Harding University Graduate School of Religion to Memphis where it would reside in the King Mansion and the construction of a new building south of the mansion to house the newly renamed Christian school as Harding Academy of Memphis.

The Years of Rapid Growth[edit]

In 1957-58, the construction on the new building began and the tenth grade was added. Harding Academy opened the 1958-59 year in the new building. It included a classroom wing, a gymnasium, and a cafeteria. Mr. A.M. Anderson became principal. Grades eleven and twelve were added, and the first graduating class, of fifteen students, received diplomas. An elementary building was also under construction and completed in March 1960.

Mr. J.E. Summitt served as superintendent for the 1960-61 year. Mr. Harold Bowie arrived the following year and became superintendent.

Over the next decade, the Cherry Road campus continued to expand.

  • O.O. Emmons Auditorium was built in 1967.
  • Ellers Gymnasium, a new library, a cafeteria, and a junior high wing were completed in 1973.
  • A new high school building was added in 1974.
  • A third gymnasium (now the Sisson Gymnasium) with women’s locker room facilities, a choral room, and additional classrooms opened in 1978.

Enrollment increased dramatically during the 1970s and peaked at 2,879 students in 1976. At that point, the Academy was the largest private school in the United States. This growth was possible because of the willingness of the local Churches of Christ to allow the school to use their educational facilities in order to expand. By 1970-71, all elementary enrollment had moved from the Cherry Road campus into local church buildings. In 1978, the Academy separated from Harding College becoming an independent school under the direction of its own board of directors.

The Past Decade[edit]

Harding’s recent past includes two firsts, the opening of Early Childhood, a program for 2’s and 3’s, and the construction of Harding’s first site not to be on the Cherry Road campus. Harding opened a new Cordova campus on Macon Road in November 1997. Early Childhood occupied one wing, and grades 1-6 were housed in the other. A second building opened at that location in the fall of 2001. The kindergarten classes joined Early Childhood in the first building constructed, and grades 1-6 occupied the newer building.

In September 2017, Harding announced the lower school would be unifying with middle and upper schools at the Cherry Road campus at the start of the 2018–2019 school year. A multi-year multi-phase renovation plan was announced. The unification is an effort to provide a one-stop-shop in the heart of the city and aims to keep tuition costs affordable for more families.

Extracurricular activities[edit]


The athletic program offers students the opportunity to learn sportsmanship, teamwork, respect for others, and sacrifice for the good of the team. Harding’s Lower School Athletics program is designed to stress sportsmanship and participation while promoting the physical, social, mental, and emotional growth of the students. Lower School students can participate in basketball, baseball, cheerleading, football, soccer, and volleyball. [1] The upper school's athletic teams compete in the TSSAA Division II-Small conference. Sports offered include basketball, baseball, bowling, cheerleading, cross country, football, golf, pom, soccer, softball, tennis, track, and volleyball.[2] Harding added swimming in 2009.

Fine Arts/Journalism[edit]

The fine arts program consists of the visual arts, instrumental music, vocal music, and drama programs. Students at every level are encouraged to participate in fine arts. Lower school students receive weekly instruction in music and visual arts from a specialized teacher. Exploratory, beginner, and advanced visual art classes are offered to upper school students. Students in grades 7-12 can participate in band and chorus, and drama productions, including a yearly musical, are produced two or three times a year. Journalism classes are offered at the high school level, and students are admitted to these classes by applying and being accepted to the journalism staff. Journalism students publish The Lion, the school’s monthly newspaper, and the Shield yearbook.


Student organizations include the Student Government Association, class officers, and class leaders. Academic, honor, and service clubs as well as special interest groups such as Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Leadership for the Lord, and Model UN are also available.[3]


The Learning Enrichment Advantage Program is a fee based after-school and summer enrichment program taught by a variety of Harding teachers and parents as well as outside vendors. The goal of the LEAP program is to offer experiences for all the elementary students beyond the daily classroom environment. These short-term sessions address a variety of students’ interests, needs, abilities, and learning preferences.[4]

Notable alumni[edit]


External links[edit]