Harry Ells High School
Harry Ells High School in Richmond, California was a major public high school in the area from 1955 to 1967. It was named for Harry Leander Ells (1854-1943), a pioneering resident who served as Richmond's postmaster, a member of its first school board, and an assemblyman representing Contra Costa County.
Ells originally opened as a middle school in 1944, as Richmond grew from the influx of World War II manufacturing and shipyard workers and their families. Ells was changed to a high school in 1955 and graduated its first class in 1958. In 1967, it became Richmond High School South Campus while Richmond High School's main campus was re-built and the new John F. Kennedy High School opened one mile away. In 1970, Ells re-opened as a four-year high school, but by then had lost part of its student base, its Eagle mascot and red-and-white school colors to the new Kennedy High School. The reopened Harry Ells returned with new colors of purple and white and new mascot, the Falcon. After 15 more years as a separate high school, Ells closed forever in 1985. The site was converted to LoVonya Dejean Middle School in the mid-2000s. A plaque marks the place where Ells once stood, and the side street has been named Harry Ells Place.
After graduating its first four-year high school class in 1958, Ells rapidly achieved prominence on several fronts. For example, its marching band was selected to play at the opening ceremonies at the 1960 Winter Olympics, held in Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, CA; the Ells basketball team won the prestigious iNorthern California Tournament of Champions in 1964 and placed three players on the All-Tournament Team, and debate and forensics teams excelled in regional and state competitions throughout the decade of the 1960s, earning Ells a National Award for Excellence in Speech for the years 1961-1967 from the National Forensics League.
In its short history, Ells produced prominent graduates in science, the professions, public service and the arts. The Hon. Kent N. Brown, nominated by President George H. W. Bush to be the first U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Georgia, was a 1961 Ells graduate.<ref.>Presidential Papers, July 2, 1992: www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid+21196</ref> Patricia McKinley, a member of the Class of 1967, was appointed by California Governor Jerry Brown to the Bay Municipal Court at the age of 33, making her the youngest and the first African-American woman ever appointed to that position, and three years later she was named presiding judge. Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-CA), Ells Class of 1961, has represented California's 53rd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2001. Her sister, Eleanor (Alpert) Palk, Class of 1959, served more than three decades as judge and Commissioner of the Orange County Superior Court.
In the fields of art and entertainment, Ells is represented by Carl Franklin, Class of 1967, an award-winning actor, writer and director of motion pictures and television productions ("Devil in a Blue Dress," TV's "Good Times") and actor Michael Paul Chan, Class of 1968 (TNT's "The Closer" and "Major Crimes"). Joel Peterson, founder of Ravenswood Winery and nicknamed "The Godfather of Zin"grew up in Point Richmond, CA and graduated from Ells in 1965. Award-winning illustrator and artist James Dietz, a 1964 Ells graduate, is acclaimed for his aviation, combat and military paintings, while Marilyn (Mimi) Wirth, Class of 1963, has a career spanning commercial illustration to oil paintings portraying the American Indian.
The first "Miss Pinole" California honor belongs to Shirley Ann Lopez, a 1964 graduate. Shirley has been a professional singer since 1980 performing all over the state of California, including the USS Enterprise dependent cruise, Congressman Pete Stark's birthday party, Folsom Prison, Santa Rita Rehabilitation, 15 years at the Alameda County Fair, official National Anthem singer for 10 consecutive years at the annual 4th of July festivities in Livermore, 15 consecutive years performing Fridays in the Park, performing on the same billing board with Tony Dow from Leave it to Beaver, Jon Provost from Lassie, Jeremy Slate from the Aquanauts, Victor Buono a Hollywood actor, Robert Stack from the Untouchables and Unsolved Mysteries, world famous Alley Cats, and the Ink Spots. Her singing career has allowed her to meet other celebrities such as Robert Goulet, Rosemary Clooney, Lional Hampton, KC from KC and the Sunshine Band, Eddie Money, Blind Boys of Alabama, and basketball player Nate Thurman.
Harry Ells High School also graduated many famous athletes. Bob Gaillard ('58) went on to become head basketball coach at the University of San Francisco and took teams deep into NCAA tournaments. Ron Theobald ('61) played baseball for the Milwaukee Brewers. Gene Clines ('66) played for four major league teams and is still a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. Willie McGee ('76) played for the St. Louis Cardinals. Travis Williams ('63) starred at Arizona State University and went on to play pro football for the Green Bay Packers. Professional baseball players Cleo Smith ('72), Eddie Miller ('75), and Jim Williams ('65) also graduated from Harry Ells. Champion high hurdler Dedy Cooper ('75) led Ells to the 1975 team championship at the CIF California State Meet.
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