Jefferson High School (Los Angeles)

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Thomas Jefferson
High School
Jefferson High Front entrance1.JPG
1319 East 41st Street
Los Angeles, California
United States 90011
Type Public
Established 1916
School district Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)
Principal Dr. Jack Foote
Enrollment 9-12
Campus Urban
Color(s) Green and Gold          
Athletics conference Southern League, Los Angeles City Section CIF
Nickname Democrats (Demos)
Rival John C. Fremont High School

Thomas Jefferson High School, usually referred to as Jefferson High School was founded in 1916, it is the fourth oldest public high school in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Located in South Los Angeles (formerly called South-Central),[1] its surrounding communities are Downtown, Florence, Historic South-Central and South Park. Its colors are Kelly Green and Gold and the teams are called the Democrats or Demos.


Jefferson High Original School from the Front, 1920
Jefferson High Original School aerial view, 1920
Jefferson High Original School from the Rear, 1920
Carmen de Lavallade and Alvin Ailey in 1954
Woody Strode plays left end for the Jefferson High Democrats in 1936
Ralph Bunche
Music Teacher Samuel Brown in 1926
Rep. Augustus F. Hawkins

In 1915, the citizen of Los Angeles voted to sell bonds to raise $4,600,000 to build schools in the Los Angeles area. Approximately $500,000 was appropriated to build Jefferson High School[2] on the "Stadium East Grounds" (The Old Coliseum)[a] which held approximately 25,000 people in a circled amphitheater configuration. The "Stadium" as it was known was the site for hosting and entertaining travelers on the way to both the San Diego and San Francisco world expos in 1915. Numerous rodeos and bicycle races were held at the location.[3]

Architect Norman F. Marsh was hired to design the new Jefferson High School complex, the property front 1235 feet on Hooper Avenue, 1149 feet on Compton Avenue, and 952 feet on 34th Street and 392 feet on 38th street. The buildings of the group would be of brick and concrete construction, being faced with rug tapestry brick and trimmed with artificial stone. All corridors and stairways would be made absolutely fireproof. The classical style would be followed, each of the main structures having a dignified entrance portico with stone pediment and columns.[2]

Jefferson opened its doors on September 11, 1916, with 24 faculty members and two buildings completed. Theodore Fulton was installed as the school's first principal.[4]

On March 10, 1933, a Magnitude 6.4 an earthquake in the city of Long Beach completely destroyed the infrastructure of the six buildings which composed the Jefferson High School Campus. The campus was closed from March 10 until April 6 while the school board assessed the situation. On April 6, tent bungalows provided by the school board were erected on the football fields. Classes were shortened to half day sessions in order to serve the entire student population.[5]


In 1933, Architect Stiles O. Clements was hired to build a 45-unit campus with a budget of $353,000.[6] The "Streamline Modern" building structures were completed in 1935. Ross Dickinson was selected and funded by Federal Art Project to paint four 11 feet by 5.5 foot murals with the theme "The History of Recorded Word". The murals were completed in 1937.[7]

As of 1936, several notable alumni such as Ralph Bunche, Woody Strode and Samuel R. Browne had graduated from Jefferson High School. All three men were African American, the first of many Jefferson alumni to break racial barriers in the politics of diplomacy, the art of dance, the art of music and the interpretation of sports. Jefferson produced more jazz musicians and composers than any other high school west of the Mississippi.[8] Many of the musicians were nurtured under the guidance of Samuel R. Browne.


Beginning in 1937, Jefferson won the first of 8 California State Championship in Track and Field (1937, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1956, 1962, and 1964).[9] The four consecutive state championships in California (1949, 1950, 1951 and 1952) have not been surpassed today. Woody Strode is one of two men who broke the color barrier in the National Football League in 1946. Mal Whitfield and Charles Dumas both received Gold Medals in the Olympics. This is a rare instance when two Olympic Gold medalists have come from the same high school.


Jefferson High has produced more prominent Jazz Musicians / Composers than any public or private high school in California.[8]

Academic configuration[edit]

Jefferson is a traditional calendar school, composed of four Small Learning Communities (SLCs) and the Early College program which is located at L.A. Trade Tech. The goal of each SLC is to offer individualized attention to students.[10] The SLCs are as follows:

  • Academy of Business & Communication (ABC): focuses on building leaders in the liberal arts, retail, medical, legal and business fields.
  • Creative Arts and Expression (CAE): focuses on the creative energy and leadership within each student through the arts.
  • Global Outlook through Academic Leadership: focuses on building leaders in the social, political, environmental, health and economic fields
  • TPA Small Learning Community: focuses on building leaders in the education and social services fields

The Early College Program (Jefferson/Trade Tech. Incentive) accepts students, based on recommendation and interview, who have "extenuating circumstances" requiring special support to achieve college acceptance.

Notable alumni[edit]

Dancer / Choreographer / Entertainer[edit]

Television / Film Personality[edit]

  • Woody Strode – (Actor, Football Player) Veteran of 30 films including "The Ten Commandments −1956", "Spartacus −1960", "Posse" −1993 (See Football)
  • Mablean Ephriam – Television Personality – "Judge Mablean"
  • Merry Clayton – Actress, Singer – [11] Eight Episode of "Cagney and Lacey", Acted in "Maid to Order" with Alley Sheedy (See Singer below)
  • Juanita Moore – Actress – [12] – The 4th African American nominated for an Oscar. Participated in over 50 movies; best known for her role as the mother in the movie "Imitation of Life"
  • Matthew Beard (American actor) – Actor (Our gang Little Rascals Series)

Television / Film Production, Direction, Design[edit]

  • Iwao Takamoto – Animator, Design the character image of the Hanna-Barbera Production cartoon Scooby-Doo.
  • John Meehan Known as "Francis"–Jefferson Plays,U.S.C Architecture,then Motion Picture Art Director. Won Academy Awards for Art Direction for the films: "The Heiress","Sunset Blvd","20,000 Leagues Under the Sea", Television Art Direction:Emmy Nomination-G.E.Theatre. Graduated Class of 1922.

Politician / Judicial[edit]


  • Stanley Crouch – Syndicated Columnist and Novelist.[19] Created nine Non-Fiction novel and 2 Fiction novels. He is a Controversial anti-rap critic; His novel "Ain't No Ambulances For No Nigguhs Tonight" was typical writings against the non-sophisticated black man.

Composer / Writer /Music Director[edit]

Singer – Musician[edit]

Singers – Groups[edit]

  • The Penguins – 3 group members – Curtis Williams, Bruce Tate, and Ray Brewster[32] – The Group sang the Original Song "Earth Angel"
  • The Platters – 3 original group members – Gaynel Hodge, Alex Hodge, Cornell Gunter and 1 alumni, Ray Brewster[33]
  • The Coasters – 1 group member – Cornell Gunter[34]
  • The Cadillacs – 1 group member – Ray Brewster[35]
  • The Hollywood Flames −1 group member- Ray Brewster[36]
  • Mighty Clouds of Joy – 1 group member – Johnny Martin – [37] – Recorded over 25 albums and received two Grammy Award and a host of other awards
  • Etta James – Blues singer – [38][39] "famous for hit song "At Last"
  • Ernie Andrews – Jazz Blues Singer[21]
  • Merry Clayton – (Singer, Actress)[11] Solo and Backup. Recorded "Gimme Shelter" duet with Mick Jagger. "Who can I count on" with Bobby Darin. (Also see Television/film)
  • O.C. Smith – Jazz Singer, Minister[40] Performed with Count Basie Orchestra; he recorded the first version of the song "That Life" made famous by Frank Sinatra. He had numerous hit songs in his long career.
  • Mel Walker – Lead Singer with the Johnny Otis Orchestra[20] " No 1 hits "Mistrustin' Blues" and "Cupid Boogie"
  • Cornell Gunter – Lead Singer – [41] Original member of The Platters and a member of The Coasters singing group. Transferred to Manual Arts his senior year.
  • Jennell Hawkins – Lead Singer – [42] famous for her hit "Moments to Remember"
  • Ivie Anderson – Lead Singer – Performed with Duke Ellington orchestra between 1931 and 1942
  • Arthur Lee Maye – of Arthur Lee Maye and the Crowns, was lead singer of the pioneering groups of the Doo Wop genre in the early 1950s.
  • Richard Berry -Singer, songwriter, musician. Most famous for writing Louie Louie, Berry performed with numerous Los Angeles doo-wop groups including The Flairs.


Jazz Era Music Teacher and Mentors[edit]

Academic Performance Index (API)[edit]

API for High Schools in the LAUSD District 5 and local small public charter high schools in the East Los Angeles region.

School 2007 [51] 2008 [52] 2009 [53] 2010 [54] 2011 [55]
Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School 807 818 815 820 832
Marc and Eva Stern Math and Science School 718 792 788 788 809
Oscar De La Hoya Animo Charter High School 662 726 709 710 744
James A. Garfield High School 553 597 593 632 705
Abraham Lincoln High School 594 609 588 616 643
Woodrow Wilson High School 582 585 600 615 636
Theodore Roosevelt High School 557 551 576 608
Thomas Jefferson High School 457 516 514 546 546
Santee Education Complex 502 521 552 565


  1. ^ The Old Coliseum precedes the "Los Angeles Coliseum built in 1929 that hosted two Olympics. It was the main amphitheater in Los Angeles in the late 1800s.


  1. ^ The Los Angeles Times: Data Desk: Mapping L.A.: Neighborhoods
  2. ^ a b Jefferson "High" to cost Quarter-Million – Los Angeles Times – July 4th, 1915
  3. ^ Golden West as Pageant – Los Angeles Times – April 2nd, 1915
  4. ^ New High School faculty Name – Los Angeles Times – September 2nd, 1916
  5. ^ Last schools to reopen – Los Angeles Times – April 4th, 1933
  6. ^ Plans to be Prepared for Building Project – Los Angeles Times – September 30th, 1934
  7. ^ School Mural Depicts Writing, Graving, Printing – Los Angeles Times – May 16th 1937
  8. ^ a b c d Jazz High by Kirk Silsbee – LACityBeat Magazine
  9. ^ Top Track teams of all times
  10. ^ a b c Thomas Jefferson H.S. Alumni
  11. ^ a b Rocks BackPages Diary – 2009 – Harvey Kubernick Merry Clayton on the Rolling stones "Gimme Shelter" Session
  12. ^ Mapp, Edward (2008). African Americans and the Oscar: decades of struggle and achievement. Lanham Maryland: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-6106-2.  pp. 13.
  13. ^ Nobel Prize Biography
  14. ^ Federal Judge Northern District of California
  15. ^ Testimony of Buddy Collette & Marl Young
  16. ^ Black Americans in Congress
  17. ^ Woo, Elaine, "David Williams Dies." Los Angeles Times, May 10, 2000.
  18. ^ Retired Judge, LAPD Veteran William R. Clay Dead at 85
  19. ^ Crouch, Stanley (2006). Considering Genius: Writings on Jazz. New York: Perseus Book Group. ISBN 0-465-01517-4.  pp. Prologue.
  20. ^ a b Deffaa, Chip (2000). Blue Rhythms: Six Lives in Rhythm and Blues. New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-316-37794-5.  pp. 159.
  21. ^ a b c Bird, Christiane (2001). The DA CAPO JAZZ AND BLUES LOVER'S GUIDE TO THE U.S. Cambridge MA: Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-81034-4.  pp. 407.
  22. ^ Louie Louie
  23. ^ Tapscott, Horrace; Isoardi, Steve (2001). Songs of the Unsung: the musical and social journey of Horace Tapscott. North Carolina: Duke University Press. ISBN 0-8223-2531-4.  pp. 28.
  24. ^ Guralnick, Peter (2005). Dream boogie; the triumph of Sam Cooke. New York: Time Warner Book Group. ISBN 0-316-37794-5.  pp. 185.
  25. ^ year=1974, Blues unlimited, Issues 107–138 Magazine
  26. ^ Guralnick, Peter (2005). Dream boogie; the triumph of Sam Cooke. New York: Time Warner Book Group. ISBN 0-316-37794-5.  pp. 252.
  27. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Britt, Stan (1989). Dextor Gordon: a music biography. London: Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80361-5.  pp. 4, 26.
  28. ^ a b Porter, Roy (1991). There and Back. Oxford: Bayoo Press. ISBN 1-871478-30-8.  pp. 162.
  29. ^ Stokes, W.Royal (1991). The Jazz Scene:an informal history from New Orleans to 1990. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-508270-2.  pp. 125.
  30. ^ a b c d Bryant, Clora (1998). Central Avenue Sounds: Jazz in Los Angeles. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-22098-6.  pp. 28, 198, 206, 211, 257.
  31. ^
  32. ^ Marv Golberg R&B Notebook The Penguins
  33. ^ Marv Golberg R&B Notebook The Platters
  34. ^ Coaster Bio
  35. ^ The Cadillacs
  36. ^ Marv Golberg R&B Notebook The Hollywood Flames
  37. ^ Uncloudy Days:The Gospel Music Encyclopedia ISBN 0879308419
  38. ^ Etta James and the Roots Band 2008 – September 29 2008 by Lisa Robyn Lawerence
  39. ^ Doo Wop Club – Floyd Dixon
  40. ^ Rev. Dr O.C. Smith Bio
  41. ^ The Coasters Website
  42. ^
  43. ^ The 1950 Team – The Best Track and Field Team Ever!?
  44. ^ Funeral in Downey today for UCLA player, California Mr. Basketball 1963 Edgar Lacey, Long Beach Press Telegram, April 8, 2011
  45. ^ The Rare Double-Play of Arthure Lee Maye by Phil Milstein
  46. ^ Basketball
  47. ^ [1]
  48. ^ UCLA's Rasshan Set to Make History Saturday
  49. ^ Modern NFL 1946 – Forward
  50. ^ The Whitfield Foundation
  51. ^ 2006-07 Accountability Progress Reporting (APR) Retrieved on September 25, 2009
  52. ^ 2007-08 Accountability Progress Reporting (APR) Retrieved on September 25, 2009
  53. ^ 2008-09 Accountability Progress Reporting (APR) Retrieved on September 8, 2012
  54. ^ 2009-10 Accountability Progress Reporting (APR) Retrieved on September 8, 2012
  55. ^ 2010-11 Accountability Progress Reporting (APR) Retrieved on September 8, 2012

External links[edit]