Northern High School (Durham, North Carolina)

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For schools of the same name, see Northern High School (disambiguation).
Northern High School
Northern High School.jpg
Northern High School, Spring 1995.
117 Tom Wilkinson Road
Durham, North Carolina 27712
United States
Coordinates 36°05′42″N 78°54′42″W / 36.09502°N 78.91180°W / 36.09502; -78.91180Coordinates: 36°05′42″N 78°54′42″W / 36.09502°N 78.91180°W / 36.09502; -78.91180
Type Public
Established 1955
School district Durham Public Schools
Principal Dan Gilfort
Faculty 156
Enrollment 1455
Color(s) Blue & Gold         
Mascot Knights & Ladies
Nickname Northern Knights, NHS, Blue Knights

Northern High School is a public secondary school located in northern Durham, North Carolina. Northern's current principal is Dan Gilfort. 1455[1] students are currently enrolled at Northern. Northern is one of Durham's seven public high schools. Students take four classes each day as a block schedule is currently in place. Northern's mascot for their male teams is the Knights and for the female teams, it is the Ladies.

Northern High School offers Advanced Placement classes in English, American History, European History, Psychology, Statistics, Calculus AB and BC, Environmental Science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Computer Science, Spanish, French, Latin, German, Studio Art, Music Theory (Independent Study), and US Government & Politics.

Northern High School employs over 150 staff members including four assistant principals.[2] Students in the 2005-2006 school year received an average SAT score of 983.

In 2007, Northern High School was ranked as the 928th best high school in America by Newsweek.[3] The school continues to rank in the top five percent of public high schools nationwide. Northern High School is currently recognized as a School of Progress, with over 60 percent of students at or above achievement standards.


The citizens of Durham County approved a bond issue in 1952 to build a new high school in northern Durham County, consolidating Mangum High School and Bragtown High School. The land for the school was an airfield and apple orchard. Northern High School was made by George Watts Carr the same architect that made the Hill Building

Until the early 1990s, Durham County had two public school systems: the Durham City Schools System and the Durham County Schools System.

On September 1, 1955 Northern High School opened with an enrollment of 502 students in grades 9–12. The students came from the feeder schools of Glenn, Hillandale, Mangum and Bragtown schools. The then new Northern High School had only 17 classrooms, a home economics department, a shop, a library, and a gymnasium.

For the most part, integration occurred smoothly and with only one recorded incident of racial tension at Northern High School, which the Durham County School Board helped to mediate.

In 1958 the following additions opened to students: auditorium, bandroom, and additional classrooms called "North Hall", N1-N10. This was followed in 1963 with the addition to "North Hall" classrooms, N11-N22.

In 1966 a cafeteria addition was completed and the high school had an enrollment of 852. At that time, the high school consisted of the "North Hall", "East Hall" and "West Hall".

In the 1980s, a new classroom stand-alone wing was added, called "Katherine Webb Hall" (Harrison Hall).

By the mid-1980s Northern High School was one of North Carolina's largest high schools with 2,300- 2,500 students and was, at this time, the largest high school in Durham County and Durham City. The school at this time only had grades 10, 11 and 12. Grade 9 was at this time located in the junior high schools along with grades 7 and 8. Durham County School System had not yet converted to the middle school format, containing grades 6, 7 and 8, as the Durham City School System had converted to a few years before. Northern High School's feeder junior high schools were Carrington Junior High School and Chewning Junior High School.

Northern High School's rival schools in size and sports during the 1980s were: Broughton High School, Enloe High School, Millbrook High School, Sanderson High School, Cary High School (in Wake County, North Carolina), Chapel Hill High School and Orange High School (all in Orange County, North Carolina, Grimsley High School and Page High School (in Guilford County, NC), South Mecklenburg High School (in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina), Hillside High School (in Durham, North Carolina) and the then smaller Person High School (in Person County, North Carolina). All competed in the 4-A size sports ranking.

In 1984 a new Vocational Wing was completed and in 1988 the First Phase of New Science Wing and Tennis Courts were completed. In 1993 the old Vocational Wing was renovated and new additions completed. In 1994 a new Arts Department Wing was completed and "North Hall" and "West Hall" were renovated along with a second phase of the New Science Wing was completed. There was also an addition to the Library and renovations on the existing space. In 1995 major additions were made to the cafeteria and the commons area and entire high school building complex was air-conditioned.

Northern High School still plays its football games at Durham County Stadium. The stadium was once also the home football field to what was then called Durham High School (now the Durham School of the Arts) and Hillside High School. The other public schools in Durham City and County had their own stadiums on campus. Northern High School today is the only high school who continues to use Durham County Stadium as its home field.

A new high school was built close to Northern in 1991, which was named Riverside High School. This establishment decreased Northern High School's enrollment to its current number of 1,400 plus. The school was built due to northern Durham County's growing population and the lack of space at Northern High School.

The demographics of Northern High School have changed over the years with those of Durham County.

Northern High School's biggest rival is currently Riverside High School Pirates. Other local rivalries include Southern High School and Person High School.

Northern High School has been known for both academic and athletic excellence throughout the past 50 years. Notably, the Northern football program won the 1993 North Carolina 4-A state championship under the leadership of current UNC assistant coach, Ken Browning. Other highly recognized teams include Ladies basketball, Ladies softball, and Knights wrestling.

In February 2008, after winning the PAC-6 Tournament and gaining the number 2 seed in the playoffs, the Northern High School Varsity Men's Basketball team had to forfeit all games of their 15-11 season due to an "attendance issue" that made a player ineligible. Reasons for the decision were not made public by the school nor the district, and the player's name was not released to the general public.[4]

In February 2014, after winning the Pac-6 Tournament for the first time since 1994 the Varsity Men's Basketball posted a 26-3 record while making it to the third round of the NCHSAA state playoffs as a #2 seed under head coach Ronnie Russell and Conference player of the year Ricky Council II.[5]

Notable alumni[edit]

  • A. J. Davis (2002) – cornerback in the National Football League
  • Josh Gattis (2002) – two-time all-conference safety at Wake Forest, drafted by Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Matthew Haggard (2003) - former White House aide and Deputy Director in the George W. Bush administration
  • Carl Reeves (1991) – defensive end in the National Football League
  • Chuck Vincent (1994) – former professional basketball player in Finland
  • Dewayne Washington (1990) – cornerback in the National Football League
  • Scott Riggs (1989)- Professional Stock Car Driver in NASCAR
  • Steve Wilson (1974) – defensive back in the National Football League and head coach of Howard University


  1. ^ Northern High School, Durham Public Schools, retrieved 2010-05-15 
  2. ^ Staff Directory, Durham Public Schools, retrieved 2010-05-15 
  3. ^ DPS high schools on Newsweek Top 1,200 list, Durham Public Schools, retrieved 2010-05-15 
  4. ^ WRAL News article, WRAL-TV, retrieved 2010-05-15 
  5. ^ [ "Northern 2013-14 Basketball Schedule"] Check |url= value (help). Maxpreps. Retrieved 2015-10-14.