Shortridge High School

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Shortridge High School
Shortridge High School Indianapolis Aug 2016.jpg
Shortridge High School, 2016
Shortridge High School is located in Indianapolis
Shortridge High School
Shortridge High School is located in Indiana
Shortridge High School
Shortridge High School is located in the US
Shortridge High School
Location 3401 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
Coordinates 39°49′8″N 86°9′19″W / 39.81889°N 86.15528°W / 39.81889; -86.15528Coordinates: 39°49′8″N 86°9′19″W / 39.81889°N 86.15528°W / 39.81889; -86.15528
Area 10.9 acres (4.4 ha)
Built 1927
Architect Kopf & Deery
Architectural style Classical Revival
Part of Shortridge-Meridian Street Apartments Historic District (#00000195)
NRHP Reference # 83000078[1]
Added to NRHP September 15, 1983

Shortridge High School is a public high school located in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States. It opened in 1864 as the Indianapolis High School and is the oldest free, public high school in the state of Indiana. It is the home of the International Baccalaureate program of the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS).[2]


Shortridge High School was established as the Indianapolis High School in 1864 as the state’s first free high school. Abraham C. Shortridge was recruited to become school superintendent in 1863. Shortridge was a strict educator when it came to drilling students and faculty alike. However, he was also innovative in many ways, including the hiring of female teachers and the admission of African-American students. By 1878, Shortridge High School served 502 students.[3] Roda Selleck, who began teaching art at the school in the 1880s, soon won acclaim for introducing "craftwork" – leather, pottery, jewelry, and metalwork – to the curriculum,[4] and later developed a line of pottery, "Selridge Pottery", designed by students. She remained at the school until her death in 1924.[5]

The school was a lightning rod for civil rights almost from the beginning. At its inception the students were primarily white. In 1903, in a football game with Wabash College, Wabash coach Tug Wilson substituted an African-American left tackle by the name of Samuel Gordon. The Shortridge team captain led his team off the field after a scene. Gordon kept his sense of humor, noting he was sorry the game was called on account of darkness.[6]

While minority students had attended Shortridge from the very beginning, the majority of the students were white until 1927. In 1927, the city's first and only purposely-segregated all-black school, Crispus Attucks High School, was opened on the near westside. Designed to house all of the city's black students, regardless of residential location, its creation was due in large part to the influence of a branch of the Ku Klux Klan led by D.C. Stephenson, on the city's school board. While the city's elementary schools had largely been segregated by social custom, the construction of Crispus Attucks High School as an exclusively African-American school created segregation by rule. Although Crispus Attucks was intended to educate all black high school students, those who lived in an area where they could attend either Crispus Attucks High School or Shortridge High School were allowed to choose which school they wanted to attend. Many of these students chose to attend Shortridge High School.

During the 1920s, the Indianapolis Public School Board began an expansion program. Three new high schools were planned. In addition to Crispus Attucks, Washington High School on the west side of Indianapolis was also built. Following plans begun several years earlier, Shortridge High School moved in 1928 from downtown Indianapolis to a new building at its current location at 34th and Meridian Streets on the north side of Indianapolis.[7]

The Depression of the 1930s was not kind to the country, and this was seen at Shortridge High as well. The PTA was active in raising money for both the school and its students. A radio production studio was established in the late 1940s, and WIAN-FM, licensed to the IPS board, went on the air in 1955. By the late 1950s, Shortridge High was ranked among the best schools in the nation, according to Time Magazine. The American Field Study (AFS) foreign exchange program was established as the first of its kind in Indianapolis. This program continued until the school was closed in June 1981.

Author Kurt Vonnegut, who graduated from the school in 1940, once said of his alma mater:

[Shortridge High is] my dream of an America with great public schools. I thought we should be the envy of the world with our public schools. And I went to such a public school. So I knew that such a school was possible. Shortridge High School in Indianapolis produced not only me, but the head writer on the I LOVE LUCY show (Madelyn Pugh). And, my God, we had a daily paper, we had a debating team, had a fencing team. We had a chorus, a jazz band, a serious orchestra. And all this with a Great Depression going on. And I wanted everybody to have such a school.[8]

The environment in the school in the 1950s was described in the novel Going All The Way by Shortridge High alumnus Dan Wakefield (published in 1970 and adapted to film in 1997). In the late 1950s, the school began to lose students to other schools, notably the newly opened North Central High School on the city's far-north side. As the 1960s progressed, so-called "white flight" in the neighborhoods immediately surrounding the school led to a predominantly-black student body. During the 1950–1970 period, the racial demographics of the Shortridge district began to change rapidly. As an example, the Mapleton-Fall Creek neighborhood, a part of the Shortridge district, changed from 82% white to 20% white).

In 1957, a Time Magazine article named Shortridge High as one of the top 38 high schools in the United States. However, due to the changing racial makeup of the neighborhoods that fed Shortridge, some on the school's Parent-Teacher Association supported redrawing the Shortridge district to find a more even racial balance. By 1964, some felt that the school had reached a crisis. A protest march that fall from the school to Indianapolis Public School offices was supported by 200 students. In 1965, the Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners turned Shortridge into an all-academic high school. Beginning in the 1966–67 school year, an entrance examination was required for enrollment. In the 1966–67 school year only 272 freshmen enrolled, 46% of whom were black. Though efforts were made over the next four years to increase enrollment, they were not effective. The 1966 elections saw the school board change, including the loss of Richard Lugar, a Shortridge High graduate and academic plan supporter, who ran for, and was elected as, mayor of the city of Indianapolis. By 1967, the new school board voted 5–2 to abolish the short-lived ‘Shortridge Plan’.

The United States Department of Justice filed a suit in 1968 charging de jure segregation in Indianapolis. IPS responded with a desegregation plan which addressed only one of the three underlying charges. In 1971, U.S. District Judge S. Hugh Dillin found the IPS Board of School Commissioners to be guilty of de jure segregation.[9]

Many large and small protests and causes occurred at Shortridge during the late 1960s. This was a trend seen at other local high schools, colleges, and American society in general. One in particular is sometimes referred to as "The Shortridge Incident."

In February 1969, Shortridge student Otto Breeding was arrested for "disorderly conduct" after a disagreement with school officials over appropriate clothing. He had been asked to not wear a T-shirt advertising a radical black organization. Students who felt this was unfair attempted to disrupt the school, pulling fire alarms, and chanting “Black Power” in the halls. The next day an ad hoc group of students presented the assistant principal with four demands. The response to the petition did not satisfy them. The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra was scheduled to present a concert the next day in the school's historic auditorium, Caleb Mills Hall. Approximately twenty students rose and left as the orchestra played "The Star Spangled Banner". The protesters then congregated at a youth project run by the Reverend Luther Hicks. Reverend Hicks calmed the students and helped them to plan a non-violent protest. The students returned to Shortridge and gathered in front of the building and shouted various protest chants (e.g. “Say it loud! I’m black and I’m proud.”). As the protest continued, the police were called, and thirty students and adults were taken to the Marion County Jail. Most were charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. One civil rights leader, Griffin Bell, was charged with inciting a riot. Marion County Prosecutor Noble Pearcy attempted to have the minor students declared "incorrigible" in an attempt to stop school unrest. This caused mixed reactions within the community, leading some of the city's religious leaders to side with the students. While the charges wound their way through the courts, a "freedom school" was set up to help the suspended students keep up with their academic work. The case eventually reached the Indiana Supreme Court to decide jurisdiction. Eventually, all charges against the students were dismissed and three civil rights leaders were given fines, with one receiving six months at the Indiana State Prison Farm.[9]

The next twenty years included experimentation in busing followed by the eventual closure of Shortridge High School in 1981. The building reopened a few years later as Shortridge Middle School. In 2009, it was converted back to high school status as a magnet program focusing on law and government studies. The magnet program was closed in 2015 with the introduction of Shortridge High School as the home of the International Baccalaureate program for Indianapolis Public Schools.

The Shortridge Daily Echo[edit]

In 1898, the school established a daily newspaper, The Shortridge Daily Echo. It was the first daily high school newspaper in the entire country.[10] It continued its daily status until the 1970s, when it was converted to a weekly publication. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., and Donald Ring Mellett are two notable alumni who served as editors of the Echo.[3]

The paper won many awards over the years. In its final year, the necessarily-brief Echo was still able to win a second place overall award by the Columbia University Scholastic Press Association. Michael N. Selby and Edie Cassell were the last co-editors-in-chief, and Chris Keys was the last sports editor of the Shortridge Weekly Echo when it ceased publication with the school's closure in 1981. However, this was not the Echo's last call. When Shortridge was reopened as a high school in 2009, students brought back the Echo as well, published weekly.


In a state where basketball is king, Shortridge High had its moment in the sun in the 1967–68 season. The Blue Devils won their way to the final game of the Indiana state championship, only to lose by eight points. However, over the years Shortridge High won state championships in golf (five titles, three times runners-up), wrestling (twice), track and field (twice, and runners-up twice), and cross country (twice, and runners-up twice).[11]

Late in the 1970s the Blue Devils began to emerge as baseball power in the city. The Blue Devils reached the sectional finals in 1979, despite fielding a team of mostly sophomores. Notably Eric Johnson, a sophomore transfer from southern California, set a school record in 1979 by posting 12 Runs batted in, in a single game against Arsenal Technical High School.

IHSAA boys' wrestling[edit]

IHSWCA Hall of Fame wrestlers[edit]

  • Frank Anderson, inducted 1990
  • Charles Blackwell, inducted 1995
  • James Hill, inducted 1976
  • Dr. John Hobbs, inducted 1988
  • David Jeter, inducted 1981
  • Drayton Praed, inducted 1977
  • Coach Paul Dill, inducted 1973
  • Coach Harold Grundy, inducted 2009
  • Indianapolis City championship (5) 1967–68 The 5 City Champions were, 98 lbs. George O'Neal

112 lbs.John Bush,138 lbs.Harold Grundy, 145 lbs.James Gardner, 185 lbs. William Coleman.

Team state wrestling championships[edit]

  • 1958–59, Coach Paul Dill
  • 1966–67, Coach George Bohlin

Individual state wrestling champions[edit]

  • 1951–52, James Bose (138 lbs.), Richard Anthony (175)
  • 1952–53, Drayton Praed (154), David Jeter (165)
  • 1953–54, Drayton Praed (154)
  • 1954–55, James Hill (112), Frank Anderson (133), David Jeter (165)
  • 1955–56, James Hill (112)
  • 1958–59, Melvin Jeter (165)
  • 1962–63, James Blackwell (145), William Beacham (154)
  • 1964–65, Earl Price (heavyweight)
  • 1965–66, Charles Blackwell (154)
  • 1966–67, James Gardner(145)
  • 1969–70, Desmond Smith(165)
  • 1970–71, John Hobbs(105)
  • 1971–72, John Hobbs(105)

IHSAA boys' track & field[edit]

Team state champion

  • 1903–04 Coach Parmalee
  • 1907–08 runner-up
  • 1908–09 runner-up
  • 1914–15 Coach S. Roach

Individual champions
High Jump

  • 1904–05 Murat DeWeese, McLaughlin (tie 5–4 ¾)
  • 1907–08 Harold Morrison 5–8 ¾
  • 1908–09 Harold Morrison 5–7 ½
  • 1958–59 Gerry Williams 6–6.0

Long jump

  • 1905–06 Murat DeWeese 20–6 ½
  • 1907–08 Hendrickson 20–2 ½
  • 1908–09 Harold Morrison 21–3 ¼

100-yard dash

  • 1903–04 Russell Joseph 1015
  • 1937–38 Alfred Piel 10.3

220-yard dash

  • 1903–04 Russell Joseph 2335
  • 1937–38 Alfred Piel 22.7

440-yard dash

  • 1907–08 R. Hendrickson 55.0
  • 1915–16 Butler 55.6

880-yard dash

  • 1904–05 Patton 2:1145
  • 1950–51 Bob Bruce 2:00.4


  • 1903–04 George Steep 12 5:04.0
  • 1927–28 Patterson 4:40.1

120-yard high hurdles

  • 1915–16 Moore 17.2

220-yard low hurdles

  • 1915–16 Wilson 27.2

880-yard relay

  • 1928–29 1:37.8
  • 1937–38 1:33.7

Mile relay

  • 1935–36 3:32.2

IHSAA boys' cross country[edit]

State team champions

  • 1953–54 Coach Tom Haynes
  • 1954–55 Coach Tom Haynes
  • 1959–60 Runner-up

IHSAA boys' golf[edit]

Golf team state champions (5 – second-most state championships in state history)

  • 1934–35 Coach Simon Roache
  • 1936–37 Coach Simon Roache
  • 1948–49 Coach Peterman
  • 1949–50 Coach Peterman
  • 1952–53 runner-up
  • 1953–54 runner-up
  • 1955–56 runner-up
  • 1956–57 state champion

Golf Individual medallists

  • 1934–35 Richard McCreary 73
  • 1948–49 Peter Burkholder 73
  • 1949–50 William Kerr 73
  • 1954–55 Don Essig 73
  • 1955–56 Dan Burton 73
  • 1956–57 Charles Griffith 71

IHSAA boys' basketball[edit]

IHSAA Basketball Hall of Fame coach George Theofanis (coached 1966–1969)

Basketball sectional championships (10)

  • 1924–25 Indianapolis
  • 1925–26 Indianapolis
  • 1930–31 Indianapolis
  • 1932–33 Indianapolis
  • 1935–36 Indianapolis
  • 1937–38 Indianapolis
  • 1939–40 Indianapolis
  • 1966–67 Indianapolis Coliseum
  • 1967–68 Indianapolis Coliseum
  • 1968–69 Indianapolis Coliseum

Basketball regional championships (4)

  • 1930–31 Anderson
  • 1932–33 Indianapolis
  • 1966–67 Indianapolis
  • 1967–68 Indianapolis

Basketball semi state championships (1)

  • 1967–68 Indianapolis

Basketball runner-up state championship (1)

  • 1967–68 Indianapolis

Women's Basketball State Champs (1)

  • 1904 (Men not allowed to watch)[12]

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ "Absolute News Manager.NET V5.0 : Licensed to Butler University". Retrieved 8 May 2017. 
  3. ^ a b I4647 G38 1985, Laura S. Gaus, "Shortridge High School 1864–1981 In Retrospect" (1985)
  4. ^ Barry Shifman (1993). The Arts & Crafts Metalwork of Janet Payne Bowles. Indiana University Press. pp. 17–. ISBN 0-936260-58-0. 
  5. ^ a b Judith Vale Newton and Carol Ann Weiss (2004). Skirting the Issue: Stories of Indiana's Historical Women Artists. Indiana Historical Society Press. ISBN 0-87195-177-0. 
  6. ^ "Feature: The Team That Tackled Old Jim Crow". 1903-09-24. Retrieved 2014-03-03. 
  7. ^ "Indiana State Historic Architectural and Archaeological Research Database (SHAARD)" (Searchable database). Department of Natural Resources, Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology. Retrieved 2016-08-01.  Note: This includes Helene Arehart, Aaron Perry, and Lynn Molzan (April 1983). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form: Shortridge High School" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-01.  and Accompanying photographs
  8. ^ PBS (13 April 2007). "NOW – A Tribute To Kurt Vonnegut – PBS". Retrieved 8 May 2017 – via YouTube. 
  9. ^ a b Scott D Seay, “The Shortridge Incident: Christian Theological Seminary as an agent of Reconciliation” CTS journal, Encounter, Spring 2007
  10. ^ Glenn Berggoetz (April 2, 1998). "Kurt Vonnegut's Biography". Archived from the original on 2009-10-26. Retrieved 2014-03-03. 
  11. ^ IHSAA. "Indiana High School Athletic Association, Inc.". Retrieved 8 May 2017. 
  12. ^ The Annual Shortridge High School 1904. Shortridge High School. Retrieved March 5, 2017. 
  13. ^ Marcus, Frederick R., "Albert William Levi and the Moral Imagination" (Ph.D. diss, Emory University, 2003), p. 125.
  14. ^ Duberman, Martin (1993), Black Mountain: An Exploration in Community, p. 285. W.W. Norton. ISBN 978-0-8101-2594-0
  15. ^ a b c d Price, Nelson (2004). Indianapolis Then & Now. San Diego, California: Thunder Bay Press. p. 116. ISBN 1-59223-208-6. 
  16. ^ "Hans P. Mengering's Obituary on The Indianapolis Star". The Indianapolis Star. Retrieved 8 May 2017. 
  17. ^ "Dorothy Mengering's life story, written by her children". Retrieved 8 May 2017. 
  18. ^ "Letterman’s mom was everyone’s mom: Dorothy Mengering dead at 95". Washington Post. Retrieved 8 May 2017. 
  19. ^ Slotnik, Daniel E. (12 April 2017). "Dorothy Mengering, David Letterman’s Mother and Comic Foil, Dies at 95". Retrieved 8 May 2017 – via