Sidney Lanier High School
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|Sidney Lanier High School|
1756 S. Court Street
|School type||Public high school|
|School district||Montgomery Public Schools|
|Color(s)||Blue and white|
|Nickname||Poets, big blue, the castle|
The high school moved to new facilities in 1929 further to the south. The late Gothic Revival building was constructed 1928–1929 to consolidate the original Lanier (then in a building now known as Baldwin Magnet School, formerly Baldwin Junior High School) and Montgomery County High School (now the Cloverdale campus of Huntingdon College, formerly Cloverdale Junior High School).
The name of the new school was decided by the outcome of a football game between the two schools in the fall of 1928, which Lanier won.
Frederick Ausfeld was the architect, and Algernon Blair the contractor. The building opened for class in September 1929 and was dubbed "The Million Dollar School" due to its approximate cost.
The school was desegregated in September 1964. The first black students graduated in the summer of 1967. As late as the 1960s, the student population of Lanier was all white. In 2004, the student population included only six white students. Besides white flight, another factor influencing this change can be found in the neighborhood schools concept adopted by the Montgomery Board of Education. The zoned neighborhood surrounding Lanier – once all white – is now almost completely black.
Lanier focuses on four academies: leadership, business, health, and arts.
In 2006, Lanier was the only traditional public high school in Montgomery to meet federally mandated No Child Left Behind standards.
Lanier High School has won state championships in all high school sports. In 1966, Lanier was triple state champs, winning top honors in football, basketball, and track and field. 1966 was the first of three successive state championships in football, with the school's last state championship occurring in 1968.
Football coach Bobby Wilson and basketball coach Bill Joiner led their teams in the state for most of the 1960s, winning six football (1957, 1961, 1964, 1966, 1967, and 1968) and four basketball (1962, 1963, 1965, and 1967) state championships in the large high school category.
The Lee–Lanier rivalry in Montgomery was unmatched in the state in the late 1950s and through the 1960s. For years, Sidney Lanier was the only public school for white students in segregated Montgomery. As Montgomery's population began to increase, another school for whites was built in 1955, Robert E. Lee High. Its arrival gave birth to one of the state's biggest high school football rivalries.
Lanier won two Class 4A titles (1967, 1968) during this era, while Lee won in 1969 and 1970. After 1970, Montgomery schools would win state championships again, but never again would Montgomery dominate football in Alabama like it did in the 1960s. Racial integration and the emergence of Jeff Davis High School as a football power in 1970 diminished the Lee–Lanier rivalry.
The Lanier dynasty
Lanier started its tradition of winning State Championships in prep football in 1920, winning the first recognized state championship in Alabama. Lanier was champion again in 1922 and 1939. Later, in the mid-1950s, came the "Wilson Era" in Lanier football.
Bobby Wilson had a distinguished football career as a player, especially in college at the University of Alabama, where in 1953 he was Captain of the Crimson Tide's 1953 Orange Bowl championship team. He also ranked third in the nation in punting that season, and he ended his collegiate career as a member of the College All-Stars that played the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field in Chicago.
But what he did as head football coach at Lanier was even more remarkable. He arrived at Lanier in 1956 as an assistant, moved up to head coach the next year, and turned the Poets into a dynasty. During his 13 years at the helm, the Poets won six state championships and compiled a 92–24–6 record, including a 33-game win streak in the mid-late 1960s, one of the longest in Alabama high school football history.
Wilson's first three titles – in 1957, 1961, and 1964 – were determined in various newspaper polls throughout the state, but the next three – 1966, 1967, and 1968 – were decided on the field, representing the first three years of Alabama High School Athletic Association state playoff system.
Lanier also achieved a sustained dynasty in basketball, playing in more state championship games and winning more state championships in the large high school category than any other high school from the 1920s through its most recent championship in 2001. In the early 1950s Sidney Lanier High School won the state championship in baseball 6 years in a row (1950–1955).
Famous players at Lanier abound, but two stand out in particular: Bart Starr and Richmond Flowers, Jr.
Bryan Bartlett Starr was a Sidney Lanier athlete in the early 1950s. It would be in the NFL where Starr would make his mark. He was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 17th round in 1956, arguably the best bargain in NFL draft history. Playing under legendary coach Vince Lombardi, Starr guided the Packers to six Western Division titles, five world titles, and two Super Bowl victories. He played for Green Bay until retiring in 1971. Six years later, Starr was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. He served as the Packers' head coach from 1975 to 1983. In 1976, he was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
Richmond Flowers, Jr. was the original "Super Recruit." Flowers attracted the attention of college coaches from California to Maine. He earned All-American football honors at the University of Tennessee and was drafted out of college by the Dallas Cowboys in 1970. He was a member of Dallas' Super Bowl V team. In 1999, he was named one of the top 25 collegiate receivers of the 20th Century by "Athlon Magazine".
As a track star, he was unparalleled in Alabama prep history. The focus of a national recruiting battle boiled down to Louisiana State University, Alabama, and Tennessee. He landed at Tennessee where he went on to become an NCAA track champion and Southeastern Conference football star. He was an NCAA hurdles champion and was chosen All-SEC by his sophomore year in football.
It was at Lanier where the legend began. Young Flowers was an accomplished hurdler – the most successful high school hurdler of his time – owning the fastest times in the nation in the 120-yard and 180-yard hurdles. His father, Richmond Flowers Sr., was the state's attorney general at the time and a bitter political foe of then-popular governor, George C. Wallace. That conflict – and young Richmond's rise to stardom – was later documented in a movie entitled, "Unconquered."
In addition to Starr and Flowers, Johnny Davis (San Francisco 49ers), Reggie Barlow (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), and Jeno James (Carolina Panthers) have also represented Lanier in Super Bowls; all except James were on winning teams. Current Minnesota Vikings quarterback, Tarvaris Jackson graduated from Lanier in 2001.
Athletics after the Wilson era
Coach Bobby Wilson retired after the 1968 season and was replaced by Bill Joiner. One of Coach Joiner's most successful teams was the 1971 team led by future University of Alabama All-State Kicker Bucky Berry, who kicked the game-winning field goal in the Poets' 24–23 upset of Jeff Davis in 1971. The 1972 team was led by future University of Alabama All-SEC running back Johnny Davis. The first African American from Lanier who received an NCAA Division I scholarship, Davis went on to star with the Cleveland Browns in the NFL. Coach Joiner retired from his football coaching duties after the 1973 season.
Joiner's replacement was Cliff Little, former head coach at Montgomery Catholic High. Coach Little's 1977 and 1978 teams reached the state semifinals and won the Region 4 Class 4A titles. The overall record for those two teams was an excellent 21–5. The 1977 squad was eliminated by Berry Birmingham (Hoover), and the 1978 team was eliminated by Jeff Davis in a hard-fought 14–6 game. Both Berry and Jeff Davis went on to win the state title games with relative ease.
Coach Little resigned after the 1979 season, and his replacement was long time GW Carver defensive coordinator Charles Sikes. Coach Sikes' teams showed steady improvement for the first 3 seasons, posting a combined record of 17–13. His best team was the 1987 squad who finished with a 7–4 mark.
Coach Sikes relinquished his coaching duties after the 1989 season. His replacement, after much controversy, was long time Lanier assistant coach, Robert Fuller. Coach Fuller's first 4 seasons marked the worst 4-year span in school history with a total of 9 wins. But the 1995 squad was much improved.
The most notable game of the 1995 season came on a fall night in Cramton Bowl between an undefeated Sidney Lanier team and cross town rival Jeff Davis. Lanier had lost 21 consecutive games to Jeff Davis, but that streak came to a halt in '95 with Lanier led by team captains Carlos Locklyn, Chrysanthus Chukwuma, Corey Walker and Ali Dobson. The Poets managed grueling game to beat Jeff Davis in a hard-fought slugfest. The Poets then possessed a 7–0 record and Number 4 ranking in the state. The Poets would later face Prattville High School, losing a tough battle on the road 34–13 falling to 8–1. After Hurricane Opal obliterated Cramton Bowl field, the Poets were forced to play Robert E. Lee, at the unwillingness of both school's Head coaches, due to a super-saturated field; the Poets fell to cross town rival and costing them a shot at a state championship. Opposing head coaches across the State including city rivals, argued Lanier deserved at least a #4 playoff seed, the Sidney Lanier Poets were left out, thus finishing 8–2 in 1995 (5 All-State 1st Team/Honorable Mentioned Players).
Coach Fuller's 1999 and 2000 teams, led by Keldrick Williams, Rod Sharpe, Tavaris Jackson, and Nigel Eldridge. The 1999 squad with Rod Sharpe anchoring the defensive line, and the hardest hitting defense in Alabama won the 6A Area 6 Championship by upsetting Robert E. Lee in the season finale, and went on to record 3 playoff wins, setting up a rematch with Archrival Robert E. Lee. The Generals won the rematch in a slugfest 14–12. The 2000 squad entered the season finale at 9–0 and Ranked No. 2 in the state against Robert E. Lee. But, reflecting the unpredictability of this fierce rivalry dating back almost 50 years, Lee upset Lanier. The Poets still made the playoffs, but the Poets were eventually eliminated by Daphne. Coach Fuller resigned after the 2004 season.
His replacement, Richard Moncrief, was effective and focused on character building as much as football. Under his leadership, the team participated in a number of community service projects, including street cleaning and reading literacy. He also established tutorial and life skills programs for the team. Consequently, a number of players signed college scholarships, with one eventually playing in the NFL. Moncrief left to coach at the collegiate level in 2005.
He was replaced by former Alabama State Head Coach, L. C. Cole, who engineered one of the more remarkable turnarounds in the program's storied history. After struggling to a 1–3 record in the first 4 games, the Poets upset Jeff Davis, continued to win games, and advanced to the playoffs as area runner up. After a first round playoff victory over Theodore, the Poets went on the road and upset highly ranked and defending state runner-up Daphne, before being eliminated in the quarterfinals by Opelika. During his brief 2-year tenure, Coach Cole won 2 City Championships, never losing to the other Montgomery schools. In 2008, Coach Cole Left Lanier to become the defensive coordinator at Texas Southern University after having restored Lanier to its place as Montgomery's high school football powerhouse.
On April 28, 2008, after a long and tiring search, Lanier found its new head coach was already working at the school. Former Jeff Davis and Tennessee State University standout tight end Steve Holloway, a long time assistant to 3 previous head coaches, finally got the call to lead the Poets.
In other sports, Lanier won the 2001 boys' basketball state championship (coached by Floyd Matthews) and the 2005 girls' basketball state championship (coached by the aforementioned Steve Holloway).
Lanier also has a cross country team, there are two teams: the boys' 7th graders and 8th graders and the girls' 7th and 8th graders. Each team is directed by a different coach and have different practice times. The Girls' Cross Country team have run and placed year after year with help of the coach. The boys have mostly gotten first and second for the past years.
The school's notable alumni include:
- Toni Tennille, member of 1970s singing group "Captain and Tennille"
- Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, author, and wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Lawton Campbell, a playwright and friend of the Fitzgeralds
- NFL players Bart Starr, Tommy Neville, Johnny Davis, Reggie Barlow, Carlos Hendricks, Jeno James, and Tarvaris Jackson
- Former Montgomery Mayor Emory Folmar
- Hank Williams, singer
- Richmond Flowers, hurdler and football player at the University of Tennessee
- Jimmy Sharpe, a long-time football coach
- Kathryn Thornton, astronaut
- George C. Wallace, III, politician
- Governor Lurleen Wallace
- Governor Claude R. Kirk, Jr., of Florida
- Alfred Goldthwaite, a member of the Alabama House of Representatives from 1958 to 1966 and a chairman of the Alabama Republican Party
- Retired United States Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Carl Mundy
- Former United States Air Force Material Command Vice Commander Lt Gen. Terry Gabreski
- Morris Dees, CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center
- NBA players Donell Taylor, Orlando Graham, and Marcus Webb
- Hosea Chanchez, actor
- "Lanier Senior High School". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved February 9, 2019.
- [dead link]
- "AHSAAsports.com - Football Past State Champions". web.archive.org. 3 October 2007.
- "HJR510". Alabama State Legislature. Archived from the original on April 7, 2006.
- "AHSAA - Hall of Fame - 2004". web.archive.org. 21 May 2006.
- "Johnny Davis Stats". Pro-Football-Reference.com.
- "Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame". web.archive.org. 27 September 2007.
- "ESPN Classic - Flowers: 'Fastest white boy alive'". www.espn.com. Retrieved 2018-12-22.