Walter Johnson High School

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Walter Johnson High School
Bethesda, Maryland
United States
Type Public Secondary
Established 1956
School district Montgomery County Public Schools
Principal Mrs. Jennifer Baker
Grades 9–12
Enrollment 2,261 (2014/2015)
Campus Suburban
Color(s) White and Green
Mascot Wildcat, Mighty Moo
Rival Winston Churchill High School
Newspaper The Pitch
Aerial photograph of WJHS taken during construction on 7 April 2002 – credit USGS.

Walter Johnson High School (WJHS) is located at 6400 Rock Spring Drive in Bethesda, Maryland.[1] WJHS serves portions of Bethesda, North Bethesda, and Rockville, as well as the towns of Garrett Park and Kensington.


Walter Johnson High School was founded in 1956 as part of the Montgomery County Public School system (MCPS). The school is named in honor of the late Washington Senators' baseball pitcher, Walter Johnson, who resided in a Bethesda house which still stands just a few miles away from the school on Old Georgetown Road. After retiring from baseball, Walter Johnson became a county commissioner for Montgomery County.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, when the outer suburbs of Washington were within five minutes' drive of the Beltway, Walter Johnson was viewed as a "country" or "outer-suburban" school. The school was surrounded by farms and livestock, notably cow herds. Yearbooks indicate that, although at first Walter Johnson's rival high school may have been Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Maryland, as early as 1960 a heated rivalry arose between Walter Johnson and Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Bethesda, which lasted several decades.

During the 1972/73 academic year, "WJ" experimented with a 90-minute mid-day "activity period" in which no formal classes were held and students were encouraged to occupy themselves voluntarily with extracurricular activities, which could include simply socializing or reading a book, as well as organized extracurricular activities. This unstructured approach to education was intended to encourage creativity and individuality. The activity period was cut back to two days a week in subsequent years, and has since been removed entirely.

Despite numerous renovations, the original building still stands. Additional wings have been added to the school on either end and classrooms have been modernized. A new cafeteria was added to the school in 2003, and a student commons area was added in 2009 as a part of a school-wide renovation which took several years. "The Clock", well-known to students, is still in working order and resides in the front hallway above the two golden plaques of the Wildcat and Spartan.


Enrollment increased from just a few hundred students in 1956 to 1600 students in 1960 and 2,000 students by 2005. During tremendous growth of the D.C. metropolitan area, particularly during the Vietnam Era of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the school's environment changed from countryside to that of a major metropolitan suburb.


Starting in fall of 2007, 13 of WJHS had been placed under construction, replaced by 44 portables (nicknamed the "portable city"). WJHS was completed in 2010, which included a 'Student Commons' and a public space for all students. The space was completed in the second phase of the process. A new wing houses new ESOL, English and language rooms that are easily accessible from the rest of the ground floor.


When it first opened in 1956, its original mascot was the Spartan. In 1987, the students of neighboring Charles W. Woodward High School merged into WJHS and the Woodward building eventually became the new site of Tilden Middle School in 1991. The students were allowed to vote on the new merged school colors and mascot, with the requirement that one school would keep their colors while the other school would keep their mascot. Woodward's "Wild Thing the Wildcat" and WJHS school colors—green and white, won out.

The unofficial mascot of the school is "Mighty Moo", a large brown cow. Early in Walter Johnson's history cows used to roam onto the football fields at various times. As seen in Walter Johnson yearbooks from the 1960s, the Mighty Moo character originated as a painting by an ambitious and very bold WJ student (who shall remain nameless), who painted a cartoon cow on the brick chimney at the back of the school, overlooking the football field, large enough to be clearly visible from cars passing by on Democracy Boulevard. Making lemons into lemonade, Walter Johnson adopted the cow as its unofficial mascot under the name Mighty Moo. Later yearbooks show that, even as the area became urbanized, the cows remained nearby and continued to graze across Rock Spring Drive from the school, pasturing in the shadows of high-rise office buildings through the late 1970s. Even though the cows are now gone, Mighty Moo remains a mascot of Walter Johnson.


One of Walter Johnson's signature programs is Advanced Placement Experience (APEX), and is designed to be a highly competitive four-year course of study. Prospective students apply during their eighth grade year, and are notified of their admission in the early spring prior to their ninth grade year. The application process includes submitting a list of activities, four teacher evaluations, and a writing sample. The program offers a select group of students a comprehensive curriculum combining accelerated honors and advanced placement level coursework.[2]

Additional programs include Advanced Curriculum for Excellence in Science (ACES) as well as Linguistic Excellence And Discovery (LEAD!). The ACES Scholars Program offers students a challenging course of study in the science disciplines,[3] while the LEAD! Scholars Program is for students who wish to commit to a broad range of courses in World Languages.[4]



The College Board ranked Walter Johnson's AP World History program as the best in the world.[5]

Walter Johnson High School was rated as one of "America's Best High Schools" by Newsweek magazine and was ranked 148 for best public high schools in the nation for 2013.[6]

WJHS's "It's Academic" team won the Washington Area Championship and the mid-Atlantic Super Bowl in 2005 and in 2007. The team has also had several of its members elected to the All-State team, the most successful team at the Panasonic Academic Challenge.

The Walter Johnson Debate Team has been county champion every year since 2003 and was also county champion from 1993 to 2000. The Forensics Team has been county champion every year since 2001 and achieved either 2nd, 3rd or 4th Place in the County League from 1990 to 2000.

The Walter Johnson Science Olympiad team has won the state championship and attended the National Tournament four times.

Walter Johnson also boasts numerous student-run clubs, including a UNICEF club, a Harry Potter club, and the Walter Johnson Tea Club.


All tournaments and finals are conducted by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA).

Cross Country[edit]

  • Maryland Class 4A State Champions (Girls) 1996
  • Maryland Class 4A State Champions (Girls) 1997
  • Maryland Class 4A State Champions (Girls) 1998
  • Maryland Class 4A State Champions (Girls) 1999
  • Maryland Class 4A State Champions (Boys) 2008
  • Maryland Class 4A State Champions (Boys) 2009
  • Maryland Class 4A State Champions (Boys) 2010
  • Maryland Class 4A State Champions (Boys) 2011
  • Maryland Class 4A State Champions (Girls) 2013
  • Maryland Class 4A State Champions (Girls) 2014
  • Maryland Class 4A State Champions (Girls) 2015
  • Maryland Class 4A State Champions (Girls) 2016


  • WN4 Maryland State Champions 2010, 2012


  • Division 3 Champions 2013
  • Division 3 Champions 2014


  • Boys Maryland Class B State Champions 1987


  • Boys Maryland Class A State Champions 1978
  • Boys Maryland Class 3A State Champions 2000
  • Boys Maryland Class 4A State Champions 2006
  • Boys Maryland Class 4A State Champions 2016
  • Girls Maryland Class 4A State Champions 2016

Boys' ice hockey[edit]

  • Maryland Scholastic Hockey League Public School State Champions 2004/2005

Field hockey[edit]

  • Maryland Class 4A State Champions 1989

Swim and dive[edit]

  • Maryland 4A Men's State Champions 2012
  • Maryland 4A Men's State Champions 2013
  • Maryland 4A Men's State Champions 2015

Track and field[edit]

  • Maryland Class 3A State Champions (Girls) 2003.

Notable alumni[edit]

  • Matthew J. Baek – children's book author
  • Sandra Dickinson – actress
  • David John Doukas – physician and medical ethicist
  • Anita Dunn - advisor to President Barack Obama(class of 1976)
  • Jeremy Ebobisse - Professional Soccer player for the Portland Timbers (Class of 2014)
  • Georgia Engel – actress
  • Florent Groberg – Medal of Honor recipient
  • Jonathan Hadary – actor (class of 1966)
  • Colleen HaskellSurvivor reality TV show contestant an actress
  • Stephen Herek - film director and producer, Broadway producer (class of 1976)
  • John Michael Higgins – actor/director (class of 1981)
  • Ariana Kelly - politician, Maryland House of Delegates (class of 1994)
  • John Kronstadt – district judge (class of 1969)
  • Tommy Keene – singer/songwriter (class of 1976)
  • Tim KurkjianESPN baseball reporter and analyst (class of 1974)
  • Brian Transeau – electronic musician and composer (class of 1988)
  • Roy Lee – film producer (class of 1987)
  • Jeffrey S. Lehman – former President of Cornell University, scholar and lawyer (class of 1973)
  • Nils Lofgren – rock musician, composed Jhoon Rhee Karate Theme (class of 1969 – attended, did not graduate)
  • Rudy Maxa – consumer-travel expert; host/producer of PBS travel shows; Wheel Club Officer (class of 1967)[citation needed]
  • Matt McCoy – actor (class of 1974)
  • Caroline Miller – professional soccer player
  • Jody Olsen – former Deputy Director of the Peace Corps 2002–2009, (Acting Director 2009) (class of 1961)[7][citation needed]
  • Preston Padden – Executive Vice President of Worldwide Government Relations for The Walt Disney Company. Former president of ABC Television Network. (class of 1965)
  • Carl Pope – Executive Director, Sierra Club (class of 1963)
  • James Risen – Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and author (class of 1973)
  • Greg Roberts – award-winning videogame designer
  • Michael Scanlon (AKA Sean Scanlon, AKA Michael P. S. Scanlon, class of 1989) – Republican Operative (former aide to Tom DeLay), pleaded guilty in 2005 to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and to defraud Native-American tribes of millions of dollars, sentenced to 20 months in prison in 2011 after cooperating with federal investigators
  • Cal Thomas – syndicated columnist and author (class of 1960)
  • Gerald Zerkin – senior assistant federal public defender; defended Zacarias Moussaoui, who helped plan September 11
  • Gedion Zelalem – professional footballer (soccer) Arsenal F.C. (entered with class of 2015 before leaving to pursue professional soccer)
  • David J. Williams - science-fiction and video game author, class of 1989


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°01′34″N 77°08′06″W / 39.026110°N 77.134955°W / 39.026110; -77.134955