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Jefferson High School (Los Angeles)

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Title: Jefferson High School (Los Angeles)  
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Jefferson High School (Los Angeles)

Thomas Jefferson
High School
1319 East 41st Street
Los Angeles, California California
United States United States 90011

Type Public
Established 1916
School district Los Angeles Unified School District
Principal Michael Taft
Grades 9–12
Campus Urban
Color(s) Green and Gold
Athletics conference Southern League, Los Angeles City Section CIF
Nickname Democrats (Demos)
Rival Freemont

For schools with a similar name, see Jefferson 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.


In 1915, the citizen of Los Angeles voted to sell bonds to raise 4,600,000 dollars 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) 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 expo 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 thirty Fourth Street and 392 feet on thirty eight streets. The buildings of the group will be of brick and concrete construction, being faced with rug tapestry brick and trimmed with artificial stoned. All corridors and stairways will be made absolutely fireproof. The classic style will 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 first Principal.[4]

On March 10, 1933 in the city of Long Beach, an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.4 which totally 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 boards access the situation. On April 6, tent bungalows provided by the school board was 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 Clement was hired to build a 45-unit campus with a budget of $353,000.[6] The "Streamline Moderne" 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 future notable alumni such as Ralph Bunche, Woody Strode and Samuel R Browne have already graduated from Jefferson High School. All three men African American, they will be 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 musician and composer 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

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

Dancer / Choreographer / Entertainer

Television / Film Personality

  • Woody Strode – (Actor, Football Player) Veteran of 30 movies 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

  • 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

  • Ralph Bunche[13] – Educator, UN mediator on Palestine and Nobel Peace Prize Winner
  • Thelton Henderson[14] – Federal Judge in the Northern District of California.
  • Willard H. Murray, Jr.[15] California State Assembly Member 1988–1996 (District 52); California Institute for the Preservation of Jazz. Current director of the Water Replenishment District 1. Father of Former State Senator Kevin Murray ref: Testimony of Buddy Collette & Marl Young
  • Augustus F. Hawkins[16] U.S. House of Representatives from California's 21st and 29th district from 1963–1991; California assembly from 1935–1963
  • David W. Williams[17] Judge for the United States District Court for the Central District of California; first African American Federal Judge from states west of the Mississippi.
  • William R Clay[18] Appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to Superior Court judge in October 1976
  • Earl C. Gay (1902–75), Los Angeles City Council member, 1933–45


  • 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

  • Floyd Dixon – Songwriter, Singer – [20] Hit Songs "Telephone Blues", "Call Operator 210" and "Hey Bartender", the latter enjoying wide exposure by the release of 1980 hit "The Blues Brothers"
  • Roy Ayers – Jazz Composer and Vibraphone player – [21] Arranged Musical Score for 1973 movie "Coffy" and classic albums "Running Away 1976" and "Mystic Voyage 1975"
  • Richard Berry – Songwriter, Singer – [22] Wrote Classic Hit Song "Louie Louie" made popular by The Kingsmen
  • Rickey Minor – Emmy-nominated music director, composer, and music producer: widely known for the title 'Music Director" for television series The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, "American Idol" and "Don't Forget the Lyrics".
  • Barry White – Record Producer, Singer Song Writer; Five times Grammy Award Winner; attended Jefferson for sophomore and junior year.
  • Horace Tapscott – Jazz Piano player and composer[23] Subject of UCLA Jazz Achieve called the Horace Tapscott Collection. Creator of "The Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra (P.A.P.A.)"
  • Jesse Belvin – Songwriter, Singer – [24] Co-Wrote "Goodnight My Love" used to end Alan Freed show; co-credited as one of writers of "Earth Angel" made popular by the Penguins
  • Johnny "Guitar" Watson – American Blues and Funk guitarist/singer[25]
  • Young Jessie – Songwriter, Singer – [26] famous for the hit song "Mary Lou"

Singer – Musician

Singers – Groups

  • 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 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

  • William Grant Still[8] Gave Music Clinics to Jefferson student in Samuel R Browne era.
  • Jimmie Lunceford – Gave Music Clinics in 1930's to Jefferson student
  • Caughey Roberts[8]- Jefferson band teacher in 1930's

Academic Performance Index (API)

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

School 2007 [50] 2008 [51] 2009 [52] 2010 [53] 2011 [54]
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



External links

  • Jefferson High School
  • Behind the Scenes: Poverty, gangs plague some L.A. students
  • The Los Angeles Times: Data Desk: Mapping L.A.: Neighborhoods
  • Bringing music to the people by Anthony Macías

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