Booker T. Washington High School..... (nicknamed "Booker T.") is a secondary school located in the Independence Heights community in Houston, Texas. Booker T. Washington, which serves grades 9 through 12, is a part of the Houston Independent School District. Booker T. Washington has a neighborhood program that serves neighborhoods outside of the 610 Loop and inside Beltway 8 in the northwest part of Houston, including the neighborhoods of Independence Heights, Highland Heights, and most of Acres Homes. The school was named after education pioneer Booker T. Washington. The High School For Engineering Professions is located in the Booker T. Washington campus. The Magnet program has been on campus for over 37 years. The Engineering students experience real world engineering projects and collaborate with various partners such as NASA, KBR, Texas A & M, Jacobs Engineering and more.
Booker T. Washington High School came into existence in 1893, at which time it was called “Colored High.” That school, built on the corner of San Felipe (this street was later changed to W. Dallas street) and Frederick streets, cost approximately $30,150. The building was a three-story, ten-room structure with a bell tower built by Architect J.A. Tempest. It was built exactly 57 years after the founding of Houston by the Allen brothers. The first principal of “Colored High” was the late Charles Atherton, for whom one of our HISD elementary schools is named. The enrollment had outgrown the original building by 1927, and it became necessary to enlarge the educational plant.
The school was rebuilt on the same site and named Booker T. Washington Jr-Sr High School in honor of the famed educator, founder of Tuskegee Institute, and author of Up from Slavery and My Larger Education. William E. Miller was named principal.
Virginia B. Miller, an English teacher whom Washington students during that era will never forget, selected “Wisdom” as the school motto. The current school motto is “Seek Wisdom.”
The colors “Royal Blue and Gold” were chosen by Marjorie Teal, physical education teacher, and Freddie Lights Kemp, math teacher. Royal blue represents dignity, state lines, and loyalty. Gold represents something of great value or goodness.
The “Golden Eagle” was chosen as the school’s mascot because it is the mightiest, most powerful, and sharp-sighted bird to soar through the air.
The school song, “Washington High,” was written by English teacher and accomplished poet and orator, Mary E. B. Issacs. J. Will Jones, the music supervisor of all black schools at the time, furnished the rollicking rhythm. These words will always linger in the memories of Booker T. Washington students:
Wash-ing-ton High! We pay the homage
Thou art the mother of our light.
Constant forever, our devotion,
As we through life’s battles fight!
On January 26, 1959, with Arthur L. Huckaby as principal, Booker T. Washington moved to its next location, 119 East 39th Street at Yale. A special ceremony was held in March of 1984 to celebrate the silver anniversary of that school site.
In September of 1965, Franklin D. Wesley began his administration as principal. Under his progressive leadership, many innovations were developed and initiated, so students could enjoy a well-balanced academic and extra-curricular program and excel in both.
This wide-ranging developmental program was introduced because Mr. Wesley believed that “a busy student is a happy and productive one and that time must be devoted to instructing the student academically, socially, and morally.”
In 1974, the High School for the Engineering Professions was conceived and designed on the campus of Booker T. Washington to provide a high-quality college preparatory program for students interested in engineering and applied science. The “school-within-a-school” organizational plan enabled students to enjoy the privileges of a comprehensive high school and the benefits of a special-interest high school.
After more than 65 years (only 10 outside of HISD) in education, Mr. Wesley retired after 40 years of service as principal. He was succeeded by Dr. Victor Keyes, who served as interim principal until 2007. Dr. Keyes is still a very active member of the Eagle family and can be seen on campus as well as in the community. Mr. Bedell was chosen as the next principal of Booker T. Washington and served from 2007-2010. After taking a promotion from Central Office, Mr. Bedell was replaced by then assistant principal Mrs. LaShonda Bilbo-Ervin. Mrs. Bilbo-Ervin served as assistant principal under Mr. F. D. Wesley and Mr. Mark Bedell. When she was named principal, she made history as Booker T. Washington High School’s first female principal. Mrs. Bilbo-Ervin served in this capacity from 2010-2015.
The current principal of Booker T. Washington High School is Dr. Carlos R. Phillips, II. Dr. Phillips first came to Washington as assistant principal in 2010, under the leadership of Mrs. Bilbo-Ervin. After holding this position for 3 years, he became principal of Gregory-Lincoln Education Center. In 2015, he returned to Washington as the 10th principal.
Dr. Phillips’ philosophy is to believe in the abundant opportunities that await each child that he comes in contact with daily and promote each child’s confidence level, morale, and academic abilities so that they can be equipped with the fundamental skills of basic intelligence, character, perseverance, and vigor. These essential skills are vital to help develop future men and women who will also contribute the same or greater service through their community living by collaboratively working with one another with genuine effort to continue to protect and enrich the lives of our most precious gems; our children.
As times changed and the needs of the community and school evolved, it became necessary, even quintessential, to build a more sustainable building for the 21st century and beyond. The new site of Washington High is located just north of the 119 East 39th Street location, at the new address of 4204 Yale Street. The new building is a state-of-the art facility that will continue to be a beacon of light for the community working to impact the lives of all who enter the doors.
There have been over 20,000 graduates from this grand old institution. Many of the most dynamic professional leaders of our state and the nation have roots here at Booker T. Washington High School. Each phase of the school’s development has given impetus to its community. It is no wonder we proclaim:
“THERE IS NO HIGH LIKE OUR WASHINGTON HIGH”