BTW centennial memories

Booker T. Washington High School celebrates 100 years of greatness this fall.



Booker T. Washington High School celebrates its 100th year as it is recognized as Oklahoma’s top public high school.

(page 1 of 3)

One hundred years ago this fall, Booker T. Washington High School was founded to serve the citizens of Tulsa’s black community.

Since then, the school has undergone drastic changes, including several relocations, desegregation in the early 1970s and the transition to become a magnet school.

Today, BTW is an alternative for high school students looking for more challenges, broader curriculum offerings and social enrichment. The Advanced Placement Program and the International Baccalaureate Degree Program are the foundations of the school’s high-level academic offerings.

Athletics also play a key role in BTW’s legacy as the Hornets proudly claim 15 state championships in boys’ basketball and eight in football, as well as state championships in girls’ basketball, boys’ soccer, boys’ swimming, boys’ and girls’ track, wrestling and volleyball.

Considering its rich history and reputation for academic excellence, it’s only fitting that BTW celebrates its 100th year as it is recognized as Oklahoma’s top public high school. It was ranked as such by the U.S. News & World Report’s Best High School Rankings for 2013.

The following is a brief look back at the history of BTW.

The original Booker T. Washington High School was constructed as a four-room building at 507 E. Easton St. in the now-historic Greenwood District and was designed by Leon B. Senter. Opening in fall 1913, the school welcomed 14 students. The teaching staff consisted of two teachers, Lula Sims and Myrtle McKeever.

Ellis Walker Woods, a native of Mississippi who had just moved to Tulsa from Memphis, Tenn., was named the school’s first principal and served until 1948, making his tenure the longest in the school’s 100-year history.

By 1916, the school had grown more than three-fold with 50 students and six teachers.

Also that year, BTW enjoyed its first graduating class with just two students — Bertha Hale and Celey Pecala Wilson.

BTW soon found itself outgrowing its physical facilities. By 1920, a larger, three-story brick building had replaced the original four-room high school on the site. The staff had now grown to 15. At school year’s end, the Class of 1918 graduated seven. 

With the increasing student population, new subjects were added to the curriculum, including public speaking, debate, oratory and music.

Basketball was added to the list of school activities in 1921 and would prove to be a monumental addition to the school’s sports legacy. 

Tragically, 1921 also brought the Tulsa Race Riot, resulting in many deaths and the virtual destruction of the Greenwood area that was home to many black families and black-owned businesses. The building housing BTW was spared, and the school played a key role in the area’s recovery as the American Red Cross set up temporary headquarters to direct and implement relief efforts.

In 1920, a larger, three-story brick building had replaced the original schoolhouse. According to James S. Hirsch in “Riot and Remembrance: The Tulsa Race War and its Legacy,” an estimated 2,000 people, who were made homeless through the riot’s devastation, were provided temporary shelter in the school building. 

Happier times prevailed in 1922 as BTW added even more activities. Band and football were added and the school crowned a football queen for the first time. That same year, the first school newspaper was printed.

By 1925, the school enrolled 470 students overseen by 21 teachers.

Just about every student during the World War II years helped in the war efforts, with many collecting scrap iron and planting victory gardens.

Clyde Cole became principal in 1948.  Under his leadership, academic and graduation requirements for BTW students would deepen to require two majors and two minors.

Thomas Ousley, Class of 1948, still holds vivid memories of his school days at BTW.

“Our school was not only very athletic-oriented, but we were outstanding in the arts, like drama and theater,” he recalls, noting an annual student talent show called “Hi-Jinks” that featured music, theater and drama. “I was not very good, but I sang in the chorus. It seemed everyone wanted to be in it.”

The students also manned outstanding athletic teams.

“In sports, we were usually so dominant that it was not a matter if we would win, but by how much,” says Ousley, who played basketball under Seymour Williams, the coach for whom the current BTW football stadium is named.

“Coach Williams was a no-nonsense coach,” Ousley says. “His emphasis was on winning, but not at all costs.”

The alumnus recalls that a grade sheet was posted at school every Thursday.

“The rule was simple: If you (aren’t) passing, then you’re not playing that Friday,” he says.

Fridays meant a school assembly, too, for which all the seniors and some underclassmen dressed up — “just like we did for church,” Ousley says.

He remembers many students in his class went on to successful careers, with some becoming doctors, engineers and lawyers, including a U.S. Attorney and a District Judge in Oklahoma City. Ousley himself went on to join the Army in 1948, serving for almost four years.

Following that, he worked for the U.S. Postal Service until his retirement in 1986. 

“We had a well-rounded atmosphere, even though it was a segregated atmosphere,” he says of his BTW days. “We had a great time at a great school.”

In 1951, the school moved to a new building at 1631 E. Woodrow Place.

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Telephone: 191-889-56302

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Orth Contemporary is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new Silver Deposit paintings by Jimi Gleason on view at the gallery from September 7ththrough October 19th.    ...

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View map »


Telephone: (918) 565-9404
Contact Name: Katie
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More information

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Cost: free

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Contact Name: Katie
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More information

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Cost: 1/2 priced Four-Course Classic

Where:
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View map »


Telephone: 918-299-8000
Website »

More information

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Cost: free

Where:
Orth Contemporary
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View map »


Telephone: (918) 565-9404
Contact Name: Katie
Website »

More information

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Cost: free

Where:
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View map »


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Cost: free and open to the public

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View map »


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Sponsor: LIFE Senior Services
Telephone: (918) 664-9000
Contact Name: Emily Fox

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Signified by the balance between day & night, the Autumn Equinox serves as an opportunity to retreat from the harried pace of life, reflect upon that which is coming to an...

Cost: $375

Where:
The Ofi House
34477 S 502 Rd.
Park Hill, OK  74451
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Sponsor: YogaQuest
Telephone: (918) 622-5454
Contact Name: Dee Anne Day
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Orth Contemporary is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new Silver Deposit paintings by Jimi Gleason on view at the gallery from September 7ththrough October 19th.    ...

Cost: free

Where:
Orth Contemporary
20 South Lewis Avenue
Tulsa, OK  74104
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Telephone: (918) 565-9404
Contact Name: Katie
Website »

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Orth Contemporary is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new Silver Deposit paintings by Jimi Gleason on view at the gallery from September 7ththrough October 19th.    ...

Cost: free

Where:
Orth Contemporary
20 South Lewis Avenue
Tulsa, OK  74104
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Telephone: (918) 565-9404
Contact Name: Katie
Website »

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Join us to celebrate 15 years of the Oklahoma Aquarium and the opening of our newest exhibit, the Polynesian Reef on September 22, 2018!  The new exhibit will showcase over 70 species of South...

Cost: 15.95

Where:
Oklahoma Aquarium
300 S Aquarium Drive
Jenks, OK  74037
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Sponsor: Oklahoma Aquarium
Telephone: 918-528-1577
Contact Name: Laura Long
Website »

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Teachers and administrators can ring in the school year with a sweet deal.   Every Sunday thru Thursday in September, a school ID will get teachers and administrators a half-priced Four...

Cost: 1/2 priced Four-Course Classic

Where:
The Melting Pot of Tulsa
300 Riverwalk Terrace #190
Jenks, OK  74037
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Telephone: 918-299-8000
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The Oklahoma Aquarium will celebrate the grand opening of the newest exhibit, The Polynesian Reef, with Luau open to the public. The Polynesian Reef Exhibit will be the second largest exhibit at...

Cost: free

Where:
Oklahoma Aquarium
300 Aquarium Dr
Jenks, OK  74037
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Batman is coming to Broken Arrow! September 22 is the 4th annual Batman Day. Come in costume and meet some of your favorite characters. There will be a great charity auction full of wonderful items...

Cost: $10

Where:
The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of Broken Arr
1400 W Washington
Broken Arrow, OK  74011
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Sponsor: The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of Broken Arrow
Telephone: 918-258-7545
Contact Name: Wendi Bowman
Website »

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The Oklahoma Swing Syndicate (TOSS) hosts a Swing dance and lessons  The Oklahoma Swing Syndicate (TOSS) is the only UNESCO recognized dance organization in Oklahoma.  We are a 501c3...

Cost: $7

Where:
Community Center - South Minister Presby Church
3500 So Peoria
1/2 west of Peoria, on 35pl behind the church
Tulsa, OK  74102
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Sponsor: The Ok Swing Syndicate
Telephone: 918-450-691
Contact Name: Rita Robbins
Website »

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TULtalk


918 Day Discounts

Happy 918 Day, Tulsa! The whole city seems to be celebrating with a host of deals and discounts.

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Fall Arts Guide: September-December 2018

Bright lights. Big city. Tulsa has a plethora of performances this season. Mark your calendars for some new entertainment and returning favorites.

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Episode 3: Chef Kirk Swaby from Gathering Place

In anticipation of the Sept. 8 opening of the historic park, Anna interviews Kirk Swaby about his work as the Gathering Place's Culinary Executive Chef.

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Wizard World and the strange power of celebrity

Kato Kaelin, who has his own complicated relationship with fame, comes to Tulsa to serve as the emcee for a pop culture convention.

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Video: Aerial tour of Gathering Place

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