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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October 2019

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Cost: $15

Where:
Studio K (Tulsa) and Zarrow Studio (Broken Arrow(
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View map »


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Telephone: 918-749-6006
Contact Name: Dan
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More information

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Cost: $1,250

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Southern Hills Country Club
2636 E. 61st St.
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View map »


Sponsor: Abersons
Telephone: 918-834-7200
Contact Name: Scarlet Henley
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More information

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Sponsor: TU College of Law
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Cost: 109

Where:
THE DANCE PLACE
3310 WEST 42ND PLACE
TULSA, OK  74107
View map »


Telephone: 918-813-6514
Website »

More information

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Cost: 0.00

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Cost: $8 for ages 13+, $4 for ages 3-12. Children 2 and under are free.

Where:
Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
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View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
Contact Name: Lori Hutson

More information

Willkommen to four days of Oompah (or Bavaria or Oktoberfest) in Oklahoma  with nationally known German bands, authentic European foods, arts and  crafters MarktHaus, full carnival, and fun...

Cost: $10 at the gate or $7 in advance for adults. Children 12 and under are FREE.

Where:
River West Festival Park
2100 S. Jackson Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74107
View map »


Sponsor: Resolute PR
Telephone: 903-292-7885
Contact Name: Zachary Johnston
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East Reconciliation Way
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View map »

More information

Hello, Friends!   Fall is in the air! We are excited to present the 5th Annual Hugo Pumpkin Festival, a fun-filled event featuring a variety of entertaining activities for the whole family....

Cost: $ 6 - $ 20

Where:
Endangered Ark Foundation
2657 E 2070 Rd
Hugo, OK  74743
View map »


Sponsor: Endangered Ark Foundation
Telephone: 580-317-8470
Contact Name: Emily
Website »

More information

Go into the woods and experience the return of this fantastic family production with performances in both Tulsa and Broken Arrow. Tulsa Ballet's Hardesty Family Foundation Children's...

Cost: $15

Where:
Studio K (Tulsa) and Zarrow Studio (Broken Arrow(
1212 E 45th Place
Tulsa, OK  74105
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Ballet
Telephone: 918-749-6006
Contact Name: Dan
Website »

More information

Abersons presents Pink Ribbon -- an exclusive, high-fashion fundraiser featuring a runway show by one of the world's hottest designers. Cocktails 6 p.m. | Dinner & Live Auction 7...

Cost: $1,250

Where:
Southern Hills Country Club
2636 E. 61st St.
Tulsa, OK  74136
View map »


Sponsor: Abersons
Telephone: 918-834-7200
Contact Name: Scarlet Henley
Website »

More information

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Cost: $0

Where:
Tulsa Historical Society and Museum
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View map »


Sponsor: Nimrod Journal
Telephone: 918-631-3080
Contact Name: Cassidy McCants
Website »

More information

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Cost: free

Where:
Tulsa Historical Society
2445 S. Peoria Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74114
View map »


Sponsor: Nimrod Journal
Telephone: 918-631-3080
Contact Name: Cassidy McCants
Website »

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Cost: $24.50-$75.00

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View map »


Sponsor: Compassion Live
Telephone: 877-234-3847
Contact Name: Carol
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More information

Originally from West Africa, Kizomba is a partner dance that is a sexy addition to any Latin dance party. It is the fastest Latin growing dance in the U.S. Come and learn the basics plus a few more...

Cost: 109

Where:
THE DANCE PLACE
3310 WEST 42ND PLACE
TULSA, OK  74107
View map »


Telephone: 918-813-6514
Website »

More information

Signature Symphony at TCC celebrates the work of the late Ernie Fields, a Tulsa icon who had a career as a bandleader and trombonist. Fields’ music developed at a time when R&B, swing,...

Cost: $36 - $58

Where:
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10300 E 81st St
Tulsa, OK  74133-4513
View map »


Sponsor: Signature Symphony at TCC
Telephone: 918-595-7768
Contact Name: Tabitha Littlefield
Website »

More information

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Cost: $36 - $58

Where:
VanTrease Performing Arts Center for Education
10300 E 81st St
Tulsa, OK  74133-4513
View map »


Sponsor: Signature Symphony at TCC
Telephone: 918-595-7768
Contact Name: Tabitha Littlefield
Website »

More information

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The annual US National Arabian & Half Arabian Horse Show returns to Tulsa. You will be able to see over 1700 Arabian and Half Arabian horses competing in many divisions, including Breeding/In Hand...

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Tulsa State Fairgrounds
4145 E 21st St,
Tulsa, OK  74114
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Sponsor: Arabian Horse Association
Telephone: 303-6964500
Contact Name: Kelsey Berglund
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Nimrod Journal will host its annual Conference for Readers and Writers on Saturday, October 19th, at The University of Tulsa. The conference will feature workshops on fiction, poetry,...

Cost: $10-70

Where:
Allen Chapman Student Union
440 S Gary Ave
Tulsa, OK  74104
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Sponsor: Nimrod
Telephone: 918-631-3080
Contact Name: Cassidy McCants
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Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry will host its annual Conference for Readers and Writers at The University of Tulsa on October 19th, 2019.   The Conference offers the...

Cost: $10-$70

Where:
TU's Allen Chapman Student Union
440 S. Gary Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74104
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Sponsor: Nimrod Journal
Telephone: 918-631-3080
Contact Name: Cassidy McCants
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Willkommen to four days of Oompah (or Bavaria or Oktoberfest) in Oklahoma  with nationally known German bands, authentic European foods, arts and  crafters MarktHaus, full carnival, and fun...

Cost: $10 at the gate or $7 in advance for adults. Children 12 and under are FREE.

Where:
River West Festival Park
2100 S. Jackson Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74107
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Sponsor: Resolute PR
Telephone: 903-292-7885
Contact Name: Zachary Johnston
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Hello, Friends!   Fall is in the air! We are excited to present the 5th Annual Hugo Pumpkin Festival, a fun-filled event featuring a variety of entertaining activities for the whole family....

Cost: $ 6 - $ 20

Where:
Endangered Ark Foundation
2657 E 2070 Rd
Hugo, OK  74743
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Sponsor: Endangered Ark Foundation
Telephone: 580-317-8470
Contact Name: Emily
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The Karbach Games and Competitions Arena becomes our own center of the universe Saturday at 2:00 PM for true fans of German bier. Why? Because it is ground zero for the Linde Oktoberfest Bavarian...

Cost: $40

Where:
River West Festival Park
2100 South Jackson Avenue
Tulsa, OK  74107
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Sponsor: River Parks
Contact Name: Ryan Howell

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Folk Salad Radio Show celebrates its 20th anniversary with a potluck meal followed by a concert featuring Grammy-nominated singer songwriter John Fullbright and several other Tulsa musicians on...

Cost: $35

Where:
The Stone Church
4225 W. Fifth St.
Tulsa, OK
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Sponsor: Folk Salad Radio Show
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Go into the woods and experience the return of this fantastic family production with performances in both Tulsa and Broken Arrow. Tulsa Ballet's Hardesty Family Foundation Children's...

Cost: $15

Where:
Studio K (Tulsa) and Zarrow Studio (Broken Arrow(
1212 E 45th Place
Tulsa, OK  74105
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Sponsor: Tulsa Ballet
Telephone: 918-749-6006
Contact Name: Dan
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Abersons presents Pink Ribbon -- an exclusive, high-fashion fundraiser featuring a runway show by one of the world's hottest designers. Cocktails 6 p.m. | Dinner & Live Auction 7...

Cost: $1,250

Where:
Southern Hills Country Club
2636 E. 61st St.
Tulsa, OK  74136
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Sponsor: Abersons
Telephone: 918-834-7200
Contact Name: Scarlet Henley
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America’s LARGEST interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa Broken Arrow! At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: 59.95

Where:
Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa- Broken Arrow
420 W Albany St.
Broken Arrow, OK  74012
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Telephone: 866-496-0535
Contact Name: The Dinner Detective
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Join us for Nimrod Write Night, the opening event of our Nimrod Conference for Readers and Writers weekend, on Friday, October 18th, at the Tulsa Historical Society, 6:30 p.m. Write Night is...

Cost: free

Where:
Tulsa Historical Society
2445 S. Peoria Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74114
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Sponsor: Nimrod Journal
Telephone: 918-631-3080
Contact Name: Cassidy McCants
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Originally from West Africa, Kizomba is a partner dance that is a sexy addition to any Latin dance party. It is the fastest Latin growing dance in the U.S. Come and learn the basics plus a few more...

Cost: 109

Where:
THE DANCE PLACE
3310 WEST 42ND PLACE
TULSA, OK  74107
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Telephone: 918-813-6514
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Flashes of vivid colors, laughter, dancers whirling around keeping pace with the energetic music, more laughter……this is what you will experience at Guthrie Green this Saturday,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Guthrie Green
111 East M.B. Brady Street
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: SAPAF
Telephone: 918-665-6419
Contact Name: Mohan Kelkar
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Signature Symphony at TCC celebrates the work of the late Ernie Fields, a Tulsa icon who had a career as a bandleader and trombonist. Fields’ music developed at a time when R&B, swing,...

Cost: $36 - $58

Where:
VanTrease Performing Arts Center for Education
10300 E 81st St
Tulsa, OK  74133-4513
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Sponsor: Signature Symphony at TCC
Telephone: 918-595-7768
Contact Name: Tabitha Littlefield
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Tulsa in Harmony is a congregation of community choirs, lending their voices in one accord. They sing of their hopes and their faith and aspirations of a more unified community and a more unified...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gathering Place
2650 S. John Williams Way E.
Tulsa, OK  74114
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Where:
ONEOK Field
201 N Elgin Ave
Tulsa, OK
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Website »

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