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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Sponsor: OKEQ and Pat Hobbs
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Telephone: 713-224-9115
Contact Name: Woodland Hills Mall

More information

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
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View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
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More information

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Sponsor: Tulsa Greek Festival
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More information

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More information

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Telephone: 918-321-0682
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Cost: $75

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Southminster Presbyterian Church Community Center
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Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free and open to the community

Where:
Woodland Hills Mall
7021 S Memorial Dr.
Tulsa, OK  74133
View map »


Telephone: 713-224-9115
Contact Name: Woodland Hills Mall

More information

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View map »


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Telephone: 918-596-2008
Contact Name: Ryan Howell
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Cost: 10

Where:
Spread throughout Metro Tulsa
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Telephone: 918-663-5820
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More information

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Cost: Adults $5/Kids Free

Where:
13th & Guthrie Ave
1222 S. Guthrie Ave

Tulsa, OK  74119
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Greek Festival
Telephone: 918-583-2082
Contact Name: Tonya Boone
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
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View map »

More information

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View map »


Telephone: 918-259-8437
Contact Name: Central Park Community Center

More information

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Where:
Oklahoma Aquarium
300 Aquarium Dr
Jenks, OK  74037
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Telephone: 918-528-1507
Contact Name: Liz Medrano
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Fundraising concert featuring popular Christian rock band Sanctus Real benefiting Circle of Care's three programs: state-wide foster care, transitional living for single mothers with children...

Cost: 20.00

Where:
Venue 68
6910 S. 101st E. Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74134
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Sponsor: Circle of Care
Telephone: 405-215-1400
Contact Name: Sarah Steffes
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Benefiting the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club of Broken Arrow Cosplay contest and silent auction. Fan made 1966 Batmobile on display. Food provided by Charlies Chicken, Panera and drinks...

Cost: $10, 12 and under FREE

Where:
1400 W. Washington St.
Broken Arrow, OK  74012
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Telephone: 918-406-9341
Contact Name: Sean Henry
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Circle of Care and popular Christian Rock band Sanctus Real are teaming up on September 21, 2019, to raise funds for Circle of Care’s three nonprofit programs. Band member...

Cost: Tickets start at $20

Where:
Asbury United Methodist Church's Venue 68
6910 S. 101 E. Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74133
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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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Get moved with Tulsa Ballet! Experience incredible works from the most in-demand choreographers in the world at Creations in Studio K. Tickets start at $25. Read all about the exciting pieces...

Cost: $25 - above

Where:
Tulsa Ballet - Studio K
1212 E 45th Place
Tulsa, OK  74105
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Sponsor: Tulsa Ballet
Contact Name: Dan Meagher
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Young and old alike will love the cherished story of Alice and her friends performed through original and exciting dance choreography! "Project Alice" is based on Lewis Carroll's...

Cost: 15-20

Where:
Tulsa Performing Arts Center
110 E. 2nd St.
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: Portico Dance Theatre
Telephone: 918-321-0682
Contact Name: Linda Davis
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Young and old alike will love the cherished story of Alice and her friends performed through original and exciting dance choreography!"Project Alice" is based on Lewis Carroll's “Alice's...

Cost: 15-20

Where:
Tulsa Performing Arts Center
110 E. 2nd St.
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: Portico Dance Theatre
Telephone: 918-321-0682
Contact Name: Linda Davis
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Whether you prefer Borg nanoprobes to Midichlorians, the Justice League to the Avengers, or Terminators to Daleks, don't let anyone force you into boldly going where no one has gone...

Cost: $8.00 ($4.00 for children under 12)

Where:
pH Community House
306 S Phoenix Ave
Tulsa, OK  74127
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Sponsor: Laughing Matter Improv
Contact Name: Jerry Henderson
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In our 4-week Beginning Fencing class, you'll learn about the history of Olympic fencing, the three fencing weapons – foil, saber and epee – and the general rules for each of the specific...

Cost: $75

Where:
Southminster Presbyterian Church Community Center
3500 S Peoria
Tulsa, OK  74106
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Sponsor: Tulsa Fencing Club
Telephone: 918-928-2663
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Where:
Veterans Park
1811 S Boulder Park Dr
Tulsa, OK
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Get wined and dined at the first annual Tulsa Beer & Wine Festival. Stroll through our landscape gardens and treat your taste buds to exquisite food pairings with local and national craft...

Cost: TBD

Where:
Gathering Place Great Lawn
2650 S. John Williams Way E.
Tulsa, OK  74114
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