There is tradition. There is legacy. And then there is the historic Jack Yates High School.
Located in the heart of Houston’s Third Ward, Jack Yates High has remained a true pillar in the Greater Houston area, having produced a number of successful community leaders, educators, scholars, entertainers, athletes, business and civic leaders that have impacted the world.
It is extremely hard to liken any other high school in America to Jack Yates High, in that the alumni of Jack Yates stay connected to the school years and years after graduation.
Prestigious alumni like famed actresses Phylicia Rashad and Debbie Allen; the late Dr. John B. Coleman; the late Houston City Councilman Judson Robinson; former Houston City Attorney Anthony Hall; journalist Roland Martin; national recording artist Johnny Nash; former president of Bennett College Dr. Gloria R. Scott; widely-regarded athletes such as Santana Dotson, Dexter Manley, Johnny Bailey, Elvis Patterson, Reggie Phillips, Rickey Winslow, Michael Young, Joseph Young, Damyean Dotson; renowned jazz saxophonist Conrad O. Johnson; state representative Garnet Coleman; and so many other business, entertainment, sports figures and community leaders, have all walked the storied halls of Jack Yates High.
The strong bond and powerful love for the legacy of Jack Yates High goes all the way back to the day that it was established on February 8, 1926, as Yates Colored High School. Jack Yates High opened its doors with 17 teachers and 600 students, and was only the second school for African Americans established in Houston, behind Booker T. Washington High School.
Jack Yates High was named after the Reverend John Henry “Jack” Yates, who became a successful minister, businessman, community leader and educator, after being born a slave and learning how to read, write and acquire the skills of carpentry.
The original campus for Jack Yates High was 2610 Elgin St, where the Baylor College of Medicine Academy at Ryan Middle School currently resides. The first principal of Jack Yates High, James D. Ryan, served as the principal from the opening of the school until his death in 1941. Jack Yates High eventually relocated to 3703 Sampson in 1958 and Ryan Colored Junior High School opening in the former location that Jack Yates High occupied.
Jack Yates students and alumni have called 3703 Sampson home for over 60 years.
Now, incoming students and faculty, along with Jack Yates alumni, will begin calling 3650 Alabama Ave. their new home, as they will bring in the 2018-19 Houston Independent School District (HISD) school year in a brand new, state-of-the-art facility that has technology and amenities that rival some college campuses.
The project amount for the new Jack Yates High facility was $65 million. It was designed by architect Moody Nolan and built by Turner Construction.
The building is set to accommodate anywhere from 1,300 to 1,500 students and can have an increased capacity to hold more students beyond the current estimated number as enrollment increases, according to Dan Bankhead, HISD General Manager-Facilities Design.
The building has a grand entryway with large windows connecting the front and back entrances.
For safety and security purposes, all doors are automatically locked at a certain time each morning, as determined by the principal, and every visitor who enters the building has to check in with the front desk in order to gain access to the building.
There are tons of flexible learning spaces specifically built to showcase the two magnet programs that Jack Yates High offers – the School of Communications and the Maritime Academy.
The building has a three-story academic wing with flexible core learning centers, a one-story high-volume performance wing, an Auditorium with state-of-the-art technology and comfortable chairs that can be moved for fairs and events, quality Fine arts for theater, stage production and band, along with JROTC spaces; two major Gymnasiums with spacious athletics areas for football, basketball, volleyball, track and field, cheerleading and dance team; a large dining commons with floor-to-ceiling window; state-of-the-art Science labs and classrooms; and much more.
Relative to the campus at 3703 Sampson, Bankhead states that the building will begin the process of demolition sometime in September, but the land will still belong to Jack Yates High. According to Bankhead, the land will be used for a baseball stadium, softball stadium, an outdoor covered pool and additional parking for students, faculty and visitors.
In addition to moving into a new building in the fall, Jack Yates High will also be welcoming a new principal to the school, although she is not new, and no stranger to Jack Yates High at all
Tiffany Guillory was selected as the new principal of Jack Yates High to start the 2018-19 school year and she is excited to take the reins at a school she calls her own.
“I’m a Lion,” says Guillory. “Although I didn’t graduate from this school, it has become a major part of my life. As the new principal of Jack Yates High School, I am thrilled to be a part of the Yates community, where family members are actively engaged in their child’s education, as well as an integral component of our school.”
For the past four years, Guillory has served as the dean of instruction at Yates. She began her career as an elementary teacher in Goose Creek ISD and as a middle school mathematics teacher in Fort Bend ISD. Guillory has served as an instructional coordinator, dean of students, lead administrator and associate principal of Westbury High School and Fondren Middle School. She graduated from Lamar University with her Bachelor of Science and has a master’s degree from LeTourneau University. She also completed the Rice University REEP Program.
Guillory states that her primary focus is to ensure students have a safe environment to learn and teachers have a safe environment to teach. She wants to provide both students and teachers with the necessary tools they all need to be successful and accomplish their goals.
Guillory wants the alumni and community to continue supporting the school. More importantly, Guillory is hoping parents and potential students strongly consider Yates to be their school of choice and only option when it comes to receiving a quality education in a positive environment.
HISD is an open enrollment district, which means that parents can apply for schools outside their attendance zone for their students. Since HISD has become an open-enrollment district, many families with schools located in predominately African American communities, have chosen options outside of their designated feeder pattern, which is something Guillory wants to change.
Jack Yates High has always been known for its sports tradition, especially with football and basketball.
The Jack Yates boys’ basketball program has won four state titles since the 2009 season, and has a long history of winning championships going back to the 1939-40 season when they began an impressive run of state championship tournament wins and appearances in the Prairie View Interscholastic League (PVIL). From 1939 to 1967, Jack Yates High made it to the PVIL state championship tournament 12 times, winning five championship trophies. They have appeared in a total of 18 state championship tournaments and took state nine times.
The rich history of Yates football extends all the way back to 1927, when William Sylvester “Babe” Holland was hired by Principal James D. Ryan to coach football as well as basketball and track. Holland led the program to instant success, as Yates won the 1930 Texas Negro High School state championship. Since 1927, the Yates football program has won its share of four Prairie View Interscholastic League (PVIL) Negro League State titles. Originally called the Texas Interscholastic League of Colored Schools, the PVIL served as the governing body for extra-curricular activities for Texas’ African American high schools.
After becoming a part of the University Interscholastic League (UIL), the Yates football program had a run of 27 consecutive district titles from 1970 to 1996, while appearing in nine state championship games and winning five titles. It has been a little over 33 years since the record-setting 1985 Yates Lions team became the first UIL 5A football champion from a historically Black high school in the state of Texas. The 85’ Lions team, coached by legendary high school football coach Luther Booker, finished the season with a 16-0 record and is widely considered to be one of the greatest teams in the history of Texas high school football. That 85’ Lions team broke several state football records and manhandled perennial powerhouse Odessa Permian, 37-0, in the UIL state championship game. Yates was the first UIL class 5A team to win 16 games in a single season as well as the first UIL state champion since 1953 and the last from the Houston Independent School District (HISD) to win the title. Of their records, the Lions allowed only 4.8 points per game, recorded eight shutouts and scored a then record 659 points (41.1 per game). The 85’ team was voted “Team of the Decade” by the Houston Chronicle and Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. From an academics perspective, of the 1985 championship team, 30 of the 36 seniors on the team received college football scholarships. At least 19 played four years of college football, 21 earned degrees and at least five signed with NFL teams.
The pride and legacy of attending a historic school named after such a powerful and influential figure like John Henry “Jack” Yates, is worthy of constant remembrance, celebration and historical preservation, and one of the primary reasons that Jack Yates High will forever be as beloved as it is.