by Hal Lamar
What do Vernon Jordan, Walt “Clyde” Frazier, attorney Howard Moore, Olympic gold medalists Miriam McDaniel and Margaret Matthews, the late Maynard Jackson, former Atlanta Mayor, federal judge Clarence Cooper, business mogul Herman Russell and former Atlanta Police Chief Eldrin Bell all have in common? Before any of them rose to the heights they achieved in their varied political, sports, legal, business and law enforcement acumens, they all passed through the ivy walls of historic David T. Howard High School (DTH).
Enough figures probably haven’t been created to document the thousands and thousands of students turned teacher, preacher, firefighter, police officer or laborer who walked the halls, attended classes and played on the school’s athletic teams. Howard was the second high school to open for blacks in 1949 after starting its life as a grammar school in the early ’20s. Howard was named for David T. Howard, a prominent, prosperous Atlanta mortician.
To preserve the legacy of the home of the Ramblers (said to have been named for the popular automobile), the David T. Howard national alumni association was created.
The group, started 12 years ago with a few hundred hard core Howard High alums, has grown to over 1,300. President Wayne Jones (Class of 1952) said the true origins of the association can be traced to the Howard Class of 1961, which held a breakfast attended by about 150 people. “From there, we assembled as a group and the national alumni association was off.” The national group was organized in 1993.
He said members from almost all of Howard’s classes (1948 until 1976 when the school was officially closed) all fall under the umbrella of the national alumni association. Howard began as a grammar school in 1923. One of its most prominent graduates, Martin Luther King, Jr., finished in 1940. The building still stands and houses several school administration offices and the official archives of the Atlanta public school system. “When we learned three years ago they were trying to tear down our school building, we circulated petitions and Councilmember C.T. Martin ensured the building was preserved.
One of the association’s principal functions is preserving the school’s rich legacy, but they are also very busy in the local community. They formed a drug prevention partnership with the Atlanta Public School system and do a drug prevention program at the Howard building with the Family Involvement Center. The alumni group has also adopted Walden Middle School located two blocks from the old DTH building, Parkview Manor Nursing Home and last year’s mentoring program sent over 100 seventh grade Walden boys to day camp.
On October 11th, the association will roll back the hands of time by bringing back the old stunt night that was popular in the 1950s and 60s especially at predominately black schools who used the event as a fundraiser for its general fund.
The association will celebrate a park opening named for T. Herman Graves, the school’s only football coach in its history who taught at Howard starting in 1943.
To learn more about the Howard National Alumni Association, contact Wayne Jones
at 404-223-1111. Membership for Howard graduates is free.
A profile of the Association is at sweetauburn.com.
About the author
Hal Lamar is an Atlanta native and a staff writer for the Atlanta Voice newspaper (atlantavoice.com). He was educated in the Atlanta Public school system but unfortunately didn’t attend David T Howard High School
This article originally appeared in the Atlanta Voice.