in honor of the initial leaders
East High School, Memphis, Tennessee
The path that is taken is often determined by the initial direction one goes. Few would doubt that when East High, elementary and junior high included, opened in 1948, it started in the right direction.
For more than 20 years, East focused on academics. The school's revered first principal wrote, "[F]rom the first year of the school's existence, it was obvious that most of East High School's graduates would attend college. So sound scholarship became a prime objective."
Sometime in the 1970s, with changes in the faculty leadership, there was a perceivable shift. As one student reported, "the emphasis shifted a lot from academics to athletics ... due to (the school) administration."
With this page, we honor those early administrative leaders of East High and East Elementary who started the school in the right direction making it an outstanding success in public school academic achievement.
Mr. Joel P. Snider
An obituary is available.
"In his sixteen years at East Mr. Snider became a steadfast standard by which so many graduates have patterned their lives but which few have equaled and none have surpassed." (Mustang, 1965)
It has been 58 years since Mr. Snider took the helm of the new city high school at Poplar Avenue and Holmes Street and 42 years since he was taken from us. Despite the magnificent accomplishments of many graduates of East High School, it is doubted that any who knew Mr. Snider would challenge the above comment.
This man became a revered legend during his time at East High. Parents and students spoke about him literally in reverential tones. He lead East High School to the forefront of academic excellence, setting an example that would persist many years after his untimely death.
A Virginia gentleman, polished and sophisticated, with the Virginia accent, he expected the best of those at East High and it seems no one who ever faced him wanted to disappoint him.
Joel P. Snider was a product of the oldest free public high school in the United States of America, S. Y. M. S. — Eaton Academy in Hampton, Virginia. From there he went to Hampton High, then to the University of Virginia where he was a member of the prestigious honor society Phi Beta Kappa. After college, his first teaching job was at Memphis University School. He followed that as an English teacher at Tredwell, then he taught languages at Humes High. His career with Memphis City Schools continued as he became principal of Leroy Pope School, moving later to take the top position at Snowden Junior High. He was principal there when appointed to lead East High.
To the first graduating class (1951) of East High, Mr. Snider wrote that he trusted that they had acquired "something of the great-fundamentals of learning." Mr. Snider continued by expressing his hope for each graduate: "[A]nd he has become more keenly aware, I hope, of the great principals of honesty, fairness, and courtesy."
Honesty, fairness, and courtesy along with expectations that each person would do their very best well describes Mr. J.P. Snider.
Mr. Snider mixed fun with the work of the school day. He wrote, "most students should enjoy their school years. We sincerely hope that East High School students find happiness, as well as intellectual and ethical instruction, within its walls." Mr. Snider himself enjoyed watching athletic events, especially football. His Jaguar automobile was also a little beyond what the typical school principal drove.
Tragically, this fine man's life was ended prematurely, when on July 30, 1964, a traffic mishap not far from Pickwick Lake took him away from us.
Miss Rose Parkinson
Elementary Principal 1949-1972
Miss Parkinson came to East in 1949 after serving as principal at Gordon Elementary School in Memphis. She spent 43 years in the city school system, capping her career at East. Her initial title was assistant principal, but her duties always were, working closely with the high school principal, to be the administrator of the elementary. Within a few years her title was changed to elementary principal. She retired in 1972 as school pairing resulted in the closing of East Elementary School.
Mr. J. G. Griesbeck
Mr. George Griesbeck, Jr. became principal of East High in 1964 after the death of East's first principal, Mr. J. P. Snider.
Mr. Griesbeck grew up in Memphis, got bachelor degrees from Southwestern (now Rhodes College) and Memphis State (University of Memphis), and a master's degree from George Peabody College for Teachers.
Mr. Griesbeck taught English at Christian Brothers College before joining the city school system. His teaching tenure at Tredwell was interrupted for military service in World War II, where he started as a private and rose to the rank of captain in the Armored Calvary. He returned to teaching in 1945 at Messick and then became principal of Riverside Elementary a year later. He served in the same role at Guthrie Elementary for 2 years, then was principal at Fairview Junior High when he got the call to lead East High.
Mr. Griesbeck accepted the East High job with a significant challenge: following the revered legend of Mr. Snider. As he took the role he said, "I'll do what I can to help East continue the high type of program that was carried on by Mr. Snider."
Perhaps one of Mr. Griesbeck's greatest accomplishments is that he was able to do that. It's very difficult for anyone to replace a legend but Mr. Griesbeck maintained East's academic performance and commitment to integrity.
Mr. Griesbeck retired at the same time Elementary principal Rose Parkinson did in 1972. He and his wife still live in Memphis.
Mr. Earl Spiller
Chief Custodian 1949-1966
An obituary is available.
Mr. Spiller took a new school, which initially was still under construction, and supervised the physical upkeep and operation until he retired in 1966. He was a hands on guy, not only supervising crews but doing much of the work himself. It was a large task that he accomplished well. Mr. Spiller was likely on call, perhaps on duty would be the more apt description, twenty-four seven, as we say today, since he lived in a house on the East High campus (remember that?). It may not be common to significantly recognize physical facility management but we hope doing so here indicates the integral part of East High that Mr. Spiller was and the appreciation for him.
If one talks to alumni about Mr. Spiller, one will hear how he helped them, perhaps when they broke something and were terrified of the consequences. Others will speak of him as an "authority figure" important in his leadership role at the school. Perhaps the significance of Mr. Spiller's tenure at East High is best recorded by the fact the 1966 yearbook expressed appreciation with the following tribute:
"For seventeen and a half years Mr. Spiller loyally served both the students and faculty of East as chief custodian. His tireless efforts made the efficient functioning of our school possible during these years; but, since his retirement in January, he has been remembered even more as a dear friend, personally interested in each student and his needs. Mr. Spiller and his friendly smile will long be missed in the halls of East. From his example we can learn much, for he has shown by his life the truth of the statement "Act well your part, there all the honor lies."