Home Daily Update Page Reunions Name Index Geographic Index News History Faculty Obituaries Sympathy Submit Profile More (Site Map)
The East High Alumni Page presents:

The History of East High School
East High School, Memphis, Tennessee

(always work in progress - last update: August, 2015)
If you have additional confirmed historical information, or corrections to what we have,
please contact us. Our e-mail address is editor@EastHigh.org

"Everybody who was anybody went there. People transferred out of Hutchison to East"
       — Vici Lane, East faculty 1952-60


  • 37 acres of mostly vacant land at Poplar and Holmes bought in 1944 for $75,754.24, an "all time high for acreage so far out." The land had been used as an archery range, golf driving range, and a riding stable.
  • Everett D. Woods is architect for the design of East High School, Robert E. Brown is his associate
  • Designed for 18 elementary classrooms, 10 junior high classrooms, and 15 senior high classrooms
  • Cafeteria designed to seat 500
  • Design dimensions: 443 ft. long, 370 ft. front to back, with a "huge gymnasium"
  • Construction of the school approved January 29, 1946
  • Construction began in July, 1946
  • Construction contract signed September 5, 1946
  • The original plans were for the school to accommodate 1500 students, but by the time it opened school officials said it would accommodate 2000
  • June 3, 1948 "...hundreds of parents crammed the old Daughty-Robinson Drug Store across Poplar from the new facility to register their children for a school that didn't even have a name."
  • J. P. Snider, principal of Snowden, named East's first principal
  • Civic organizations lobbied the School Board to name the new school Prescott High School after the recently deceased long time School Board President William J. Prescott. Before its official naming, the school was known as the "Poplar and Holmes School" and the "No-Name School." On August 20, 1948, the school board announced the new name for the facility: East High School
  • September 1, 1948 - The very first day of school at East High School. Grades 1-10
    The date of the first day of school is ambiguous. A 1960-61 school publication lists September 1, 1948. In 1998, the principal said his records suggested classes began September 3. The Commercial Appeal reported, in 1998, that newspaper stories indicated the first day of school was September 7, 1948.
    See opening day video of East High School!
  • By mid September, 1948, as classes were underway, construction continued with the school being described as 85 to 90% complete
  • Construction costs of the school were kept secret until after the school opened. The cost of East High School: $2,485,397.07 (and the value: priceless)
  • The East High Faculty, 1948-49, names, assignments, photograph.
  • The eleventh grade was added to East in 1949
  • 1949 - Miss Rose Parkinson joins East as administrator of the Elementary School as assistant principal. Her title is changed in a few years to Elementary Principal.
  • 1950 - 16-year-old East student Shirley Wilkes ('51) enters a contest to write the alma mater for Memphis's newest high school and wins with the words that East students have sung for years and the meaning of which grow with the years after graduation - hear our alma mater and see the words
  • The twelfth grade was added at the school in 1950
  • By 1951, the school was overcrowded with an estimated 2100 students. Bids taken for a 9-room addition, the Annex. The Annex was built for $91,786. In the mid 1980's the school discontinued holding classes in the annex. In March, 2003, it was demolished.
  • 1951 - First graduating class of East High School consisting of 90 students.
  • The 1349 seat auditorium, dropped from the original construction plan to save money, was opened in 1954
  • For a number of years, Mrs. Trenor's Kindergarten was operated out of the school. Many East alumni are "13-Year Club" members, having attended that kindergarten. The kindergarten is believed to have moved from East after the 1955-56 school year. We have a report from an attendee that there was a kindergarten at East in later years, 1973-74 specifically being mentioned.
  • About 1960, the senior high Physical Education dressing room was built for $43,855
  • Summer, 1962 - East High becomes the first Memphis City High School to hold integrated classes when Rashad Sharif attends summer school. Regular (fall/spring) term integration did not come to East until the beginning of the fall term in 1966. See In the news..."
  • Autumn, 1962 - Air raid drills as the Cuban Missile Crisis was underway - if you were there, you remember this frightening time
  • November 22, 1963 - public address announcement to students, President Kennedy has been assassinated. One of those moments for those who heard the announcement that is forever frozen in their memory, where they were, what they were doing, who else was with them
  • East's renowned first principal, J. P. Snider, is killed in a traffic accident near Savannah, Tn. on July 30, 1964
  • J. G. Griesbeck named principal of East, August, 1964
  • Fall term, 1966 - Permanent integration of East High School as 3 black students enroll for the regular term. However, East was the first city school to hold integrated classes which occurred during the summer term in 1962.
  • High school principal J. G. Griesbeck and elementary school principal Rose Parkinson retire, 1972. Mr. Griesbeck became East's principal in 1964. Miss Parkinson became the administrator of East Elementary in 1949.
  • East High paired with Lester Junior High in 1972
  • 1972 John Wesley, principal of Lester High, named East High principal
  • Memphis City Schools desegregation plan featuring school busing began in 1973
  • 1976 A major stand-alone building is completed immediately north of the original building (across the faculty parking lot), housing East VoTech, a vocational and technical class facility
  • 1976 Herbert Robinson named principal
  • 1980 Bill Kobeck becomes East's principal
  • 1982 "Rising star" in school system, Dr. Ronald Stewart appointed principal of East, a school generating concern because "many students assigned to the school have chosen not to attend." (The Commercial Appeal, 1982) For the record, "Central and East were considered two of the best schools in Memphis prior to school desegregation and white flight." (The Memphis Flyer, August 17, 2005)
  • 1984 Ronnie Bynum selected as East High principal
  • 1984 A new building is added next to and connected to the vocational and technical building on the northern portion of the campus. It houses computer, engineering and health science classrooms and laboratories, as East becomes an optional school for those areas
  • 1985 The annex was closed to students in either the 1984-85 or 1985-86 school year, according to an alumnus who was there
  • School year 1984-85 was the last for East Elementary School, which had been collocated with East High. The elementary grades, which had existed since East opened in 1948, were discontinued at the East campus. The junior and senior high classes expanded to include east side of the building that had been dedicated to the elementary classes.
  • 1992 Central air conditioning installed at East High
  • 1995 Dr. Lowell Winston, raised in Memphis and an experienced California educator, chosen as East High principal
  • East makes major news locally in 1995 as new principal institutes stricter conduct and dress codes
  • In 1996, a 9th grade student shot dead by a non-student in parking lot after a senior high basketball game
  • In 1997, East makes headlines again as ineligible player found to have been on basketball team, 11 games and two championship titles forfeited. Athletic director eventually resigns
  • More difficulties in 1997, Student Activity fund nearly $100,000 in debt, checks bounce. Students stage sit-ins and march in support of principal. Subsequent investigation leads to reassignment of principal as a hearing officer at another school facility, firing of one financial secretary and the resignation of another financial secretary
  • 1997 Milton Burchfield named acting principal of East High School
  • 1997 The East High campus is designated for the development of a "prototype" park complex with 4 soccer fields, a softball field, baseball diamond, fitness trail, track, and improvements to the existing football field
  • 1997 For the 2nd year in a row, and the 5th in the past 9 years, the East High girls track team has won the state track and field meet
  • 1998 Milton Burchfield, acting principal, appointed principal.
  • 1999 East selected as one of 25 schools in the nation as a "New American High School" -- a program to inform students about various careers and have challenging academic standards with a goal of "fully preparing students to meet the challenges of a changing technological and global economy."
  • 1999 East High wins state football championship in Class 4A division.
  • 2000 Tony Harris' ('97) basketball jersey retired. Other retired basketball jerseys were worn by to Anthony Douglas ('89), Billy Smith ('89), Cedric Henderson ('93), and Doc Hoffman ('62). Robert Vaughn's ('64) football jersey was retired.
  • July, 2001, Dr. Oscar Love appointed Principal of East High School. Principal Mr. Milton Burchfield takes the position Dr. Love held previously as principal of Trezevant Vo-Tech.
  • July, 2002, despite exoneration by a school system investigation, East principal Dr. Oscar Love asks for and is given reassignment to another school after some parents and teachers complain about him. For more on this, see our In the News . . . section.
  • July, 2002, Mr. Harry Durham takes over as East High principal. Mr. Durham, a retired principal from Memphis City Schools, has filled in as principal at schools during the past couple of years since his retirement. His tenure at East will be his longest since stepping down as a full time school system employee. He replaces Dr. Oscar Love (see item immediately above).
  • November, 2002, East makes major local news as "toxic" mold problems are discovered in the building. Over several weeks while the controversy stirs, several classrooms, the auditorium, and the Annex are closed to students and faculty (the Annex already having been off limits for students) until they have special cleaning processes done. During the controversy, a 17 year old student dies at home early on a Saturday morning of asthma, adding concern. On November 20, 2002, hundreds of students, led by some parents, refused the enter the school in protest of the environmental conditions within the school. The students stood around in front of the school and then on the athletic grounds/park. In December, a second environmental engineering firm and a medical doctor specializing in mold problems said East High was safe for students and faculty, although three rooms, including the auditorium, remain closed until a special cleaning occurs during the holiday break. The Annex, used only for storage and building engineers' offices for many years, is closed and sealed and plans are to demolish it. For more on this, see extensive coverage in our In the News . . . section.
  • March, 2003, the Annex, a 9 classroom addition added in 1951 to handle overcrowding at East, is torn down after mold problems were found there and in other parts of the building. Cost of cleaning up the Annex was deemed in excess of its value. The Annex had not been used for classroom space since the mid 1980s but was used for storage and offices for building engineers. See our In the News . . . section.
  • May, 2003, Barbara Galloway Hines [Barbara King], a principal in Allen, Texas, is named the next principal for East High School effective June 23, 2003. She is believed to be the first woman ever named to lead the high school in its 55 year history, although East Elementary School, collocated with East High for decades, was lead by Rose Parkinson. See our In the news . . . section for more details.
  • 2005 - A multi-million dollar renovation ($11-14.5 million, depending on various estimates) of East High is underway, beginning in late 2005 and expected to continue until the spring of 2007. It includes changes to the school to make access easier for those with disabilities, renovation of the auditorium and expansion of the gymnasium, among other changes. Read more ...
  • May, 2005 - Principal Barbara King is removed from East and is to be reassigned after an audit indicates financial irregularities believed due to poor bookkeeping. The school is reported to be $32,873 in debt. See our In the News . . . section.
  • May, 2005 - Freddie Curry, assistant principal at Cordova High School, is named East's new principal. See our In the News . . . section.
  • January, 2006 - The East Career and Technology Center becomes a separate school on the East High campus. Charles Green appointed principal. Both the original Vo-Tech building, built in 1976 and the 1984 building which held many of the optional school programs are part of the new school. The optional school programs have been moved into the main building.
  • August, 2006 - East becomes an 8th through 12th grade school as 7th grade classes are no longer conducted at there. The 7th grade is now at Lester Middle School. With the 2007-2008 school term, the 8th grade will shift to Lester, making East High the host of only the official high school grades of 9 through 12. See our "In the news..." item.
  • July, 2007 - State Department of Education intervenes in the running of East High School. After 6 years of below par performance on standardized tests, East is one of 17 Memphis schools in which the state is taking direct action. The State's report endorses the principal, calls for reconsideration of staffing in the guidance office, and outlines other mandatory support and monitoring requirements. Please see our story in our In the news ... section.
  • August, 2008 - East High becomes a high-school-only school for the first time in its history. As East opened for classes August 13, 2008, it held only grades 9 through 12 with approximately 1,000 students.
  • April 15, 2010 - Principal Fred Curry is suspended with pay by superintendent pending the outcome of an internal investigation/audit ordered by the superintendent. The school system refuses to publicly reveal the reasons for the investigation but the suspension followed a fight among 10 or so girls in a hallway at the school days earlier. Superintendent Kriner Cash does say the probe is about more than one thing. Mr. Harry Durham once again takes over as East High's interim principal. As this is a currently on-going issue, for the latest information please see our Daily Update page and our In the news section.
  • June 21, 2010 - Eric Harris, a 1991 graduate of East High School, is announced as East High's new principal. Mr. Harris returns to East after serving as "11th grade principal" at Memphis City Schools best academic high school, White Station. An article about Mr. Harris beginning his leadership at the school appeared in the Mustang Roundup - Alumni Edition on The East High Alumni Page in 2010.
  • March 17, 2012 - The East High boys basketball team won the state class AAA championship beating in-city rival Central 71-61. It is sixth boys basketball championship title for East.
  • July, 2015 - Dr. Marilyn Hilliard named interim principal of East High School. Superintendent says national search and new direction for East may be in the future. Read more...
  • January, 2017 - East High is on track to become a 100% optional (magnet) high school within 4 years focused on T-STEM (transportation oriented science, technology, engineering, and math curriculum). It will open for the 2017-2018 school year with the ninth grade being a T-STEM only, and progress each year through grade 12 in the 2020-2021 school year. The change is underway to revitalize the school, for which enrollment has dropped to about 550 students with only a handful in the engineering optional program. Additionally the academic achievement scores of the school remain low (average ACT composite score for 2015-2016 was 15.7, equal to about a 12 in pre-1989 ACT scoring). See our comprehensive coverage of the proposal and transition on our Today's East High page and/or our "In the news..." page.
  • February, 2017 - Lischa Barrett ('91), now known by her married name Lischa Brooks, is named Executive Principal of East High School. She will lead the school into its transition into an all optional (magnet) technology oriented school. Dr. Marilyn Hilliard continues as interim principal reporting to the executive principal. Read more...
  • February, 2017 - As a part of the transition to a T-STEM (transportation oriented science, technology, engineering, and math curriculum) optional school all faculty positions are opened up for the 2017-2018 school year and those wishing to teach at East High must apply for the job, including those currently at East.
  • April, 2019 - Dr. Newman Robertson assumes position of principal of East High School, replacing Dr. Marilyn Hilliard. Dr. Robertson's primary focus is the traditional curriculum at East while Lischa Barrett ('91), now known by her married name Lischa Brooks, remains Executive Principal and mainly oversees the optional STEM program at East as well as a separate STEM middle school.

This and linked "East High School Alumni Page" World Wide Web pages are produced independently of East High School and neither East High School nor Shelby County Schools are responsible for their content.

Return to the History Section home page

Return to The East High Alumni Home Page