Thomas Jefferson High School Historical Preservation Society


The TJHS Historical Preservation Society is always interested in stories about Thomas Jefferson High School, its alumni and the community.

If you have an article with photos/video you would like to submit, click here to contact the TJHS Historical Preservation Society.
<< First  < Prev   1   2   Next >  Last >> 
  • Wed, October 03, 2018 6:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    April 18, 2018

    We can see it, touch it, almost taste it!

    Progress on the fountain is so encouraging, and the entire Board is ecstatic. We wish each of you could feel like we do when we go see the progress.

    Fountain under constructionA shot of the fountain with the frogs.

    We had little time at this meeting other than working out at the fountain with the tile folks deciding on color matches and seeing the latest version of the frogs. As many original tiles as possible will remain on the fountain, but many were damaged and need to be replaced. There are a variety of colors involved for the ledge around the top of the inner pool and the outside of that pool. The tiles were glazed in green, brick red, yellow, and black. We compared them to the tiles that will remain on the fountain for the sake of matching. We soon discovered that the original tiles are not all the same color. There are variations in the red/orange that lean toward one color or the other and in the yellows that range from an ocher to a more true yellow. We decided, along with advice from both the tile manufacturer and the installer, to make differing percentages of the tiles in each of the colors and mix them just as the originals are.

    The green tile.

    One of the new reds next to an original.

    Black on black.

    Larry Stevens, Class of 1969, brought the final frog design with several different coatings of colors ranging from an oxidized green to copper to a dark tint. We chose to go with a medium tint of the green oxidized color. The contractor who is doing the water for the fountain showed us how the frogs will work, each of three frogs spewing a stream of water into the middle of the inner pool. He told us how the stream can be adjusted individually for each frog. The piping and control valves for the water are already installed, along with the controls for the float valve that will regulate the fountain's water level.

    Once all of our decisions were made, we adjourned our outside gathering and met again in the office in the Main Hall where we normally meet. Other topics discussed include the ongoing drive to sell memory bricks and a promotional video we are having produced to educate the public on the importance of Jefferson and on your role in maintaining it's legacy through TJHS HPS.

  • Tue, May 16, 2017 8:10 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    September 19, 2017

    Progress on the Student Council Fountain Restoration

    Representatives from various construction, architectural, and trades firms who are members of the fountain restoration team were present at the September 20th Board Meeting. Each spoke briefly about their companies and the part they will play in the process.

    James Gray of Rialto Studios began with a state-of-the-project introduction. He noted that the synergy created by the meeting of the team members was shaping the project as better ideas were formulated with all the minds together.

    Burditt Tile presented the tile restoration plan. A component of this plan that is dictated by the Historical Design Review Board is that all of the tiles that are removed must be saved as historical materials. Not all tiles are being removed. Whichever tiles are still basically intact will remain. All others will be replaced.

    Dunis Studios, tilemakers in Wimberly, Texas, showed samples of the tiles they hand make in their factory. The process was briefly explained. Dunis assured the Board that the tiles would be expertly matched, with only surface finish varying somewhat due to aging of the original tiles. Dunis clients of note are the McNay Art Institute, the King Ranch, The San Pedro Park Library, and the University of Texas at Austin.

    Larry Stevens (TJHS Class of 1969), owner of Stevens Art Foundry will create the 3 bronze frogs for the fountain. His notable projects are the Juan Seguin Memorial, various works at Notre Dame University, Texas A&M Bonfire Memorial, and the Texas Ranger Monument.

    The managing contractor for the project, Guido Construction, introduced their project manager and presented construction details and a preliminary budget of $181,000. There are options that will either increase or decrease the budget as they are accepted or rejected, and a construction contingency of $10,000 is earmarked.

    Other contractors not represented were Fountain Works, Mission Plumbing, Sculptural Design, Big State Electric, and Hunt Concrete.

    It has been a long haul to this point, but the work and wait has been worth it as we see the imminent restoration of the Student Council fountain.

    July 28, 2017

    Student Council Fountain
    Restoration Underway

    The Thomas Jefferson High School Historical Preservation Society is pleased to announce that the restoration of the Student Council fountain is finally under way thanks to the generous contributions of so many Foundations and individuals all sharing a passion and fondness for Thomas Jefferson High School.

    Guido Brothers Construction Company will serve as the General Contractor for this project, given their extensive experience in the restoration of numerous projects having historical significance.

    On July 27th, 2017, some of the Directors for the Thomas Jefferson high School Historical Preservation Society met with several companies at the School who will play a vital role in this restoration project. These include Burditt Tile & Stone, Inc., Sculptural Designs Atelier, Fountain Works, as well as SAISD. This meeting allowed those subcontractors an opportunity to do an onsite visit to observe existing conditions in an effort to come up with their pricing for the project.

    Special Thanks goes to James Gray with Rialto Studio, Inc. for taking this journey with the Thomas Jefferson High School Historical Preservation Society and who was instrumental in helping lay the ground work so that this project could commence.

    March 21/April 18, 2017

    Student Council Fountain

    At the March 21st Board Meeting, Jim Gray of Rialto Studios presented their proposal to create construction drawings for the contractor, observe the construction process to ensure adherence to the intent of the drawings, and take part in planning and progress meetings, They added a contingency for other consultants and incidentals. The proposal is limited to a total cost no greater than $12,250 at which time any further services required by the board will be charged at an hourly rate. The proposal was unanimously approved by the board members present. It is expected that construction will take place during the summer months. 

    Memory Bricks

    Fifty percent of the area of the circle and spokes around the flagpole has been filled. There are 42 new orders for the next batch.

    2017 Fiesta Medal

    It is expected that all of the Fiesta Medals will be sold before Fiesta begins. Only 4 remain at one of the locations selling them (see below). Once these are sold, the medal effort will have raised another $3,500 for the fountain project!

    May 16, 2017

    Student Council Fountain

    $200,000 is available in the TJHS HPS funds for the restoration of the fountain. The "dance" between partners, the private non-profit (TJHS HPS) and the public owner of the school (SAISD) is going well. Conversations with the head of SAISD's facilities made it clear that the District is the arbiter of who does the construction on campus, and the board is anxious to work with them to get the process started. 

    Memory Bricks

    An additional 23 brick orders were received since the April 18 meeting, bringing the total for the next batch to 65.

    554 have been laid to date. The figure below shows where the bricks have been laid. Another 555 will fill the entire circle and spokes around the flagpole. Several other areas are available once this one is filled.

  • Tue, April 18, 2017 8:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Texas Historical Commission Review

    Let's start with a quote from a letter from Sara Ludueña, a THC project reviewer:

    &quot;We find that the proposed work of the fountain is appropriate and consistent with the Secretary of the Interior&#39;s Standards for Rehabilitation.&quot;

    Yes! Another step toward bringing the fountain back to its original beauty!

    Things that were emphasized by Ms. Ludueña as their understanding of the project were:

    Much of the historic tile is to be replicated and replaced

    The depth of the fountain will be changed to match existing codes [Ed.:As the fountain is right now, it must be classified as a swimming pool because of its depth]

    The frog-shaped spouts on the edge of the upper tier will be reconstructed.

    Join us in celebrating this milestone in the Fountain Project.

    Read the letter in its entirety.

  • Fri, March 03, 2017 6:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Introducing "Board Notes"

    The projects undertaken by the HPS are, by nature, a long series of baby steps. It is difficult to represent the whole of a project on this site without repeating much of what you read before. Because of this, we have decided to begin publishing "Board Notes" in which we will present these baby steps, so that you, our members know what progress is being made.

    There are two types of projects in which we engage, restoration/preservation and fundraising. The first type requires that we do the second type. So, in our inaugural notes, we tell you the latest on the Fountain Restoration Project and the Mustang Legacy Brick Project.

    The Fountain

    01/17/2017 - James Gray, an landscape architect with Rialto Studios in San Antonio presented the tile restoration plans (see PDF) to the Historical Design Review Commission (HDRC), showing which tiles might be saved and which needed to be replaced (approx. 30%).

    The Commission surveyed the fountain and made their recommendations, asserting that as many tiles as could be reasonably repaired should remain.

    Mr. Gray will present a set of drawings to represent their findings to the HRDC and then to the Texas Historical Commission (THC), who must also weigh in..

    The Bricks

    02/21/2017 - Bricks #1-252 were laid on April 19, 2016. Bricks #253-554 were laid on January 25, 2017. Fifty percent of the space around the flagpole now holds "memory bricks (pictured)."

  • Thu, December 15, 2016 8:29 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Fountain Restoration Project
    on the Move!

    Restoration of the Student Council fountain took a step forward on Wednesday (November 2nd) when the Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC) gave final approval for the Thomas Jefferson High School Historical Preservation Society's project application.

    James Gray, landscape architect at Rialto Studio in San Antonio, Sylvia Aguilar and Dana Ward (both TJHSHPS Board members) were present at the hearing. This milestone clears the way for TJHSHPS to pursue approval by the Texas Historical Commission.

    Alumni who want to be a part of the ongoing efforts of the TJHSHPS to preserve, conserve, and educate can contribute to the success of the fountains restoration with donations or by buying a Mustang Legacy Circle memory brick.

  • Sat, October 15, 2016 8:31 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    When Will I See My Memory Brick? 

    Many of you who have ordered bricks want to know when they will be installed. Since we pay for a full day of labor each time the brick layers come out, we are doing the installations in batches.

    The fist batch of 252 bricks was laid on April 19, 2016.

    All orders received by November 30, 2016 will be submitted in the second batch to our vendor for engraving.

    Update: 01/25/2017 - The second batch of bricks was laid today, bringing the total to 554.

  • Thu, October 01, 2015 6:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On the morning of May 16, 2007, Bernard Rapoport arrived at a VIP reception inside an old classroom at his alma mater, Jefferson High School. The room was abuzz with fellow grads, giants in their field, sipping coffee, enjoying pastries. Each was invited, like Rapoport, for a unique occasion.

    In the room stood a Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, a retired Army Brigadier General, a Hollywood producer with a classic film, “The Big Chill,” that earned a Best Picture Oscar nomination. In the next hour, they and others would be inducted as charter members into the Jefferson Alumni Hall of Fame. As Rapoport gazed about the room, his throat tightened, his eyes grew moist.

    As a Hall of Fame organizer and alum (Class of ‘77), I introduced myself to the gentleman who had become a great philanthropist, donating millions to charitable causes. As we shook hands, I studied his face, watching it fill with emotion. Perhaps he could read my mind. For without being asked, Rapoport (‘35) explained: “This is the first time,” he said, “that anyone has honored me without asking for money.”

    The wealthy know the expectation attached to awards. We celebrate your achievements, you write a big check. The invitation extended to Rapoport asked for nothing except his presence. “Bernie” or “B,” as friends used to call him, was moved and you could see it in his eyes.

    Before “B” made his riches, he grew up with pennies. The son of Jewish immigrants, B knew poverty as a youth. His father peddled blankets for 10 cents in impoverished San Antonio neighborhoods. At age 6, he came home from school to find the family furniture in the streets, his parents evicted. For years, the Rapoports’ never had running water, gas and telephone service at the same time.

    A bright student, B graduated from Jefferson during the Depression and earned a scholarship to the University of Texas. He worked through school at a jewelry store. After earning his degree in 1939 (BA Economics), B took a job in Austin, and later in Wichita Falls. While flying to San Antonio in December 1942, B had a layover in Waco. There, he met Audre Newman and fell in love. Within weeks, they married. 

    Not long after, Audre persuaded her husband to open a jewelry store in Waco. B remained in the jewelry business for several years. 

    In 1951, he borrowed $25,000 and started a company in Indianapolis, Ind., American Life, which sold low-cost hospital insurance plans. With the assistance of his uncle and company president, Harold Goodman, American LIfe grew quickly. In two years, the start-up went from receiving $95,000 in premium income to $1 million. 

    In 1954, B and Goodman formed a new company, American Income LIfe Insurance. By 1956, the company was operating in 13 states. Two years later, American Income moved its headquarters to Waco. The company’s income reached $31.5 million In 1973. The company was sold for $563 million in 1994. 

    Wealth brought out the best in B. He donated millions of dollars to UT for scholarships and endowed chairs. In 1987, he spent $46 million to start the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation, which benefited education and the arts and supported numerous Jewish institutions. Fortune magazine named him one of America’s “40 Most Generous Philanthropists.” 

    Former UT chancellor William Cunningham once told the New York Times, “I have never known anyone who liked to make money as much as he did, and liked to give it away as much as he did.”

    On April 5, 2012, B died in Waco. He was 94. His passing generated an outpouring of tributes and considerable media attention. He was recalled as a kind man with a big heart. He was remembered for starting a volunteer tutoring in Waco’s public schools, for serving himself as a weekly volunteer. “Through education,” he said after winning the Horatio Alger Award in 1999, “we accord people their dignity.”

    When I read of his passing, I found myself back in the classroom, shaking his hand, looking into those eyes. I will never forget that moment, the sound of his voice, the emotion he conveyed. A man who had given so much was now receiving, and the honor, poignant and priceless, moved him as he had moved others.

  • Sat, April 12, 2014 10:16 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    He walked into my living room to prepare for a TV quiz show. He was lean and confident and wore the perfect accoutrement for a teenager equally skilled at discussing science, mathematics or crushing you in a debate: black, horned-rim glasses.

    W.E. Moerner looked and sounded every bit as intelligent as his reputation. My mother, Blanche, had told me all about him. She did not use the word “genius.” But she spun such incredible and vivid anecdotes about him that it was impossible not to reach that conclusion.

    As senior counselor at Jefferson, my mother worked closely with Moerner and his cohort of brilliant friends. On this day in 1971, the four Jeff team members came to our house to practice for “On The Spot,” a local quiz show produced by Frank Rosengren (Class of 1944) that featured opposing high school teams answering questions about current events. Moerner does not recall the school Jefferson faced that day. Nor does he remember the outcome. But I remember this: Jefferson won easily.

    My mother told me that Moerner had received a full scholarship to attend Washington University in Missouri. That was in 1971. I never heard about him again until last year when I came upon his name on the internet. I learned he had become chemistry department chair at Stanford University. I also learned that he had won the Wolf Prize in chemistry. I found two online reporters who predicted him as a future Nobel Prize winner.

    As a researcher for IBM In the late 1980s, Moerner and his postdoctoral scholar from Germany, Lothar Kador, used a laser to study the behavior of molecules. At the time, molecules could not be measured or detected individually. They had to be measured in huge aggregates of clusters of millions or billions. Using precision laser spectroscopic techniques, Moerner and Kador were the first to detect a single molecule in condensed matter with light.

    “We removed all averaging over a large ensemble of assumed identical molecules,” Moerner explains. “It’s very much like saying that the average house in the United States is 1,000 square feet. But we know there is tremendous variation and individual differences in the houses. That’s the way it was before this experiment to detect and measure molecules, one by one. It represents the ultimate detection limit. It lets us test whether all molecules are identical or slightly different in various ways.”

    The optical study of single molecules has since become widely used in chemistry, physics and biology. In 2008, Moerner received the Wolf Prize for his discovery. The prize, awarded to scientists as well as artists, is considered second in importance to the Nobel Prize. More than 30 Wolf Prize recipients have gone on to win the Nobel in medicine, physics and chemistry.

    My late mother (Class of 1950) would be proud. She would not be surprised. The stories she told about Moerner pointed to a future as bright as the laser that would detect a single molecule. What mom admired most was Moerner’s diverse talents and broad range of interests. He played the bassoon in the marching band. He served as editor of “Each Has Spoken” and president of the National Honor Society. He worked on the stage crew, competed on the debate team and served as Sgt. of Arms in BiPhyChem. He was a member of Masque & Gavel, Quill & Scroll, the Forum, the Russian Toastmasters, the Radio club and the Sophomore Scholastic Society. He was a National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT) finalist.

    “There were no aspirations for greatness when I was at Jeff,” Moerner says. “I was just having fun learning. I  enjoyed mathematics and science and was involved in a whole bunch of activities.”

    Mom encouraged Moerner to apply for the prestigious Langsdorf Fellowship from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Washington University. He not only applied for and received it, W.E. squeezed every ounce of learning possible from the award. Moerner earned three bachelor’s degrees in four years: one in electrical engineering, one in physics, one in mathematics, all with highest honors.

    He later earned a master’s and doctorate in physics from Cornell. Then he went to IBM Research and made history. International acclaim followed. Scientific bloggers began predicting a Nobel in his future. Whether he wins the prize or not, Moerner’s single molecule legacy is secure.

    As the “Everyday Scientist” blog noted in 2012, “Single-molecule imaging has matured into an important technique in biophysics. Just go to a Biophysical Society meeting and see all the talks and posters with ‘single molecule’ in the title!”

    Once, 43 years ago, a horned-rimmed high school senior walked into my living room to prepare for a quiz show. Days later, when the TV lights flashed on and the contest began, viewers got a glimpse of a young man who would change the world of science
  • Sat, December 21, 2013 8:04 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In the orchestra pit, a driving ensemble of horns, bass and drums played the theme to "Rocky." On steps leading to the stage climbed an elderly woman, short, slightly stooped with gray hair and a look of wonder.

    Sixty four years after graduating from Jefferson High School, Marcia Nasatir (nee: Birenberg) returned to her alma mater with a reception befitting a Hollywood star: a blast of trumpets, a video clip on an overhead screen, a thunderous ovation in an auditorium overflowing with people and history.

    When the music ended and the screen went black, Nasatir settled in behind a podium to address a gathering of students, faculty and alumni. Nasatir left Jefferson in 1943 to pursue a degree in journalism at Northwestern. She returned as a behind-the-scenes giant in Hollywood: the producer of "The Big Chill" (three Oscar nominations) and "Ironweed" (two Oscar nominations), the former president of Johnny Carson Productions and the first female vice president of United Artists, which produced "Rocky," "Coming Home," and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," each film a winner of multiple Oscars.

    Before she uttered a word, awe, thick and palpable, spread from stage to balcony, sweeping over seats and filling hearts. It was hard to tell who was moved more: the woman or her audience. Nasatir thanked everyone present, reflected briefly on her years at Jefferson and encouraged students to dream big.

    Dream they did. On May 16, 2007, a parade of illustrious graduates took turns presenting stories and remarks to an astonished student body during Jefferson’s 75th anniversary. Who knew that in the distant and mostly forgotten past were former students -- newly enshrined in the Alumni Hall of Fame -- who had changed the world?

    A Nobel Prize winner in chemistry (Robert Curl, Class of ‘50) recalled the Jefferson teacher -- the late Lorena Davis -- who inspired him to scientific discovery. A retired Johnson Space Center director (Aaron Cohen, Class of ‘49) recounted the high school classes that led him to a career in engineering, where he helped design the lunar module that carried the first man to the lunar surface.

    “The courses I took at Jefferson High School enabled me and gave me the confidence and the capability to work on that project of sending me to the moon,” Cohen said.

    The revelations overwhelmed. The unveiling of the Alumni Hall of Fame was, by design, like the unveiling of a dramatic surprise, one after another, until, at the end, the audience was emotionally spent.

    Soft but audible “wows” filled the aisles. Also heard, echoing out the auditorium and down the hallway, from student to teacher and aid to administrator, was this: “I had no idea.” Then there was the grizzled coach who stamped a single word on the event: “awesome.”

    And so it was. The Jefferson High School Alumni Hall of Fame was created six years ago to educate and inspire current students and to honor 16 from another generation. It was presented with fanfare, filmed for posterity, reported by local media and celebrated with raw emotion.

    Perhaps no one was more touched than Bernard Rapoport (Class of ‘34), a philanthropist who has donated millions of dollars to charity and higher education. “This is the first time,” Rapoport said off stage, his eyes welling, “that anyone has honored me without asking for money.”

    Two retired Jefferson teachers, a former librarian and a journalist -- yours truly -- selected the honored graduates from dozens of distinguished candidates. Overwhelmed by the volume of accomplished alumni -- two State Supreme Court Justices did not make the cut -- the selection committee set a lofty standard: Only graduates who had made an international or national impact would be considered for the Hall of Fame.

    The teachers (Mary Jo Klingman and Betty Janert), the librarian (Sheila Acosta) and I met for months to research and narrow the field. We wanted students to learn about renowned alumni from previous generations. But we also wanted them to connect with more contemporary alumni. To strike that balance, we selected 12 alumni for the Hall of Fame and honored four  more as “distinguished alumni,” graduates who, in some cases, are still building their legacies and may lack international or national achievement.

    Below are capsules of those inducted:

    Hall of Fame Honorees

    Robert Cole (Class of 1933) -- Military hero. Lt. Col. Cole received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the D-Day invasion of France in World War II. While commanding a battalion of paratroopers to capture heavily fortified bridges over the Douve River, his unit became pinned during intense enemy fire. Despite the loss of many lives, Lt. Cole inspired the rest of his men to follow him and led them to establish a bridgehead essential to the success of the invasion.

    Aaron Cohen (Class of 1949) -- Spaceflight pioneer. In 1969, Cohen managed the computer guidance system for the Apollo 11 command and landing modules that carried the first man to the moon. In 33 years at NASA, he played critical roles in six lunar landings. A brilliant engineer, he also managed the Space Shuttle Orbiter and served as director of the Johnson Space Center for 13 years. At Jefferson, he was a state singles champion in tennis.

    Robert Curl (Class of 1950) -- Nobel Prize winner. In 1996, Curl and two colleagues were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their discovery of fullerenes, molecules composed entirely of carbon in the form of a hollow sphere, also called “buckyballs.” Curl has been a professor of chemistry at Rice, his alma mater, since 1958. His research interests at Rice included developing DNA genotyping and sequencing instrumentation.

    Lillian Dunlap (Class of 1938) -- Brigadier General. Dunlap began her nursing career as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1942 and became the second woman promoted to Brigadier General in the U.S. Army. She also served as Chief of the Army Nurse Corps. Her military awards include the Distinguished Service Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal. Gen. Dunlap was a founding member of the Army Medical Department Museum Foundation and served as its president.

    Gus Garcia (Class of 1932) -- Civil rights lawyer. The first valedictorian of Jefferson, Garcia was an assistant Bexar County District Attorney and served in World War II. In 1954, he won a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case in the murder trial of Pete Hernandez. The high court ruled that Hispanics could not be excluded from juries and ordered a new trial. The decision enabled Hispanics to successfully fight discrimination in housing and employment.

    Henry B. Gonzalez (Class of 1935) -- Congressman. Before he became the first Hispanic from Texas elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, Henry B. served on the San Antonio City Council, in the Texas House of Representatives and in the Texas Senate. His 36-hour filibuster in the Texas Legislature succeeded in killing eight racial segregation bills. He served in Congress from 1961-1998, longer than any other Hispanic.

    Jim Lehrer (Class of 1952) -- Television journalist. A former sports editor of The Declaration,  Lehrer has become one of the most recognized and honored journalists in the U.S. A winner of two Emmy Awards, he co-anchored The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour for years, anchored the PBS NewsHour and has moderated 12 presidential debates. A former newspaper reporter,  Lehrer has written several novels and is a member of the Television Hall of Fame.

    Marcia Nasatir (Class of 1943) -- Film executive, producer. As a literary agent, Nasatir sold the movie rights to “All The President’s Men” and “The Exorcist.” She became the first female vice president at United Artists, which produced “Rocky” and “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” -- all multiple Academy Award winners. She produced “The Big Chill,” which received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, and served as President of Johnny Carson Productions.

    Tommy Nobis (Class of 1962) -- NFL star. The Atlanta Falcons selected Nobis, a linebacker, with the first pick of the 1966 NFL draft. He earned Rookie Of The Year honors and was voted to five Pro Bowls. In college, he starred on Texas’ 1963 national championship team and won All-America honors. Sports Illustrated called him the best linebacker in college football history and named him to its All-Century team. Nobis is in the College Football Hall of Fame.

    Bernard Rapoport (Class of 1935) -- Philanthropist. The son of a father who sold blankets for 10 cents, Rapoport became one of America’s great rags-to-riches stories. He borrowed $25,000 to start American Income Life and sold the insurance company for $563 million. He  donated $46 million to start a foundation that benefitted education and the arts. He donated millions to the University of Texas and is a former Chairman of the UT Board of Regents.

    Blair Reeves (Class of 1942) -- Judge, war hero. Paralyzed from gunfire on Okinawa in World War II, Reeves returned to the U.S., completed law school and became a distinguished jurist. He served as a Bexar County judge and Chief Justice of the 4th Court of Appeals. In 1967, he cast the deciding vote to double the local hospital tax, which led to the University of Texas Health Science Center, an internationally known research center.

    Kyle Rote (Class of 1947) -- NFL star. As a receiver, Kyle led the New York Giants to the 1956 NFL championship and played in four Pro Bowls. As a halfback at SMU, he finished second in the Heisman Trophy, threw the discus and pole vaulted. He led Jefferson to the state finals in football (1946) and basketball (1947). He hit .347 as a minor league baseball player. Mickey Mantle once said, “Kyle Rote is the greatest natural athlete I ever saw.”

    Distinguished Graduates

    Holly Dunn (Class of 1975) -- Country music star. Dunn was named among the Top 100 country music artists in history. She earned three Grammy Award nominations and recorded four No. 1 hits and several Top 10 singles. Dunn was named Top New Female Vocalist in 1986, Country Songwriter of the Year in 1988 and was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. She has performed for Presidents Reagan, Clinton and both Bush’s.

    Ed Garza (Class of 1986) -- Mayor, city councilman. Garza served two terms on the City  Council, representing the Jefferson neighborhood in District 7, before becoming the youngest mayor -- at age 32 -- in San Antonio history in 2001. Garza served two terms as mayor. He has served as President of the San Antonio Independent District School Board and has served as an adjunct professor at UTSA and St. Mary’s University.

    Laura Groff (Class of 1982) -- Volleyball star, coach. After winning the Tommy Nobis award as a three-sport star at Jefferson, Laura captained the University of Texas to four Southwest Conference volleyball championships. She earned All-America honors and was named to the SWC All-Decade team. After playing pro volleyball, Laura became a championship coach at St. Mary’s and the winningest coach in history at UTSA.

    Alfredo Valenzuela (Class of 1966) -- Major General. After graduating with a C average from Jefferson, Valenzuela served 33 years in the U.S. Army and earned four degrees from St. Mary’s University. He rose to become commanding general of the U.S. Army South -- an area that covers Central and South America and the Caribbean. Before he retired in 2004 with numerous medals and two stars. Maj. Gen. Valenzuela served in posts around the world.

  • Tue, July 30, 2013 10:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    It was the pep talk of a lifetime, a pre-game speech charged with enough star power to light up a stadium. Sixty four years later, Joe Monaco barely remembers a word. What he does recall, though, is the awe that swept over him and his Jefferson High teammates when five surprise guests entered the room.

    1949 state championship trophyThe 1949 Mustangs blinked in wonder. There before them stood five SMU football stars: Doak Walker, the 1948 Heisman Trophy winner; Kyle Rote, a future Heisman runner-up; Pat Knight, a rugged all-Southwest Conference linebacker; and ends Sonny Payne and Benny White, who had starred at Jefferson with Knight and Rote.

    At the invitation of Jefferson coach Jewell Wallace, the Fantastic Five arrived to inspire the Mustangs before their state championship game against Dallas Sunset. For a gathering of teen boys, it was like listening to Knute Rockne deliver “Win One For The Gipper” -- times five.

    The Sunset Bisons were bigger and stronger than the Mustangs. They were playing at home in Dallas, and featured a future NFL tackle, 245-pound Don “Tiny” Goss, who was all but impossible to block. The Mustangs, on the other hand, featured a pair of 145-pound halfbacks, S.M. Meeks and Louis Pantuso, and a line anchored by 166-pound center, Dan Blenis. Only one starting lineman -- 206-pound tackle Eric Knebel -- weighed more than 188 pounds.

    It didn’t matter. After the Walker-Rote and Co. speech in a Dallas hotel room, the Mustangs took apart Sunset, 31-13, at Dal-Hi Stadium to claim the school’s first and only state football title, then known as the City Conference state championship.

    Quarterback Eddie Mac Chambers threw three touchdown passes to Don Raybourn. Meeks scored on a 45-yard run. Billy Quinn ran 14 yards for the final touchdown. In the jubilant aftermath, Mac Chambers told reporters, “I waited three years for this!”

    Players celebrated at after-parties. Some secured dinner dates; others found fun in ways that,  one player recalls, almost got them in trouble. But for most, one memory stands out. “We got to meet Walker, Rote, Knight and Payne,” says Monaco, a reserve tackle. “That was the highlight of the whole trip.”

    Jefferson completed a run through adversity and adventure few modern teams could imagine. The Mustangs of 1949 -- lightly padded and dressed in helmets without facemasks -- ran out of the T-formation and lost their season-opener by three touchdowns.

    In that game, fullback Paul Williams lost an eye after an Austin High player planted a cleated shoe on his face. A second Mustang, David Makar, broke a leg against Corpus Christi. Guard Jack Hammer caught the measles. Several players were felled by a virus before the state semifinal game against San Jacinto, and one of them, starting tackle Richard Tynan, spent three days at Baptist Memorial Hospital.

    1949 championship patchThe Mustangs played their opener against a defense that knew when one halfback would get the ball. Former teammates, now in their 80s, recall that Pantuso, a devout Catholic, made the sign of the cross, just before taking a handoff from Mac Chambers.

    “It didn’t take long for the spotters up in the press box to figure that out and the guys from Austin clobbered him,” says Morris Spector, a reserve tackle and retired physician. “I think in the second half, we found out about it. After the game we told Louie, ‘You can’t do that.’ He said, ‘I don’t know. I’m going to have to check with my parish priest.’ It was really something.”

    No one is sure who persuaded Pantuso to quit crossing himself -- the coach? his priest? -- but once he did, the Mustangs began to roll. After losing to Austin, Jefferson upset Temple, 13-12, beat Kerrville Tivy and Corpus Christi by two touchdowns each, and smashed their next four opponents -- Lanier, Harlandale, Burbank and Alamo Heights -- by a combined score of 184-6.

    A historic and heavily-hyped game against Fox Tech unfolded on Nov. 11. Jefferson had never lost to Tech, and sought an emotional edge by naming Williams (blinded in one eye) and Makar (broken leg) honorary captains. Tech coach Pat Shannon countered by naming three captains for the game: quarterback David Casanova, fullback Raul Valdez and offensive tackle Alvin Padilla.

    The San Antonio Light reported that Wallace designed several gadget plays for his offense. The paper also reported: “Shannon’s crew is in tip-top physical condition and is confident it can give Tech its first football victory over Jefferson. ...”

    The Mustangs were defending city champions. The Buffaloes had their best team in history.

    Tech upset Brackenridge two weeks earlier to enter the game 7-1. Jeff arrived at 7-1. One hour before kickoff, Alamo Stadium was half full. A light drizzle fell. The night was cool, the atmosphere electric. At kickoff, an overflow crowd roared, 26,208 strong, an Alamo Stadium record that remains.

    “I remember it was very loud,” Shannon told the San Antonio Express-News decades later. “Our tackles called the blocking (on the line of scrimmage) and couldn't hear too tell.“

    The game featured dazzling scores and jarring tackles, missed opportunities and devastating regret. Three Mustangs hobbled to the sidelines with injuries, including Pantuso. Three Buffaloes went down, including Valdez, who was helped off the field three times.

    The injured returned, took more hits and played through the pain. Pantuso scored on an 11-yard run and Raybourn caught a 16-yard touchdown pass to give Jeff a 14-0 lead.

    Tech answered with two touchdowns from Valdez.

    He ran 26 yards for the first score, while shaking off “half a dozen tacklers,” according to The Light. On the second, he a recovered a fumble in the end zone. Roy Camacho missed the first conversion attempt, Manuel Jung made the second and Tech trailed, 14-13.

    Meeks responded with a dagger, returning the kickoff 80-yards to extend Jeff’s lead, 20-13.  

    Meeks rushed for 169 yards but did not score again. A battered Valdez rushed for 128 yards and carried Tech -- on its final drive -- into Jefferson territory late in the fourth.

    On third down, Meeks dropped an interception. On fourth down, Roy Menchaca found himself wide open near the goal line. Quarterback Dickie Delgado threw a pass with six points written on it. The ball went through Camacho’s hands. “He could have won the game for them,” Spector says.

    The Mustangs ran out the clock and carried Wallace off the field. On the bus ride home, the team followed a post-game tradition and launched into, “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

    “That was our song,” Monaco says. “Coming to the stadium, we sang the school song. On the way back, we sang, ‘Onward Christian Soldiers.’ Jewell Wallace was a very religious man. We always said a prayer before we went out to play.”

    Jefferson beat Brackenridge in its annual Thanksgiving Day matchup, 26-14, to complete the regular season 9-1. A virus scare followed. Days before the Mustangs played San Jacinto, Meeks, Chambers and Raybourn left school ill. Tynan was hospitalized. End Don Barksdale and back Pat Toler also battled the infectious disease.

    Remarkably, the players recovered. Unfortunately, rain turned Alamo Stadium into a slop of mud. Jeff scored only once. Meeks ran 45 yards for a touchdown and Raybourn kicked the conversion, which was enough to win, 7-6, and advance to the state championship game.

    In the late 1940s, schools from small Texas towns, such as New Braunfels and Wharton, competed in Class 1A. Those from mid-size cities, such as Waco and Austin, competed in 2A. But schools from the most populated cities -- San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth -- competed in the City Conference, the state’s largest classification. From 1948-50, the winner of that classification was known as the City Conference State Champion.

    The Mustangs had played in one state championship game and lost to Odessa, 21-14, in 1946. Kyle Rote starred on that team and later made national headlines at SMU, rushing for 115 yards, passing for 146 and accounting for all three touchdowns in a 27-20 loss to No. 1 Notre Dame in 1949.

    The ‘46 Mustangs sent Rote and Pat Knight to the NFL. The Mustangs of 1961 sent four players into pro ball -- Tommy Nobis, Phil Harris, Dick Cunningham and George Gaiser. The Mustangs of 1949 did not produce any NFL players. But they occupy a unique place in school history.

    On Dec. 10, 1949, Meeks rushed for 134 yards against Sunset, scoring once on a 49-yard dash. Wallace pronounced him “the best running back I’ve ever coached.” While teammates celebrated, some tried to explain how difficult it was to block and run past Goss.

    Jefferson guard Rudy Fuentes told an Express reporter: “One time he (Goss) picked me up in one arm and center Dan Blenis in the other and threw us both back in the backfield.”

    Respect for Goss ran deep. But he alone couldn’t stop the Mustangs. As the Express put it in  headline type: “Ponies slaughter Sunset.”

    Five Mustangs made the newspaper’s 11-man All-City first team: Meeks, Pantuso, Raybourn, Knebel and Barksdale. Meeks starred at the University of Houston, where Wallace coached in 1946 and 1947. A few others played college ball, most notably Quinn, who made all-Southwest Conference at Texas.

    1949 football team in MonticelloSurviving Mustangs remember details from 1949 differently. Spector knows the last name of the Fox Tech receiver who dropped the touchdown pass. Some don’t recall the play. Spector and Jones remember Williams losing an eye. Others do not. But the most glaring disconnect of memory centers on the state championship pre-game speech.

    Monaco and Roy Jones can still see and hear Walker and Rote, addressing the team. Spector and Buenz have no such memory. “Boy, you’d think if Doak Walker and Kyle Rote had been there, you’d remember the speech,” Buenz says. “I’m sure it happened. But I don’t remember that.”

    Sonny Payne, Rote’s best friend since first grade, was there but doesn’t remember much. Payne recalls that Rote and Walker did most of the speaking. He surmises their message centered on a familiar theme. “We had always been told, ‘You’ve got four quarters to play and a lifetime to think about it,’ Payne says. “In other words, do your best and win so you can have lots of good thoughts and memories.”

    Perhaps Buenz and Spector missed the pep talk. Perhaps they and others arrived late. Or

    perhaps time is obscuring a gem of glory. Wallace died in 1999. Quinn passed on in 2002. Meeks and Pantuso are gone. No one knows how many Mustangs remain. Memories are crumbling like a rose, one petal at a time.

    One Mustang recalls patches of light, another sees shadow. But what the eye cannot see, the heart can still feel. A warm glow. Lingering pride. The magic, after all these years, simmers somewhere between the soul and spirit, in a place not even time can touch.

    Spector knows the feeling and nods, lips curling into a smile, eyes beginning to gleam. “That was probably,” he says, “the best year of my life.”

<< First  < Prev   1   2   Next >  Last >> 

Thomas Jefferson High School Historical Preservation Society, PO Box 5567, San Antonio, TX 78201-0557

Non-Profit IRS Designation 501(c)3 Organization

© 2019 Thomas Jefferson High School Historical Preservation Society

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software