Thomas Jefferson High School Historical Preservation Society


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  • Sat, January 12, 2013 9:45 AM | Anna Catalani (Administrator)
    portrait of David Frederick

    In a prelude to his first presentation before the U.S. Supreme Court, a young Washington lawyer enjoyed a front row seat to a historic legal drama. On January 13, 1997, a vigorous back-and-forth erupted between lawyers representing William Jefferson Clinton and Paula Jones, a case that would determine whether a sitting U.S. President could claim immunity from civil litigation.

    From a raised mahogany bench, nine black-robed justices interrupted with pointed questions. In a courtroom adorned with ivory columns and marble walls, dark suits fumbled for answers and butterflies took flight in the stomach of David Frederick (Class of ‘79), the young lawyer waiting to argue his case. When the proceedings ended, Frederick would approach the bench and present his first case before the United State Supreme Court: Harbor Tug and Barge Co. v. Papai.

    "I was tremendously nervous," Frederick recalls. "I'm watching this historic argument and then the courtroom empties. I turn around and there are six people left. Three are related to me. They've come to see me argue.”

    The high court moved from a landmark case involving the separation of powers to an obscure legal dispute involving an injured longshore worker. As Frederick moved his briefs and notes to counsel table, Chief Justice William Rehnquist turned to Justice John Paul Stevens. The microphone, not yet turned off, carried these words: “Now this next case is really hard.”

    Thus began the first of Frederick's 40 cases before the high court. Sixteen years later, Frederick, 51, ranks among America's brightest legal minds, a persuasive orator who has prevailed in a majority of cases before the Supreme Court. His 41st case is scheduled for March.

    Frederick developed his oratory skills at Jefferson High School. He played a prominent role on the speech and debate team that went undefeated through four years of sweepstakes competition. As a senior in 1979, Frederick led Jefferson to the National Forensic League national tournament championship, scoring points in extemporaneous speaking (in which he finished second) and original oratory (eighth).

    "What I do now is advanced extemporaneous speaking," Frederick says, "because when I'm arguing a case before the Supreme Court, I want to connect with the justices. I get interrupted with questions, and I have to give a crisp sound bite response. So all the training I did at Jefferson -- hundreds and hundreds of hours of practices, night after night -- prepared me for what I'm doing now."

    In the fall of 1975, Frederick arrived at Jefferson with an interest in lighting and sound, the unglamorous, behind-the-scenes work of the school's stage crew. Two teachers, however, redirected him to another craft. B.J. Naeglin taught Frederick at Longfellow Middle School, where he excelled in speech. B.J.'s husband, Lanny, coached the speech and debate team at Jefferson.

    “They projected I would be pretty good at extemporaneous speaking,” Frederick recalls, “but I had no idea what they were talking about.”

    He became a quick study, piling up trophies as a freshman, placing second in original oratory at nationals as a sophomore. Todd Wong, Frederick’s high school debate partner, recognized the potential. “He’s a brilliant fellow, a fantastic speaker, a powerful advocate and a really good person,” says Wong (Class of ‘79). “What he’s achieved doesn’t surprise me.”

    At the University of Pittsburgh, Frederick starred on the award-winning debate team, graduated with highest honors in political science and became the school’s first Rhodes Scholar. He earned a doctorate of comparative politics from Oxford and a law degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White.

    Eventually, he worked for the Solicitor General, who represents the federal government in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. As an assistant to the Solicitor General, Frederick learned how to strategize and fashion strong government positions. But like a tough prosecutor who becomes a skilled defense lawyer, Frederick switched sides and parlayed his knowledge and experience into victories for a wide range of private-sector clients, including States in boundary disputes, a foreign governmental entity that sells electricity in the United States, large and small companies, and individuals.

    In 2008, he represented a Vermont woman who sued a drug manufacturer after complications from an injection led to the amputation of her arm. Diana Levine claimed Wyeth Pharmaceuticals failed to include a warning label describing potential injuries from the manner in which she was injected with the drug. Wyeth argued that its warning label was approved by the Federal Drug Administration and preempted state standards of care and remedies.

    The dispute reached the high court. Frederick’s adversaries included former Solicitor General Seth Waxman (once his boss) and former Acting Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler (once his mentor). “I don’t think anybody predicted we were going to win,” Frederick says.

    The Supreme Court delivered a 6-3 verdict for Frederick. “It established a principle: Even if a brand name drug company has gotten its warning label approved by the FDA, if the label is inadequate and the inadequacy leads to injury, a patient can sue for damages,” Frederick explains. “That is probably the most famous case I have argued so far in the Supreme Court.”

    He is recognized for his legal genius and encyclopedic knowledge. Reporters from print and broadcast media solicit him for comment on Supreme Court issues. And why not? He once partnered with future Chief Justice John Roberts on a case, has written numerous articles and authored four books, including "Supreme Court and Appellate Advocacy," with a foreword by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

    The caseload can be crushing but Frederick finds escape in his wife Sophie and their children Aaron, Isabel, and James. For nine years he coached his sons' baseball teams. He also is an avid supporter of his favorite sports team, the San Antonio Spurs. He marks their games on his calendar and considers their television schedule when planning his business travel. After an arbitration in Chicago last year, Frederick thanked his lawyers and staff by taking them out to dinner.

    "But we went out early so that we could be finished in time for the Spurs-Lakers game, which was on ESPN that night," says Frederick, who is excited about the current season unfolding. “I would love to get down for a Spurs playoff game.”

    Watching the Spurs claim a fifth NBA championship would be sweet. Taking another case before the high court might be sweeter. After 16 years, yes, he still gets nervous before the Supremes. But every appearance is a pleasure, every presentation a rush. "It's a great day in my life," he says, "every time I get to do it."

  • Thu, February 23, 2012 10:00 PM | Deleted user

    Peter Michael Curry (Class of ‘34) once upset and upstaged director Steven Spielberg during a film shoot in San Antonio.

    In 1974, a young Spielberg (age 26) cast Curry to play himself -- a judge -- during a courtroom scene in,
    The Sugarland Express, which starred Goldie Hawn. When Curry complained about the script, Spielberg allowed him to rewrite a scene. When Curry complained about the actors’ performance, Spielberg told him to direct the scene himself and stormed off.

    According to the San Antonio Express-News, “Curry directed the scene. Months later, when the movie was released, the judge said he didn't care for it. It was ‘silly,’ he said. The best thing about the movie, he added, was the courtroom scene.”

    In his big screen debut, Spielberg yielded the director’s chair to a Jefferson alumnus with no film experience.

    That’s one snapshot of Jefferson’s influence on Hollywood. There are others, and they show alumni producing films with Oscar-nominated actors and sweeping up Emmy Awards for television movies and game shows.

    Roll the video:

    Marcia Nasatir (‘43) produced one film, The Big Chill (1983), which received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. She produced Ironweed (1987), which received Oscar nominations for Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. She produced other acclaimed gems such as Hamburger Hill (1987), which the New York Times called a “well made Vietnam War film. …”

    Today, almost 70 years after working for
    The Declaration at Jefferson, Nasatir has several scripts in development.

    She began her career as a literary agent. Nasatir represented Robert Towne, who won an Academy Award for best original screenplay for
    Chinatown, and sold the movie rights to The Exorcist and All The President’s Men.

    She later served as vice president at United Artists (the first woman in Hollywood to hold such a position), which produced Oscar-winning films
    Rocky, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Coming Home. In the early 80s, she became President of Johnny Carson Productions. In a career that spans more than 40s years, one film stands out.
    “I received the most satisfaction from
    The Big Chill,” Nasatir says, “because 26 years later, it continues to resonate with original and new audiences.”

    Glenn Jordan (‘54) made his mark as an A-list director of television movies, winning four Emmy Awards and receiving numerous Emmy nominations. A graduate of Yale Drama School, Jordan also directed three motion pictures, the most notable being Mass Appeal (1984).

    According to the Encyclopedia of Television Film Directors, Jordan won three Emmy Awards for outstanding production/drama/program and a fourth Emmy for outstanding director.

    The New York Times offers the following: “Jordan's shining hour was the 1991 Hallmark Hall of Fame offering
    Sarah Plain and Tall, a winner of nine Emmy Awards; earlier, Jordan had personally picked up two Emmies for producing and directing the memorable James Garner/James Woods TV movie Promise (1986). He has also won the Directors Guild of America award for his work on the late-1970s TV series Family, as well as several Peabody awards for other projects.”

    Allen Ludden attended Jefferson but graduated from Corpus Christi High School in 1934. He hosted many game shows, including the GE College Bowl, but is best known as the emcee of Password, which ran in various forms from 1961 until 1980. His work on Password earned Ludden a Daytime Emmy Award for outstanding game show host. Ludden met actress Betty White on Password and they married. The marriage lasted until Ludden succumbed to stomach cancer in 1981. He later was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame next to White. Twenty years after his death, TV Guide named Ludden the greatest game show host in history.

    Robert Easton Burke (‘48) possesses an extraordinary list of radio, television and film credits, dating to 1945 when he appeared on the popular radio show, Quiz Kids. He has appeared in numerous films, among them: Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea (1961), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), and The Beverly Hillbillies (1993). TV credits include Rawhide, Alias Smith and Jones, The Andy Griffith Show, The Lucy Show and a guest appearance on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson.

    In Hollywood, he carries the name “Robert Easton,” and is known as “The Man of A Thousand Voices” for his mastery of the English dialect. He has served as a dialogue and dialect coach on dozens of films, including
    Scarface, Good Will Hunting and God and Generals.

    From the New York Times: “... he has been acknowledged and celebrated as Hollywood's leading dialectician and vocal coach. Stars ranging from Gregory Peck to Sir Laurence Olivier have sought out Easton's services to instruct them in the intricacies of specific regional and ethnic dialects.”

    Michael Zinberg (‘61) may be best known as the executive producer of the Bob Newhart Show from 1972-78 on CBS. He directed dozens of episodes of such well-known TV shows as Everybody Loves Raymond, L.A. Law, Law & Order, Lou Grant, WKRP in Cincinnati, 9-5, Midnight Caller, The Practice, Caroline In The City, and The White Shadow. He also wrote for television series and produced two television movies, Accidental Meeting (1994) and For The Very First Time (1991).

    Truett Pratt (‘67) co-wrote the theme song to Happy Days, the iconic 1970s show that featured Ron Howard and Henry Winkler and a cast of characters enrolled at -- believe it or not -- fictional Jefferson High School. In 1976, the song, co-written by Jerry McClain, peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. “I was very proud to have received a first class, high quality, college bound education from a public high school,” Pratt said in 2009. The record sold millions of copies.

    Jefferson’s connection with the television and film industry began in 1940. Twentieth Century Fox came to campus that year to film
    High School, starring Jane Withers. The motion picture included members of the Lasso drill team. Decades later, parts of Johnny Be Good (1988) also were filmed at Jefferson.

    In the summer of 1974, young Hollywood royalty arrived on campus. A striking blonde with large sunglasses emerged from a shiny Cadillac convertible, parked on Club Drive, and crossed over  to the tennis courts. Accompanied by two men in their 20s, one with long, shaggy hair, the blonde approached a teenage couple, relaxing with a German Shepherd.

    The woman, dressed in a one-piece, yellow terrycloth outfit, petted the dog and smiled. “We’re looking for a doubles partner,” she began. “Wanna play?”

    Darrell Sanders (‘74) jumped. He had competed on the Jefferson tennis team and recognized the blonde immediately. “I’m Goldie Hawn,” the woman said, extending a hand. “And these are my partners, Michael and Steven.”

    A year or two later, Darrell saw
    Sugarland Express and recognized Michael as Hawn’s co-star, “Michael Sacks.” And Steven? The third guy in the doubles match, the one with the long, shaggy hair, did not appear in the film. He was off camera, directing.

    It wouldn’t be accurate to say Spielberg got his start at Jefferson, since no part of
    Sugarland Express was filmed on campus. But you could say he came under the school’s spell. The Oscar-winning director not only cast an alumnus in the film, he allowed the late Judge Curry to rewrite and direct. And then, while driving through the historic neighborhood, Spielberg just had to stop and see Jefferson for himself.

    About Ken Rodriguez: An Alamo City native and graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School, Ken Rodriguez is a former sports and Metro columnist at the San Antonio Express-News. In 1999, Ken was a member of a Miami Herald team that won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. In 2006, the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors awarded him first place in the state for general column writing. He has worked as a marketer at Our Lady of the Lake University since 2009. Ken also writes freelance stories for a number of magazines and Web sites.

    Join other alumni and friends as we help preserve Thomas Jefferson High School. Click Here to learn how you can support the TJHS Historical Preservation Society!
  • Thu, February 16, 2012 10:00 PM | Deleted user
    Eight Thomas Jefferson High School alums were honored as "Alumni of the Decade" on Thursday, February 16, 2012. The ceremony preceded the school's Open House.

    The following alumni were recognized for their achievements:
    • 1930's - Bernard Rapoport (entrepreneur, philanthropist)
    • 1940's - Robert "Bob" Polunsky (film critic)
    • 1950's - Boone Powell (architect)
    • 1960's - Alfred Valenzuela (retired United Stated Army Major General)
    • 1970's - Toni Thompson (educator)
    • 1980's - Ed Garza (politician and urban planner)
    • 1990's - Joaquin Castro (politician) and Julian Castro (politician)
    • 2000's - Laura Saldivar (educator)

    TJHS 80th Anniversary - Alumni of the Decade from TJHS Historical Preservation Soc on Vimeo.

    Join other alumni and friends as we help preserve Thomas Jefferson High School. Click Here to learn how you can support the TJHS Historical Preservation Society!
  • Tue, August 16, 2011 9:20 AM | Deleted user

    To measure the reach and impact of one Jefferson High School graduate, you must travel into space, to an orbiting sphere, 238,000 miles away. It is there, on crusty terrain, that the story of Aaron Cohen ('49) turns. In 1969, Cohen helped put the first man on the moon.

    Cohen left a distinct imprint on the Apollo 11 landing, a feat considered the greatest in human history. He directed the design and development of the Apollo Command and Service Module, the craft that reconnected with the lunar module and carried Neil Armstrong to the lunar surface.

    In 31 years at NASA, Cohen played critical roles in six lunar landings, developed the space shuttle, directed the Johnson Space Center and retired as a pioneer in human spaceflight. He died in 2010.

    While visiting his alma mater in 2007, he told students: "When I attended Jefferson in the late '40s, not this country, or any country, had the thoughts, ideas of sending humans to the moon. The courses I took at Jefferson … enabled me and gave me the confidence and the capability to be able to work on that project of sending men to the moon."

    In Cohen's day, students at Jefferson glowed with super nova-like promise. Emerging from one classroom was Franklin Spears ('48), a future State Representative, State Senator and Texas Supreme Court Justice. Brushing past Spears, Rose Spector ('50), a brilliant brunette who would become the first woman elected to the Texas Supreme Court.

    Stepping out of the auditorium, Robert Easton Burke ('48), a tall redhead who would succeed as a radio, TV and film actor, establish himself as the leading dialect coach in Hollywood and become known as "The Man of a Thousand Voices."

    Sauntering to the gym, Pat Knight ('48), a football and basketball star who would play for the New York Giants and officiate a Super Bowl. Strolling through the hallway, football players who led the Mustang to their only state championship in 1949. Moving among the giants was a bookish boy with a love for science, Robert Floyd Curl ('50).

    Curl did not date. He did not participate in sports. He conducted chemistry experiments on his mother's stove. "I think it's fairly accurate to say I was a nerd," he once told the San Antonio Express-News.

    As a professor at Rice University, Curl and two other researchers discovered a new cluster of soccer-shaped molecules that led to a new branch of chemistry. In 1996, Curl and his colleagues won the Nobel Prize.

    Curl and Cohen walked the same hallways, learned under the same teachers and blazed new trails in science and space. That pioneering spirit began with the school's first valedictorian, Gus Garcia ('32). A lawyer, Garcia won a landmark case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954, a ruling that prevented the exclusion of Hispanics from juries.

    Other pioneers:

    Henry B. Gonzalez ('35), the first Mexican-American from Texas elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

    Betty Jameson ('37), a founder of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), who won 13 tournaments and paved the way for women golfers to earn millions of dollars.

    Lillian Dunlap ('38), the first Texas woman promoted to Brigadier General in the U.S. Army.

    Marcia Nasatir ('43), the first female vice president of a Hollywood film studio, United Artists, and an acclaimed movie producer.

    Kyle Rote ('47), the founder of the NFL Players Association who became pro football's first renaissance man. Pianist. Composer. Poet. Author. Coach. Broadcaster. Artist.

    Tommy Nobis ('61), an All Pro linebacker who founded a training and development center in Atlanta that has helped more than 12,000 people find jobs.

    Today, Jefferson graduates shape the world of music (guitarist Chris Perez owns a Grammy Award), television (director Glenn Jordan owns two Emmy Awards) philanthropy (Bernard Rapoport has given away $54 million) and law (David Frederick has argued more than 20 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court). One alumnus shapes the White House. Jim Lehrer ('52) has moderated 11 presidential debates.

    Almost 80 years after it opened, Jefferson is now known for its alumni in public service: San Antonio mayor Julian Castro ('92); State Representative Joaquin Castro ('92); State Senator Leticia Van de Putte ('73); San Antonio Independent School District trustee Ed Garza ('86), who also served as mayor and City Councilman.

    In another era, Jefferson was known for its military heroes. The most celebrated soldier was Lt. Col. Robert Cole ('33), who earned the Medal of Honor for bravery during the D-Day invasion of France. The best war story, though, may belong to Blair Reeves ('42) and Weldon Odell Stautzenberger ('42), Marines who fought side by side in World War II.

    In Okinawa, Reeves took a bullet to the spine. Under heavy fire, Stautenzberger lifted and carried him to safety. Reeves was paralyzed. Stautzenberger suffered two wounds, kept fighting and wiped out Japanese machine gun cave emplacements. He earned a Bronze Star.

    From a wheelchair, Reeves rose to Chief Justice of the 4th Court of Appeals. But his greatest achievement came as Bexar County Judge. In the late 1960s, voters rejected a tax increase for the Bexar County Hospital District. In the face of strong opposition, Reeves cast the deciding vote to double the tax. That led to the creation of the University of Texas Health Science Center.

    The legacy of two Marines reaches from Okinawa to San Antonio. On the battlefield, in the chemistry lab, on the surface of the moon, the spirit of Jefferson shines on.

    About Ken Rodriguez: An Alamo City native and graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School, Ken Rodriguez is a former sports and Metro columnist at the San Antonio Express-News. In 1999, Ken was a member of a Miami Herald team that won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. In 2006, the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors awarded him first place in the state for general column writing. He has worked as a marketer at Our Lady of the Lake University since 2009. Ken also writes freelance stories for a number of magazines and Web sites.

    Join other alumni and friends as we help preserve Thomas Jefferson High School. Learn how you can support the TJHS Historical Preservation Society!
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