About Parker High School


Birmingham, Alabama----During the school year of 1899 some Negro citizens of Birmingham called a historical mass meeting. The purpose of this meeting was to draw up a petition in which Negroes of this city would request the Board of Education to establish a tax supported school for Negroes. Dr. W. R. Pettiford, president of the Alabama Penny Savings Bank, a Negro-owned financial institution, and Mrs. B. H. Hudson, a cashier of that bank, were the leading spirits in this effort.

Dr. Samuel Ullman, chairman of the Board of Education, encouraged the movement and during the summer of 1900, the board established the high school. Upon recommendation of the school superintendent, Dr. J. Herbert Phillips, the Board appointed Arthur Harold Parker to serve as the principal and only teacher of the new school which was to be known as Negro High School.

In September of 1900, in the room of the second floor of the Cameron Building, located on the southwest corner of Avenue H and Fourteenth Streets South, Negro High School was formally opened with eighteen students. The school year ended with an enrollment o forty-five students.

In 1904 the first graduating class of Negro High School was made up of fifteen students. Miss Orlean D. Kennedy was added to the faculty at this time also.

In 1910 the school was moved to a three-story frame building on Eighth Avenue between Eleventh and Twelfth Streets North. This site was known as the Lane Auditorium. Formal classes in industrial training began and the school became known as Industrial High School.

During 1914 the United Presbyterian School, on the corner of Eighth Avenue and Ninth Street, became the new Industrial High School. It consisted of a seven-room church building and fourteen cottages, that were purchased by the Board.

Mr. John F. Whatley joined the faculty in 1917 and organized the printing shop and the school band. Two years later, in 1919, Mr. William Bennett Johnson was added to the faculty.

In 1920 negotiations ended in the purchase of the block on which the school is still located. In Spring of 1923 work began on the new building, the first unit covering the entire square between Joseph and Johns Streets on Eighth Avenue. During 1926-1927, the Boy’s Industrial Building was added to the existing structure. During the years 1928-29, a two-story structure, the library and gymnasium, were added.

In 1939 Dr. Arthur Harold Parker retired after fifty years of service. The school, which had been known as Industrial High, was named A. H. Parker High School in his honor. Mr. William Bennett Johnson became the second principal of the school.

The enrollment continued to increase from 18 students in 1900 to 3,761 in 1946. With this steady increase, the school soon became known as the largest high school for Negroes in the world.

A typing department was established. The school also became noted for its population, industrial education, band, and spirited renditions from its choir. The power of the “Thundering Herd” came forth.

Mr. W. B. Johnson passed away on January 28, 1947, and Mr. Robert Charles Johnson, a former teacher, became principal. Under his administration the school acquired a Guidance Program and the addition of two full time advisors for both the boys and the girls.

In 1953, Parker was accredited and approved by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and has never lost that accreditation.

Principal Robert C. Johnson’s administration preserved through various evaluations and awaited the reality of a new school building. Many alumni cannot forget the great “White Building” they came to love.

Due to illness, Mr. Johnson retired in May 1969. In September of the same year, Mr. Edward B. “Bubba” Thompson became the fourth principal of Parker High School. Mr. Thompson brought with him the true “Parker Spirit” having graduated as a “Bison” himself. He was also the nephew of former principal W. B. Johnson and the son of Mrs. Myrtle J. Thompson, who for many years was an outstanding teacher at Parker High School. The new Parker High School building became a reality under Principal Thompson’s administration.

Mr. Thompson retired in December of 1989. On June 26, 1990, Dr. Eddie Dansby, Jr. became the fifth principal over the campus, which occupies approximately fifteen acres and consists of eight buildings.

Dr. Raymond Reddick became principal during the 1998-99 school year. Principal Reddick has inspired the 1,177 students enrolled, parents and instructors by implementing an “It Can Happen Dinner”, to stimulate the pupil’s interest in achieving skills for better performance on the Exit Exams.

Also during his administration, the Parker High School football team played in the State Playoffs for the ’98-’99 Season.

The May, 1999, graduating class had the honor of being Parker’s first graduating class with outdoor commencement exercises on Parker’s athletic field.

With so many miraculous achievements during his initial year, it is almost a natural that Principal Reddick is also an ordained member of the Clergy.

Parker High School history researched & compiled by
Mrs. Claudette Camp, John T. Cargill, Jr., and Zackary Sims