by Peggy Fuson Hoyal, Class of '48
As we move into the twenty-first century we recall the times of our youth. For many of us, East High, with its strong brick walls, holds these memories. East Senior High stands, as it has for nearly 70 years, on Gallatin Road. It now houses East Middle School and next door, in the building which once was East Junior High, is East Literature Magnet school. These bright young students carry on the tradition of excellence we left behind.

When the school opened in the fall of 1932, however, the students found a school building, but no school song, no school colors, no school paper, no athletic teams, and no clubs. What these 1500 depression-era students did find was a “state of the art” building containing all the provisions needed for a modern, comprehensive high school. George H. Cate, a member of the Board of Education, was Chairman of the Building Committee. In addition to 28 regular classrooms, the school was equipped with a library with reading rooms, science laboratories, shops for industrial arts, rooms for home economics, music, and art.

From the impressive stone eagles “standing guard over the entrance” came the name for teams and publications of the school. The school itself took its name from its location in East Nashville, but the Albert E. Hill Gymnasium was named in honor of the man who was then President of the Nashville Board of Education. The J. J. Keyes Stadium was named in honor of the school’s first principal, who served from the opening of the school until his death in December, 1936. Other East High principals are as follows: Wilson P. Fisher (1937-1939), William Henry Oliver (1939-1957), Robert G. Neil (1957-1963), James H. Windrow (1963-1968), William T. Harris (1968-1971), Joe W. Higgins (1971-1978), Samella Junior Spence (1978-1986).

J. J. Keyes Stadium seated 5,500 and for nearly thirty years was considered the top prep stadium in the area. The “new” Ross Elementary School is located on the former site of Keyes Stadium. Jimmy Armistead was East’s first football coach. Throughout its history East High was a contender at the local and regional level in football, boys’ and girls’ basketball, baseball, golf, track, and tennis. Many sports stand-outs went on to play college sports and to become coaches at the high school and college levels.

In 1937 a building similar in design to the high school was built next to it. When it opened East Nashville Junior High School had an enrollment of 900 students in grades 7 - 9. Mr. H. G. Lipscomb served as principal of East Junior from 1937 until 1946 when Mr. H. B. McDonough became principal. Mr. McDonough served until 1967. J. B. Thompson was the last principal of the junior high school, which ceased to be a junior high in 1970 when it was incorporated into East Senior, retaining only its ninth grade. During the years East Senior High housed grades 10-12 three junior high schools served as feeder schools: East Junior, Highland Heights, and Bailey. The first African-Americans graduated in 1967, completing the successful integration which began in 1965.

World War II played an important role in the East High story. The service flag with approximately 1,800 blue stars and 59 gold stars attests to this. Being 59” in diameter, the clock over the entrance to the building is dedicated to East High graduates who lost their lives in World War II.

East High graduates have achieved in the academic world. Many have entered the professions of medicine, law, and education. Activities stemming from courses such as Choral Music, Instrumental Music, Speech, ROTC, and Civics led to organization of many extra-curricular activities. Various choral groups, a school band, drama club, student government, journalism and forensic activities achieved recognition as they won many awards at the local and state level. Some alumni who participated in these activities have entered careers in government and have served as elected and appointed officials at the local, state, and national levels. Several have had outstanding careers in foreign service. Others have made their mark in journalism or achieved careers in entertainment. The most famous of these is Oprah Winfrey, 1971 East High graduate.

One hundred eighteen seniors comprised the last class, which graduated in June, 1986. The school then became East Middle School. In 1993 East Literature Magnet School opened in what was formerly the building for East Junior High and graduated its first class in 1997.
Ten years prior to the 1932 opening, East Nashville High School was conceived by the Board of Education of the City of Nashville. The school, which began as a gleam in the Board's eyes, was to relieve the overcrowding at the city's Hume-Fogg High School. The Board had wanted to establish a high school east of the river and plan ahead for the anticipated post-war (WWI) baby boom.

East Nashville High School was planned during the Roaring 20's, just after World War I. She was constructed through the early stages of the Great Depression and finished with help from the National Recovery Act. Although built during poor economic times, good quality materials and excellent craftsmanship were used in her construction. This is exemplified in the terrazzo floor and marble walls of the lobby, Egyptian motifs in her auditorium, massive oak Venetian blinds on her numerous windows and Art Deco light fixtures.

On her exterior, the Egyptian influence is carried out in the sculpted relief papyrus motif framing her Romanesque arched main entry. Stately stone eagles sculpted high on her roof and facade inspired the first student body in calling her people the Grey Eagles.

The East High building was built on 20 acres for a cost of $500,000 (30 million in today's dollars, almost twice the cost of Hunters Lane in 1986). Upon completion, the handsome dark brick building had the latest of everything. She housed a 1,100 seat auditorium (one of the largest in the city), 28 bright classrooms, and a specialized room for almost every subject in 1932's list of progressive curriculum.

The building also included the city's largest gymnasium (seating more than 2,200), and the finest school football stadium (6,200 seats, later named for Mr. Keyes), cinder track, enclosed press box, modern scoreboard, tennis courts, and large lockers and locker rooms.

A limestone residence on the grounds was converted into 2,000 additional square feet of classroom space. There was also a spacious front lawn looking out over a handsome rock wall fronting Gallatin Pike.

The triangle that fronts the school was in recent years renamed W.H. Oliver Boulevard in honor of one of her principals. The new and wonderful East High was called an "academic palace." The Board of Education chairman noted proudley at the dedication, "There are larger schools in the country and schools costing more money, but there's not one of them better equipped or built better." She was truly a state-of-the-art high school.

J.J. Keyes served as principal from opening day until his death in December of 1936. He was allowed to personally select his faculty. It is said the best in the system was assigned to East. On September 12, 1932, East Nashville High School became a formal reality when she opened her doors to 1,500 students.
The names for the teams and school publications were inspired by the impressive stone eagles, which guard the entrance. The gymnasium was named for Albert E. Hill, who was Chairman of the Board of Education when East opened.

W.P. Fisher followed Mr. Keyes as principal (1937-1939), W. H. Oliver (member of the first faculty) took over as
principal in 1939 and remained in that office until 1957 when he accepted the position as Superintendent of Nashville's schools. East was truly his school, he had guided her through some of her finest years.

Robert G. Neil (1957-1963) was selected by Mr. Oliver to lead, guide and direct his treasured East. Mr. Neil was often quoted as saying East would always be Mr. Oliver's school, and the portrait of Mr. Oliver displayed in the office was keeping his presence and helping him to oversee and guard all that took place.

Mr. Neil was followed by James H. Windrow (1963-1968), William T. Harris (1968-1971), J.W. Higgins (1971-1978), and Samella Juniors Spence (1978-1986). East closed as a senior high school in 1986 with the opening of Hunters Lane. East is now a middle and the junior high building is a magnet high school.

Two national organizations had their beginning at East: The Junior Civitan Club and the Junior Civinette Club. The No-Smoke, No-Drink, No-Dope Club, which has members in fifty countries, was organized at East in 1960.

East has weathered some of our nation's most memorable days of the 20th century. She's survived a World War and withstood the damage of two tornadoes (1933 and 1998). She stood strong during economic ups and downs, desegregation (the case taken to the Supreme Court, which helped desegregate our country, began with a happening at East). East stood proudly through all the century's changing education trends and philosophies. She was one of the first in the nation to begin student government, team teaching, and off-campus study

East has given Nashville and the United States many of her finest citizens. Many of her sons and daughters have fought to preserve our freedom. Many gave their lives in World War II, The Korean War, and the Viet Nam War. World War II claimed 59 of her sons in battle. The clock over the entrance was added after the war and dedicated to the 59 East graduates who gave their lives in that war. The clock face is 59 inches in diameter, one inch for each son who lost his life in World War II.

Through all her wonderful history, East High has stood strong and proud and her heart and soul is forever kept alive by her thousands of loyal alumni. East High's Alumni Association has been noted as perhaps the most active for a high school in the entire nation. Alumni groups such as this are usually associated with universities.
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