Filed Under Lufkin

Lufkin Dunbar High School

Until 1923, the African-American children of Lufkin, Texas, attended Lucky Ward School located at 420 N. Chestnut Street. At the time, ninth grade was the established graduation level for the Lucky Ward School students. However, things changed with the construction of the Dunbar Elementary-Junior-Senior High School on Leach Street. On land donated by Malinda Garrett and her husband, Dunbar opened its doors to students in 1923 with an African-American staff consisting of principal N.C. Brandon, and teachers Malinda Garrett, Minnie B. Johnson, and Annie Pension. The school increased its graduation level to the tenth grade and eventually expanded to include grades eleven and twelve.

Having transferred over from the Lucky Ward School, Dunbar’s first students were given the honor of choosing the new school’s name. One of the first influential African American writers in American Literature and a hero in the African American community, Paul Laurence Dunbar, was chosen as the new school’s namesake. Born to former slaves, Dunbar achieved national and international prestige with the publishing of his various poems, short stories, and novels. Among those who chose Dunbar for the new school’s namesake were members of the school’s first graduating class: Hester Austin, Fannie Castle, Lottie Jackson, Mable Jackson, Freddie Johnson, and Leroy Lewis.

Dunbar Elementary-Junior-Senior High expanded beyond its location on Leach Street with the construction of a new Dunbar High School in 1951. Located at 1806 Lake Street, known today as Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., Dunbar High School housed junior high and high school students. The former Dunbar campus was renamed Garrett Elementary and fed students into the new Dunbar school. Garrett Elementary was named for Malinda Garrett, one of Dunbar’s original three teachers. In 1962, the Dunbar High School campus expanded with the construction of Dunbar Junior High, located directly across the street from the high school campus. Built at the corner of Keltys Street and North Avenue, Brandon Elementary was completed to service the growing African American elementary population in 1962.

Within the realm of athletics, the Dunbar students excelled in the many sports offered by the school. Beginning with its inception in the fall of 1932, the Dunbar Tiger football team enjoyed numerous victories on the gridiron. Initially, the team traveled on flatbed trucks before moving onto Continental Trailway buses. Throughout its history, Dunbar High School made four state finals, winning championships under Head Coach Elmer G. Redd in 1964, 1966, and 1967. The Tigers found success on the basketball court by reaching the Prairie View Interscholastic League (PVIL) 3A State Tournament five times between 1952 and 1967. The Lady Tiger tennis team secured multiple individual PVIL championships while the track and field program place numerous athletes on the podium at the state meet.

Several Dunbar athletes built upon their high school achievements and continued on to successful college and professional careers. After graduating from Dunbar in 1962 and attending Prairie View A&M on a football scholarship, Ken Houston played football professionally from 1967 until his retirement in 1979. An All-Pro defensive back, Houston was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986 and named to the Sporting News 100 Greatest Players in NFL History list in 1999. Graduating in 1965, Joe Williams played running back for the Dallas Cowboys when they won their first Super Bowl title in 1972. 1967 Dunbar graduate and 1967 PVIL state 440-yard dash champion Calvin Mills became the first African-American recruited to A&M. While at A&M, Mills became an All-American and established the world record in the 440-yard dash in 1971. The 1970 A&M 880-yard world-record-setting relay team included All-American track athlete and Calvin’s brother, Marvin Mills. Both Calvin and Marvin Mills are members of the Texas A&M Athletic Hall of Fame.

With the integration of Lufkin ISD in 1971, Dunbar High School converted to Dunbar Intermediate School, which would house all 7th-grade students until the new Lufkin High School opened in 1999. With the departure of the 7th-grade students, the west campus of the Dunbar Intermediate was repurposed into Dunbar Primary, housing Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd-grade students. The east campus was repurposed as the Lufkin ISD District Education Center. Established by the Dunbar High School Alumni Association, the Dunbar Hall of Honor is also located on the east campus. Brandon Elementary closed with the desegregation of Lufkin schools.

The legacy of the Dunbar Junior-Senior High system continues today within Lufkin ISD. Lufkin High School’s athletic wing’s namesake honors Elmer G. Redd, who coached the Lufkin Dunbar Tigers championship football teams of the 1960s. Opened in 1983, Brandon Elementary celebrates William Herman Brandon, who served as Dunbar High School principal from 1924 to 1940. Garrett Primary still operates in the same buildings as the Old Dunbar High School. At the same time, Hackney Primary, the former elementary school for African American students, serves as a current primary campus. Lufkin High School’s varsity track meet, the Willie Ross Relays, is named after the Dunbar coach and longtime Lufkin ISD director of Physical Education.

Beyond the school district, Dunbar High School’s legacy is championed by the Dunbar High School Alumni Association, which operates the Dunbar Hall of Honor and is located in the home economics building of Dunbar High School. One of the few museums to honor the tradition of black segregated schools, the Hall of Honor preserves memorabilia and celebrates its honorees’ accomplishments. Many of those honorees have also been inducted into the Hall of Honor of the Prairie View Interscholastic League (PVIL), the governing body of African-American schools’ academic and athletic competition. Beyond honoring the past, the Alumni Association looks to the future by providing yearly scholarships to high school seniors whose relatives attended Dunbar High School. Alas, the segregation of public schools is now a thing of the past, but Dunbar High School’s legacy remains alive and well in Lufkin.

Audio

Dunbar Alma Mater Written by Dunbar alum Charles Brooks, the Dunbar Alma Mater envokes the pride and love that Dunbar Alumni have in Dunbar High School. Source: Dunbar Alumni Association Creator: Written by Charles Brooks.
Musical Arrangements by Gregg Garcia.
Executive Produced by Oscar Kennedy.

Images

Dunbar High School Campus (1951-1970) At the start of the 1951 school year, junior high and high school students were moved from the old Dunbar campus to a newly built Dunbar High School located at 1806 Lake Street. The campus would serve the African American student population until the integration of Lufkin Independent School District in 1970. Today, the Dunbar Alumni Association operates and maintains the Dunbar Hall of Honor in the former Dunbar High School home economics classroom. Source: 1964 Tiger (Lufkin Dunbar High School Annual)
Paul Laurence Dunber The namesake for Dunbar Elementary-Junior-Senior High School, Paul Laurence Dunbar was one of the first African American writers to achieve a national and international reputation in the late 1890s and early 2000s. The son of former slaves, Dunbar’s works included poems, stories, letters, plays, biographies, and newspaper articles. Dunbar also served as a newspaper editor and clerk at the Library of Congress following his return from a six-month reading tour of England. Despite his death in 1906, Dunbar’s works continued to be cherished by the African-American community and influenced several Harlem Renaissance writers. Besides the school in Lufkin, several other schools across the nation still bear Dunbar’s name. Source: Poetry Foundation
William Herman Brandon Born on his father’s farm in Aberdeen, Mississippi, in 1870, William Herman Brandon served as the principal of Dunbar Elementary-Junior-Senior High from 1924 to 1940. A graduate of Howe Normal Institute (now Roger-Williams-Howe in Memphis, TN) and Samuel Houston College (Austin, TX), Brandon held the principal position at colored high schools in Montgomery, Normangee, Alto, Huntsville, and Lufkin. During his tenure at Dunbar, the school expanded from six to eleven classrooms with an influx of new teachers. Principal at the time of his death in 1940, Brandon is the namesake for Brandon Elementary, constructed in 1983, and still serves Lufkin ISD today. Source: Dunbar Hall of Honor
Diboll Junior High School (1962-1970) To meet the growing African American student population, the Dunbar Junior High School opened directly across the street from Dunbar High School in 1962. The campus would serve the African American student population until the integration of Lufkin Independent School District in 1970. Upon integration, the school was converted into the seventh campus for Lufkin ISD. Today, the campus houses Dunbar Primary. Source: 1964 Tiger (Lufkin Dunbar High School Annual)
Garrett Primary Today, the original Dunbar Elementary-Junior-Senior High School functions as Garret Primary for Lufkin ISD. Opening in 1923 on land donated by Malinda Garrett and her husband, the school served African American students through the ninth grade until the new Dunbar High School opening in 1951. Named for Malinda Garrett, Garrett Elementary would feed into Dunbar High School until desegregation in 1971. With the reorganization of elementary schools within Lufkin ISD, Garrett Elementary was converted into Garrett Primary to serve kindergarten through second-grade students.
1966 Dunbar Tiger Football Team Football was a significant source of pride amongst Dunbar students. Along with the 1966 Champions pictured above, the Dunbar Tigers won PVIL Football championships in 1964 and 1967. Dunbar football athletes that performed beyond the high school level included professional football players Ken Houston and Joe Williams and Texas A&M University track stars Calvin and Marvin Mills. Source: Dunbar Hall of Honor
Dunbar Hall of Honor Located in the old home economics classroom of Dunbar High School, the Dunbar Hall of Honor is a museum established by the Dunbar Alumni Association. The Hall contains memorabilia and artifacts such as photographs, letterman jackets, trophies, and senior class posters. The Hall also honors the achievements of its alumni through induction in the Hall of Honor. The Dunbar Hall of Honor is one of the few museums to commemorate the tradition of black segregated schools. The Dunbar Hall of Honor is one of the few museums to celebrate the tradition of black segregated schools. Source: Dunbar Hall of Honor
Kenneth Houston's Hall of Honor Plaque The Dunbar Alumni Association recognizes Dunbar students’ achievements with their induction into the Dunbar Hall of Honor. A member of the 1962 Dunbar graduating class, Kenneth Houston played in the NFL from 1967 until 1980. A member of the Houston Oilers and the Washington Redskins, Houston was a two-time All-Pro and twelve-time Pro Bowl selection as a safety. With forty-nine career interceptions and nine interceptions returned for touchdowns, Houston was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1986 and named to the 100 Greatest Players in NFL History list in 1999. Such achievements led to Houston’s induction into the Dunbar Hall of Honor on January 18, 1999. Source: Dunbar Hall of Honor

Location

1806 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. Lufkin, TX 75901

Metadata

Duane Choate, “Lufkin Dunbar High School,” East Texas History, accessed October 5, 2022, https://easttexashistory.org/items/show/335.