Updated on 2017-03-07 20:19:00

Significant People of SLHS by Minna Roth Hill


"Sidney Lanier High School in Montgomery, Alabama, is significant because of it's teachers and students throughout the years."

Faculty Members

Lanier has always been highly recognized for its excellent administrators, faculty, and support staff. When the new building on South Court Street opened in 1929, many of those who had formerly taught at the old Lanier transferred to the new building. Mr. J. Samuel McCants, who had been the principal at the old Lanier, went on to the new Lanier to act as its first principal. In total, he served Lanier as principal twenty-nine years, from 1916-1945. After his death, the football field at Lanier was named in memory of Mr. McCants. Many other teachers who had taught at the old Lanier transferred to the new Lanier with Mr. McCants. Among them were: Miss Kate Clark, who taught Latin from 1923-1959; Mr. Chiles Harris, 1919-1959, who taught English; Miss Bertha Mann, 1922-1956, who taught History; Miss Eloise Andrews, 1927-1970, who taught English and later served as Lanier's librarian; Miss Madeline Eitzen, 1922-1959, who taught Home Economics; Mr. Harold Weatherby, 1922-1950's, who taught Manual Arts and Mechanical Drawing; Miss Nell Hagedorn, who taught girls' Physical Education from 1927-1964; and Mr. Peter Paul Bartholomew Brooks, also known as P Squared B Squared, who taught Science from 1922-1953. Some of the other teachers who made the move from the old to the new schools were: Coach Bernie Acton, Miss Mamie Allen, Miss Ethel Johnston, Miss Mary Elmore Persons, Mr. Richard Ramsey, and Mrs. Eva Mooneyham.

As the years progressed, teachers retired, and new teachers were hired at Lanier. Some remained a few years, but many teachers remained at Lanier for decades. Among those were Mrs. Marguerite Armstrong, 1943-1969, who taught French and English; Mrs. Elizabeth Grove, who taught English and was the Director of Activities from 1942-1970; Miss Laura Johnston, 1937-1973, who taught English; Miss Margaret Gorrie, who taught Mathematics from 1937-1971; Miss Susie Green, 1933-1969, who taught Science; Miss Ermine Walker, who taught History from 1935-1967; Mrs. Margaret Bowling, 1931-1968, who taught Commercial studies; Mrs. Barbara Fowler, 1964-1990's, who taught English; Mrs. Judy Pratt, who taught Spanish from the 1960's-1990's; and Mr. James Vinson, who taught Economics and American Government during the years 1969-1992. Many more outstanding faculty members could be listed if space and time provided. Please visit SidneyLanierHighSchool.org for a listing of the hundreds of teachers and staff members whose presence and extraordinary teaching abilities have graced Sidney Lanier High School over the years.

Sidney Lanier High School also produced many students who went on to become famous. While old Lanier's claim to fame was Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, new Sidney Lanier High School has numerous former students who have gained notoriety in the city of Montgomery, in the state of Alabama, and in our nation. The first class to graduate from the new Sidney Lanier High School in 1930 gave us three notable students: Gould Beech, Juliette Hampton Morgan, and Jack Dreyfus.

Poets of the 30's

Gould Beech attended the University of Alabama as a journalism major after he graduated from Lanier and became a writer, along with his classmate, Juliette Hampton Morgan, for the student newspaper, The Crimson and White, of which he soon became the editor. After his graduation from the University of Alabama, he became a journalist who wrote for the Anniston Star, the Montgomery Advertiser, and the Southern Farmer. His articles shed light on the racism and social injustices occurring in Alabama's political system at the time, and he was attacked by many conservatives, who eventually ran him out of the state in 1950. By the 1970's, many people had begun to recognize the importance of Gould's work, so he and his family returned to Alabama, settling in Baldwin County. He passed away in 2000, and in 2002 was inducted into the University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences Hall of Fame.

Juliette Hampton Morgan was an exceptional student at Lanier and was allowed to skip some grades, which resulted in her graduation at a young age. Afterward, she enrolled at the University of Alabama and worked with Gould Beech on The Crimson and White. Juliette taught English and Dramatics at Sidney Lanier High School from 1939-1942, and soon after became a librarian at the Montgomery Public Library. Juliette was a white southern liberal who advocated social justice in the 1940's and in the 1950's during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Her many letters to the editor of the Montgomery Advertiser outraged many white Montgomerians, and they began to shun her and demand that the library fire her. The trustees of the library refused to fire Juliette, as they believed that in doing so they would be violating her First Amendment right of free speech, but some Montgomerians boycotted the library and tore up their library cards. When a burning cross was found on her front lawn, Juliette resigned her position at the library and took her own life the same night. Five years later in 1962, the Montgomery Public Library was peacefully integrated, and in 2005, Juliette Hampton Morgan was inducted into the Alabama Women's Hall of Fame, and the main branch of the library on High Street was renamed the Juliette Hampton Morgan Library.

Jack Dreyfus, 1913-2009, was a financier who created the Dreyfus Fund, which is a mutual fund that is sold to the public through direct marketing. A championship bridge player, Jack was also an equestrian who established the Hobeau Farm in Ocala, Florida, where thoroughbred racehorses were bred, trained, and raced, and he served as the chairman of the New York Racing Association.

Robert Schoenhof Weil attended Sidney Lanier High School and was in the class of 1935. After graduating from Dartmouth college, earning an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, and serving in the army during World War II, Robert returned to Montgomery and entered into the cotton business with Weil Brothers Cotton, an international cotton merchandising firm that had been founded by his grandfather. Over the years, Robert served in various leadership positions within the cotton industry, including President of the American Cotton Shippers Association, the Atlantic Cotton Association, and the New Orleans Cotton Exchange. He was also active in many civic affairs such as the American Cancer Society, the Salvation Army, and the United Way. Robert was also a huge supporter of public education and was the founder of the Montgomery Academy.

The Sidney Lanier High school class of 1937 gave us Aaron Morris Aronov. A native of Montgomery, Aaron attended the University of Alabama, and upon his graduation, returned to Montgomery and joined his family's business. In 1952, Aaron created Aronov Realty Company. Aronov Realty has since become one of the south's largest real estate companies and has been instrumental in providing homes, office buildings, warehouses, and shopping centers throughout the southern United States.

Poets of the 40's

Hiram "Hank" King Williams was born on September 17, 1923, in Mount Olive in Butler County, Alabama. He is regarded as one of the most important country music artists of all time. After moving to Montgomery in 1937, Hank competed in a talent competition at the Empire Theatre and won. Soon afterward WSFA radio station producers hired him to perform and host a fifteen-minute program. He formed the Drifting Cowboys band and dropped out of Sidney Lanier High School to pursue his budding career. Hank is pictured and listed with a group of his sophomore classmates in the 1939 Oracle. Among other songs, He wrote "Honky Tonk Blues," "Your Cheatin' Heart," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," "I Saw the Light," and "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)." Hank died on January 1, 1953, at age 29, en route to a show he was engaged to perform in Oak Hill, West Virginia. He is buried at the Oakwood Cemetery Annex in Montgomery, Alabama. Hank was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961.

Nell Rankin Davidson, a Lanier graduate from the class of 1942, was from a musical family and became an internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano. With the advice of Coneaad Bos, and under the tutelage of Karin Branzell, Nell spent years in New York studying voice. She sailed to Europe in 1948 and sang the role of Amneris in Aida with the Zurich Opera Company. She later returned to the United States in 1951, and made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York singing, once again, the role of Amneris. Nell continued to perform, and in 1957, the Alabama State Legislature passed a joint resolution to recognize her as the first "cultural ambassador to the State for the year 1957 and thenceforth," and in 1972, she was elected to the American Arts Hall of Fame. Nell passed away at age 81 on January 13, 2005.

The Sidney Lanier High School class of 1943 had two outstanding members: Claude R. Kirk, Jr., and Wesley Phillips Newton, Jr.

Claude Roy Kirk, Jr. was the 36th governor of Florida, serving from January 3, 1967, until January 5, 1971. He was the first Republican to hold that office in Florida since Reconstruction.

Wesley Phillips Newton, Jr. grew up in Old Cloverdale in Montgomery, and soon after graduating from Lanier joined the United States Army. He fought in and was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge in Germany during World War II, was a prisoner of war for four months, and received a Purple Heart. After his return to the states, he received a B.A. in English at the University of Missouri, and both an M.A. and a Ph.D. in history at the University of Alabama. Wesley was a professor of history for three decades, including over twenty years at Auburn University, and was the author of several books including Montgomery in the Good War: Portrait of a Southern City 1939-1946. He died January 30, 2012.

1948 Sidney Lanier High School graduate, Emory McCord Folmar, 1930-2011, played on the football team at Lanier, and after graduation, enrolled at the University of Alabama, earning a B.S. degree in Business. During the Korean War, he served in the United States Army and received several medals, including the Silver and Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart. Emory was Mayor of the city of Montgomery from 1977 until 1999.

Poets of the 50's

Born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1933, Milo Barrett Howard, Jr. graduated from Sidney Lanier High School in 1951. In 1955, he graduated from Auburn University with a B.A. degree and soon afterward served in the United States Army Reserve for two years. After his tour of duty was completed, Milo earned a Master of Arts Degree at Auburn University, and in 1958 went to work as an archivist at the Alabama Department of Archives and History. He taught college level classes in history and was involved in numerous historical projects, including his service as chairman of the Alabama Historical Commission. In 1967, Milo became the Director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, a position he held until his death in 1981.

Bryan Bartlett "Bart" Starr, from the class of 1952, is a nationally famous football player. Bart began his football career at Lanier, where he became the starting quarterback in 1951. After graduating from Lanier, Bart attended the University of Alabama and played as the quarterback from 1952-1956. He was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 1956 draft. His career with the Green Bay Packers skyrocketed, and he won the team several NFL championships, and he won the league's MVP award in 1966. In 1972, he retired with the second-highest player passer rating of quarterbacks in NFL history. He went on to become the head coach of the Green Bay Packers, from 1975-1983. Bart was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1977.

Morris Dees, class of 1955, is known for co-founding the Southern Poverty Law Center. After Lanier, he attended the University of Alabama School of Law wherein he obtained his law degree. In 1971, he began the Southern Poverty Law Center with his law partner, Joseph J. Levin, Jr. His most famous lawsuits have been against racial nationalist groups. In 1981, he sued the Ku Klux Klan and won a $7 million judgment for the mother of Michael Donald, a black lynching victim in Alabama. He was also instrumental in driving the White Aryan Resistance and Aryan Nations into bankruptcy. These actions have made him a target for neo-Nazi groups, with Morris receiving several death threats and the Southern Poverty Law Center building receiving bomb threats. He continues to be the chief trial counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center, where he effectively fights for civil rights and liberties.

John Cochran, a reporter and ABC News correspondent, was from the class of 1956. His prominent journalism career began in 1972 when he was a correspondent for NBC News. From 1988-1993, he was NBC's chief correspondent at the White House, where he reported on big events such as the 1991 Gulf War and the fall of Communism in Europe. In 1994, he joined ABC News as the chief Capitol Hill correspondent. John has been awarded three Emmys for his news coverage: in 1981 for reporting on the threat to Communism from the Solidarity Labor Movement in Poland, in 1989 for reporting on the overthrow of the Communist regime in Romania, and in 2001 for his coverage of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks. He is currently the senior Washington correspondent for ABC News.

Born Cathryn Antoinette Tennille in Montgomery, Alabama, Toni Tennille is an internationally known singer from the band, Captain & Tennille. After graduating from Lanier in 1958, and later Auburn University, Toni embarked on a music career and began singing backup vocals on albums such as Pink Floyd’s The Wall, Art Garfunkel’s Breakaway, and several Elton John albums. She formed Captain & Tennille with her husband, Daryl Dragon, and in 1976 they won a Grammy award for record of the year with the song “Love Will Keep Us Together.” Toni and Daryl live in Arizona and still perform shows.

Poets of the 60's

Tommy Neville, from the class of 1961, is a former football player. He played for the Boston Patriots from 1965-1970, and then for the New England Patriots from 1971-1977. Before retiring in 1980, he also played offensive tackle for the Denver Broncos and the New York Giants.

The class of 1965 gave us Richmond Flowers. He is a former football wide receiver, and in 1969, he was picked in the NFL draft, where he began his career with the Dallas Cowboys. From 1971-1973, he played for the New York Giants. Before his football career, Richmond was involved in track and field and was a contender for the 1968 Summer Olympics in the 110-meter hurdles.

From the class of 1968, Arlam Carr was a Civil Rights pioneer and a WSFA 12 News employee. In 1964 he made headline news for his role as a plaintiff in the lawsuit to desegregate Montgomery Public Schools. The case was brought to Judge Frank M. Johnson, who, ruled in his favor. He then became one of the first black students at Sidney Lanier High School. After attending the University of Texas at El Paso, Arlam began his career in broadcasting at WSFA, where he worked his way up to becoming a Director of Newscasts. He spent nearly forty years at WSFA, and was the longest tenured employee there, until on September 26, 2013, he passed away after battling throat cancer. He was 62 years old.

Thomas "Tommy" H. Lowder, also a 1968 graduate of Sidney Lanier High School, and twin to Jimmy Lowder of the same class, joined his family's real estate company, Lowder Reality, after graduating from Auburn University in 1972. In 1993, Tommy listed his family business, which had grown by that time into Colonial Properties Trust, on the New York Stock Exchange. Tommy and his family live in Birmingham, Alabama, where he is active in various charitable organizations including the Birmingham Area Chapter of the American Red Cross and Children's Hospital of Alabama.

Poets of the 70's

Kathryn Cordell Thornton was a 1970 graduate of Lanier. Afterward, she attended Auburn University and received a B.S. in physics in 1974, and an M.S. in physics in 1977. In 1979, Kathryn earned her Doctorate of Philosophy in Physics from the University of Virginia. After spending time in Heidelberg, Germany, doing research on a NATO fellowship, she was selected by NASA and became an astronaut in 1985. Kathryn had over 975 hours in space, including twenty-one hours of extravehicular activity. She is now the Associate Dean for Graduate Programs at the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science.

George C. Wallace, Jr., the son of Governors George C. and Lurleen Burns Wallace, also graduated from Sidney Lanier High School in 1970. Graduating from Huntingdon College in 1976, George later became Alabama's 36th State Treasurer, serving from 1987 through 1995. After leaving office, George worked for the Center for Government and Public Affairs at Auburn University at Montgomery. He was elected to and served on the Alabama Public Service Commission in 1998, and reelected for another term from 2002-2006. Besides his political career, George is a musician and an author. He has recently written his second book, Governor George Wallace: The Man You Never Knew. George and his wife, Elizabeth, live in Birmingham, Alabama.

The 80's and Beyond

From the class of 1983, Orlando Graham went on to become a professional basketball player. He played in the 1988-1989 NBA season for the California-based Golden State Warriors.

Another professional basketball player is Marcus Webb, class of 1988. After playing at Lanier and the University of Alabama, he was picked in the 1992 Continental Basketball Association draft, and during the 1992-1993 season played nine games for the Boston Celtics. Before retiring in 2005, he played in Argentina.

Reggie Barlow, class of 1991, is a former football player in the National Football League. He played for the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in which he won a Super Bowl ring for Super Bowl XXXVII, and the Oakland Raiders. He is now the head coach for the Montgomery-based Alabama State Hornets football team.

After graduating from Lanier in 1993, Felicia Boswell gained fame when she starred in the musical "Memphis" in 2011. She currently continues the role on a national US tour. In 2012, Felicia spoke to the Denver Post about her relation to Rosa Parks, who was her cousin.

Jeno James, from the class of 1995, started his football career as an offensive guard player at Lanier and continued playing through college at Auburn University. He has played for the Carolina Panthers and the Miami Dolphins.

Donell Taylor, class of 2001, played basketball at Lanier and, with his twin brother, Ronell, led Lanier to the 2001 6A State Championship. While attending the University of Alabama at Birmingham, he played alongside Ronell for the UAB Blazers and in 2005 signed on with the NBA's Washington Wizards. He is currently playing for the Reyer Venezia Mestre, an Italian basketball team based in Venice.

Another 2001 graduate is Tarvaris Jackson, a professional football player. He played for the Alabama State Hornets and the Arkansas Razorbacks while in college, and then went on to play in the NFL for the Minnesota Vikings and the Buffalo Bills. Presently, he plays quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks.

Lesser known, but strong in numbers are the average students and alumni of Sidney Lanier High School. They take pride in their school, and the Lanier alumni celebrate their time at Lanier every ten years or so with festive galas, including dinners and dances at their Lanier reunions. Many class reunion planning committees designate an entire weekend to festivities which often includes touring the Castle on the Saturday morning of their reunion weekend. Lanier opens up the school for these tours, and the alumni pour into the building, often bringing their families with them, and walk through the school as they did when they were students there.

Return Of The Alumni

Sidney Lanier High School graduating classes have kept the reunion tradition for years, but now, with the age of the internet, graduation classes are better able to keep in touch with classmates and plan their reunions. Some classes from Lanier have their own websites, some alumni and current students post videos on YouTube, and others rely on websites that provide these services. The official Sidney Lanier High School website, SidneyLanierHighSchool.Org, created by Stan Robinson, class of 1970, provides the alumni with a social media site where alumni may message classmates and other Lanier alumni, and it provides an archive of the thousands of students who have attended Lanier throughout the years. Stan and his assistants comb through old Oracles to formulate accurate lists by years of attendance of former Lanier students, and they post obituaries in memory of Poets who have departed. In addition, SidneyLanierHighSchool.Org has an archive for the faculty and staff who have served Lanier throughout the ages. SidneyLanierHighSchool.Org also has a sister website, SidneyLanier.Org. Also owned and operated by Stan Robinson, this site features articles on Lanier's history and people, and on other news items of interest to Poets.

In 2010, Sidney Lanier High School celebrated its 100th anniversary in Montgomery, Alabama, with a banquet, big-name guests, and with hundreds of Lanier alumni. Please watch the videos of this occasion at http://www.lanier.mps-al.org/?PageName=LatestNews&Section=Highlights&ItemID=64856&ISrc=School&Itype=Highlights&SchoolID=3866

In addition to websites, social media sites have been extremely helpful in reuniting Poets all over the world. There are numerous Facebook groups pertaining to Lanier. Some are designated by classes, and others are not class-specific and have members representing decades of Lanier students.

One member of these groups, Mike Manos, class of 1964, visited Montgomery this past June and found that Lanier's historic marker was badly damaged. The marker had been erected at Lanier in 1989 to designate Lanier as a continuing resource to the Garden District, which had been listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Mike took some pictures of the damaged marker and posted them on some of the Lanier Facebook groups, and the alumni were outraged. Pam Corwin Fellows, class of 1970, contacted the Alabama Historical Commission, and with the assistance of Lee Anne Wofford, Interim Director, Historic Preservation Division of the Alabama Historical Commission, made plans to have the marker replaced. Pam, along with Mike Manos and Donna Mills Davis, class of 1969, formed a committee to raise the $2,170.00 needed to replace the marker. Another Facebook Lanier group called "Campaign To Replace Sidney Lanier HS Damaged Historic Marker" was created to raise the needed money. The campaign even made the news. Please watch this video that ran on WAKA during the campaign: http://www.waka.com/news/montgomery-news/Sidney-Lanier-Historical-Marker-Needs-Facelift-220584751.html As the Campaign group increased in numbers, so did the donations, and with Pam's intensive effort, and the generous donations of sixty-five Sidney Lanier High School alumni, former students, and friends, the money needed was raised within three weeks. Contributions to this cause came from former Lanier students spanning five decades of Lanier graduation classes. The new marker will be placed and dedicated on October 25, 2013.

The continuing alumni involvement and their loyalty to their Alma Mater reveals that the spirit of Lanier is alive and well and that the students of Lanier, both past, and present, are an integral factor and are highly significant to Sidney Lanier High School.

Although the history of Sidney Lanier High School and the people who have walked its hallowed halls are significant to Lanier, one other point of significance must be mentioned: Lanier's architecture, which will be discussed in the next section of this paper.