Sam Rayburn High to Induct Nine in School's New Hall of Honor

Sam Rayburn High to Induct Nine in School's New Hall of Honor
Posted on 04/09/2014
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Carter Lomax makes a presentation during a Sam Rayburn High awards assembly in 1978. Lomax, the school's first principal, will be inducted posthumously into the Sam Rayburn Hall of Honor on April 26.
scaleThe man who opened the doors to Sam Rayburn High School a half-century ago has been selected for induction -- along with six alumni and two other former educators -- in the school’s new Hall of Honor.

The late Carter O. Lomax, who served as Sam Rayburn’s principal from the school’s opening in 1964 until his retirement in 1981, will be honored as a member of the Texans’ first class of inductees during a ceremony on April 26.

The ceremony will be the main feature of the school’s 50th anniversary celebration that day. The public is invited to the 50th anniversary observance, which is scheduled from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Sam Rayburn alumni selected for induction are:
* Dr. Mike McKinney, Class of 1969, the former chancellor of the Texas A&M University System;
* Dave Freisleben, Class of 1971, who pitched seven years in the major leagues;
* J. Michael Solar, Class of 1971, a prominent trial lawyer who practices in Houston;
* David Brammer, Class of 1977, a world-traveling photographer;
* Dr. John Kirkwood, Class of 1979, a family practice doctor in Pasadena and co-founder of Bayside Urgent Care;
* And State Rep. Ana Hernandez, a member of the Texas House who has represented District 143 since 2005.

Former Sam Rayburn faculty members picked for induction are:
* Norris Blevins, the director of Sam Rayburn’s award-winning choir for two decades;
* And Betty Baker, the director of the school’s award-winning Tex-Anns drill and dance teams for 27 years.

"The opportunity to reflect on the achievements of so many alumni and past faculty has great value,” Sam Rayburn Principal Robert Stock said. “It instills pride in our campus."

Inductees will be honored with individual plaques to be permanently displayed on a newly remodeled wall at the front entrance to the school. A committee of current faculty and staff at Sam Rayburn made the selections with input from other alumni and former faculty members.

"Reviewing nominations and selecting inductees was a difficult but humbling process,” Stock said.

“We have many distinguished alumni who received remarkable recommendations. The committee spent countless hours evaluating nominations. We are proud to honor such an extraordinary group of individuals."

Sam Rayburn was the Pasadena ISD’s third high school to open and one of three that opened between 1957 and 1968. All of the district’s four oldest high schools – Pasadena, South Houston, Sam Rayburn and Dobie – have now established halls of honor to recognize the achievements of alumni and former faculty and staff.  

A closer look at the Sam Rayburn inductees: 

Class of 1969
Dr. Mike McKinney’s diverse career has taken him from country doctor to chancellor of one of the world’s largest university systems. Once the chief of staff for Gov. Rick Perry, he was named the head of the Texas A&M University system in 2006 and served in that role until 2011.

At Sam Rayburn, he earned multiple letters in football, basketball and baseball. He served as president of the National Honor Society and was a recipient of the prestigious Jesse H. Jones Scholarship for academics. He graduated from the University of Houston in 1973 and earned his medical degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston in 1976.

In 1984, while practicing family medicine in Centerville, he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives. He served as speaker pro-tempore of the House from 1989 to 1990.

In 1995, during George W. Bush’s first term as governor, Dr. McKinney was appointed commissioner for the Texas Department of Health and Human Services. After serving as Perry’s chief of staff, he accepted leadership positions within the UT Health Science system, including vice chancellor for health affairs and acting dean of the UT Medical School in Houston. He became senior executive vice president and chief operating officer for the Health Science Center in 2003.

Three years ago, he was named a Pasadena ISD Distinguished Alumnus. He’s also known for raising two sons, Steve and Seth, both football standouts at Texas A&M and then in the National Football League. 

Class of 1971
Among the 10 letters in his last name, you won’t find a single “K.” But for those who followed Major League Baseball in the 1970s, Dave Freisleben brought to mind countless “K’s” – the kind that count for strikeouts.

A product of the Pasadena sandlots, Freisleben helped usher in a golden age of Pasadena ISD pitchers in the early 1970s. As a Sam Rayburn senior, just months after quarterbacking the Sam Rayburn football team, he led the Texans deep into the state baseball playoffs with his scorching fastball and lethal bat. Twice, during summer ball, he earned state American Legion MVP honors.

The San Diego Padres made him a fifth-round pick in 1971. After a quick dash up the minor-league ladder, Freisleben made his big-league debut in April of 1974 – and he made a memorable impact. He tossed complete-game victories in his first two starting assignments and beat future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton in his third. The right-hander struck out 130 batters his rookie season with the Padres while posting 3.66 earned run average.

In 1976, he won 10 games with 81 strikeouts and a 3.51 ERA.

Freisleben pitched in the major leagues for seven years, the second-longest big-league stint of any Pasadena ISD product. After five seasons with the Padres, he pitched one season for both the Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays. Injuries forced him out of baseball at the age of 28. 

Class of 1971
His life has always reflected the importance of remembering who you are, where you are from and what you can do to help others.

J. Michael Solar first came to Pasadena when major portions of the city were still farmland. His grandparents lived on a farm across from what is now Mae Smyth Elementary on bustling Burke Road. Solar and his nine-member family lived there until moving to a two-bedroom house in Satsuma Gardens, Pasadena’s historic Mexican immigrant enclave.

From those humble beginnings, Solar would carve out a career as a successful trial lawyer specializing in helping the poor and powerless. His achievement would lead to his designation by Texas Business Magazine as one of the state’s “50 Most Powerful Texans.”

After graduation, Solar enrolled at the University of Houston, but was drafted the following year. Recruited into the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment and stationed in Washington, he became a member of the “Old Guard,” more commonly known as the "Escort to the President.” He observed meetings between President Nixon and other world leaders -- and formed his initial concepts of power.

Solar later returned to UH, working as a janitor, cook and dock worker to pay his way through. He earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and then his law degree in 1980.

He joined the law firm founded by Arthur L. Schechter, a former U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas, which later became Schechter, Eisenman & Solar. In 1987, Solar & Associates, L.L.P., was formed and expanded to include the representation of various foreign interests and promotion of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  

He has shouldered many difficult cases frequently involving unpopular cause, among them: seafarers kept aboard ships without pay; abused mental patients and police brutality victims.

He was once selected as “Father of the Year” by Houston Community Partners. In 2005, he was named Distinguished Alumnus by the Pasadena ISD. 

Class of 1977
From the White House to the Holy Land, David Brammer has traveled the world in search of the perfect photograph. Still, he has yet to snap an image as dear to him as the one he took in the Sam Rayburn auditorium in 1979.

Brammer snapped a picture of his sister, Donna, the moment she was named a Bluebonnet Bell winner. That was just 15 months before Donna passed away from cancer.

Brammer’s love for photography took hold as a young boy while watching his father and two uncles shoot with 35mm cameras. He bought his first camera for 25 cents at a garage sale and, during his freshman year at Sam Rayburn, used his lawn-mowing money to buy his own 35mm camera.

At Rayburn, he spent two years learning photography from Homer Brown, who had been an aerial photographer during World War II. He gained valuable experience as a photographer for the Statesman yearbook.

A National Honor Society member at Sam Rayburn, Brammer graduated from San Jacinto College and then attended Oral Roberts University. For the past 34 years, he has worked at Lyondellbasell Houston Refinery.

Today, he applies his photography skills to youth sports, high school activities and reunions.  During his world travels, he has shot inside the White House with a Secret Service escort, from a wooden boat on the Sea of Galilee and at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. He also uses his photography skills to document mission trips to Brazil, Mexico and other remote spots.

Class of 1979
A shining example of leadership while a student at Sam Rayburn, Dr. John Kirkwood has been no less diligent in expanding his medical career into entrepreneurial frontiers.

In partnership with his brothers -- Dr. Ron Kirkwood (Sam Rayburn Class of 1969) and Dr. Bo Kirkwood (Sam Rayburn Class of 1971) – he founded Bayside Urgent Care, the first such facility in Pasadena. He also teamed with other local doctors to establish the newest hospital in Pasadena: Patients Medical Center.

Still, Pasadena ISD athletes may know him better as the team physician for the district and a sideline fixture at football games since 1996.

While at Sam Rayburn, Dr. Kirkwood served as student body president and as captain and quarterback of the Texans’ co-district championship football team. He also lettered in baseball.

He attended the University of Houston and continued at Oklahoma State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine in Tulsa. At OSU-COM, he served as president of the Student Osteopathic Medical Association and as vice president of the American College of General Practitioners. Following medical school, he became a family practice resident at Scott & White Memorial Hospital/Texas A&M in Temple.

Now a family physician at Kirkwood Medical Associates-HCA in Pasadena, Dr. Kirkwood also serves as Associate Clinical Professor for the Baylor College of Medicine, the UT-Houston Medical School and UT Medical Branch in Galveston.  He performs exams and peer reviews as a certified designated doctor for the State of Texas and is medical director for the Mt. Houston Medical Clinic in Houston and Affinity Home Health Care in Pasadena.

Along with his brothers, he is co-author of the book, “A Case for Life-Christian Ethics and Medical Science.” 

Class of 1995
Ana Hernandez has always been on a fast track to public service.

Born in Reynosa, Mexico, and raised in Pasadena, she graduated with honors from Sam Rayburn when she was 16 years old. By the time she was 25, she had graduated from the University of Texas School of Law. Barely a year after that, she was serving in the Texas House of Representatives for District 143.

She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Houston in political science and psychology. During his undergraduate studies, she participated in a Peace Corps internship program in South Africa. There, she worked with local leaders to establish post-apartheid educational systems.

In 2005, Hernandez won a special election to fill the seat in District 143, which covers parts of Houston and Channelview, and the cities of Galena Park and Jacinto City.  She has won in all four election cycles since, often commanding 70 percent or more of the vote, and is unopposed for reelection this year.

She serves on the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence and on the House Committee on County Affairs. She practices law at Carrigan, McCloskey & Roberson, L.L.P.

Honored by numerous organizations, Hernandez was recently named the recipient of the Dr. Mae Jackson Outstanding Democratic Woman Office Holder Award, presented by the Texas Democratic Women. 

She has been named to Hispanic Business magazine's "Most Influential List" and two years ago was selected as one of "20 Latino Rising Stars" by the San Francisco Chronicle. The newspaper cited her passionate speech in the Texas House the year before in opposition to the so-called “sanctuary city” bill. 

Blevins served as choir director at Sam Rayburn from 1976 to 1995, producing UIL Sweepstakes winners every year in various group and solo ensemble categories. His student took home numerous honors over multiple years, including Best Choral Group at the San Antonio American Classic Madrigal Festival and Featured Choir at the Texas Music Educators Association convention.  Blevins earned his Bachelor of Music Education from Sam Houston State University in 1960. 

Baker was named director of the Tex-Anns drill team at Sam Rayburn in 1968 and held that position until her retirement in 1994. Under her direction, the Tex-Anns won numerous sweepstakes awards, including a pair of Class 5A state championships.  Her 1979 squad won top honors at a national drill team competition in Los Angeles. Her 1988 and 1992 squads were invited to perform at West Point. In 1996, Baker was among the first group to be inducted into the Texas Dance Educators Association’s Hall of Fame. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Sam Houston State. 

Carter Lomax opened Sam Rayburn in 1964 as the school’s first principal and remained the keeper of the gate until his retirement in 1981. Still, Lomax’s list of life achievement ran deep before Sam Rayburn was ever conceived. A Hall of Fame athlete at Southwest Texas State Teachers College, he joined the Army Air Corps during World War II, serving as a physical education instructor for new recruits. At Pasadena High School in the 1950s, he established himself as one of the top basketball coaches in the area. Then, with his master’s degree in hand, he moved into administration, serving as assistant principal at Southmore and South Houston junior highs before being named principal at Jackson Junior High in 1961. In 1962, he was named assistant principal at South Houston High, his final stop before taking the reins at Sam Rayburn two years later. Lomax passed away in 2007. Carter Lomax Middle School on Genoa-Red Bluff Road is named in his honor.