Sam Rayburn High to Celebrate First 50 Years on April 26
Posted on 04/18/2014
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Sam Rayburn cheerleaders Jennifer Valazar, Alejandra Olivares and Monica Chapa -- all juniors -- prepare a banner welcoming visitors to the school's 50th anniversary celebration.
2295By anyone’s standards, it was a big year. In 1964, the Beatles invaded America, Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act and the World’s Fair opened in New York. And in Pasadena, in the middle of a housing boom extending south and east along Spencer Highway, the Pasadena ISD’s third high school opened its doors.

Sam Rayburn High’s community of alumni, current students and administrators will celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary with an open house on Saturday, April 26.

One of the highlights will be the induction of the first group of alumni and former teachers selected for the school’s new Hall of Honor. A plaque display of the nine inductees will be unveiled in the hall leading from the main entrance.

The celebration, which runs from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., will also include student performances and a video tribute to the school’s first 50 years.

“We hope all guests have an opportunity to view the campus and reminisce about their days at Sam Rayburn High School” said Robert Stock, Sam Rayburn’s principal.

The list of Hall of Honor inductees includes six alumni: 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.

Two former Sam Rayburn faculty members selected 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.

Also slated for induction is the late Carter O. Lomax, Sam Rayburn’s first principal. Lomax served as principal until 1981.

The school opened on Sept. 2, 1964, the first day of the 1964-1965 school year. An open house was held four days earlier with members of the Sam Rayburn’s Future Teachers of America chapter on hand to conduct tours for the public. The school was so new, construction cleanup was still under way in parts of the campus.

Sam Rayburn’s first student body consisted of a complete load of seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen. It was commonplace for seniors to be exempt from a transfer to a new high school, but Sam Rayburn immediately inherited a senior class – the Class of 1965.

The school drew students from both Pasadena High and South Houston High, which had opened only seven years earlier. The area’s population growth was reflected in a need to open J. Frank Dobie High – the district’s fourth high school – just four years later.

The changes were so rapid, some Pasadena families could eventually boast of graduates from Pasadena, South Houston and Sam Rayburn.

The school was named after one of the most politically powerful Texans of the 20th Century. Sam Rayburn, a member of the U.S. House of Representative for 49 years and the Speaker of the Houston for 17 years, died in 1961.

The name given to the school was part of an effort by the school district to name new high schools after distinguished Texans. Hence, the district’s fourth high school was named after famed Texas author J. Frank Dobie.

An effort was even made to rename Pasadena High and South Houston High after some of the heroes of the Alamo. Suggestions included William Travis, Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie. The effort was met with strong resistance and the original school names were retained.

Sam Rayburn's assistant principal during those early years was Allen Sory, who would go on to become Dobie’s first principal.

The Texans’ football team, which had been practicing for weeks before the school opened, immediately plunged into varsity competition, despite the fact that many senior lettermen had been exempted from transfer. Under Coach James McNeil, the junior-led team posted a 2-6-2 record that included a season-opening victory over Spring Woods.

The 50th anniversary celebration will begin with the Hall of Honor induction in the auditorium. Afterward, a reception will be held in the cafeteria.

“This is an exciting time for Sam Rayburn,” said Allison Lewallen, an assistant principal at Sam Rayburn and campus coordinator of the event.

“Students and staff have been working hard to showcase our campus at this event.  Seeing our students take such pride in their school is inspiring and reflects our history of graduating such distinguished alumni.”


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?Pep rally scene on the school's patio in the fall of 1964.

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Aug. 29, 1964: (Left) Sam Rayburn junors Barbara Starr and Peggy Hulsey, both members of Future Teachers of America, conduct tours during an open house of the new school; (right) a maintenance crew continues with construction cleanup during the open house.

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Judy Lyles, Sam Rayburn's first Miss Roundup, pictured in the 1965 Statesman, the school's yearbook. Football players pictured are Charles Hickman (35) and Tommy Morrison (32).

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Sam Rayburn art students put the finishing touches on a new mural in the school library. Hard at work are Denise Molina, Fidel Cantu, Francisco Jasso, Jairo Cordova, Karla Flores and Felipe Cantu.