Opening of SHHS Hall of History Planned for Fall; Alumni Donations Sought

Opening of SHHS Hall of History Planned for Fall; Alumni Donations Sought
Posted on 02/13/2015
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Two of South Houston High's earliest graduates, Billie Shirley Murphy, Class of 1960, and Genia Long Ripley, Class of 1962, offer their contributions to the new SHHS Hall of History. Murphy donated a flute she played in the first Trojan Marching Band. Ripley donated the letter jacket and letter sweater earned by her late husband, Billy Ripley, who played on the Trojans' first football, basketball and baseball teams.
side box 2In the fall of 1957, Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House and Elvis Presley was atop the rock ‘n’ roll charts. Houston had no major league sports teams. And no one had ever heard of NASA, Fidel Castro, hula hoops or the Beatles.

In October of 1957, South Houston High School opened its doors to students whose families had moved into the globs of subdivision housing on Pasadena’s mushrooming south side and along a post-war transportation marvel, the Gulf Freeway.

That bit of suburban bliss has dramatically changed over the past half-century. But now school officials, in partnership with South Houston alumni, have unveiled plans to preserve the academic and social heritage of South Houston High and surrounding communities in a unique campus museum.

South Houston High’s new Hall of History represents the final phase of an initiative to capture and preserve the school’s rich past, one that extends from the “wonder years” of the late 1950s and 1960s, to the “Junkyard Dogs” era in the 1970s, to the “Big Red Express” traditions that emerged in the 1980s and hold true today.

Primary funding for the museum has been provided by Bob Allen, a 1965 South Houston graduate and the Trojans’ first all-state football player. A member of the Pasadena ISD Athletics Hall of Fame and South Houston’s Hall of Honor, Allen was a standout player at Texas Tech before entering into a successful business career.

Set to open on Oct. 16 – South Houston High’s 2015 Homecoming Day – the Hall of History will permanently exhibit dozens of vintage photographs and memorabilia donated by Trojan alumni and former faculty members.

“I don’t know of another high school heritage project that compares to this in scope or scale,” said Dr. Steve Fullen, South Houston’s principal.

“Our Hall of Honor programs have been an enormous source of pride for our school and has had a profound impact on our student body and faculty. This promises to be the crown jewel of our preservation efforts.”

Donations of memorabilia from all eras are now being accepted. For the convenience of alumni who wish to donate items, a drop-off time has been established for Fridays, between 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., any school day through the end of the school year.

Those wishing to donate are asked to contact Al Carter, Class of 1970 and the Pasadena ISD’s alumni development coordinator, at

“We’ll be glad to arrange alternative drop-off times, or even pick-up times, if the person lives in the immediate area,” Carter said. “We would like for all alumni, or family members who come into possession of items related to South Houston High School, to take stock of what you have and consider donating it to the museum.”

Items could include wearing apparel, sports gear, old photos related to high school events, pennants, stickers, rings, pins, souvenirs, programs, ribbons – and, of course, old yearbooks.

“We are always interested in old yearbooks,” Carter said. “Some of the older ones are somewhat rare. Plus, we are constantly coming across books that are in better shape than the ones we have. And surplus yearbooks enable us, from time to time, to sell books to raise money for the Hall of History.”

Efforts to decorate and stock the museum are already well under way.

Bauer Graphics in Pasadena is providing assistance on wall designs that will present a wrap-around timeline of SHHS history and how it relates to news events of each era. Funds provided by Allen have allowed for the purchase of a dozen glass display cases.

A 900-square foot work room adjacent to the Hall of Honor in the entrance corridor has been set aside for the project. The Hall of History will include conference facilities for small-group meetings and three computer stations that will enable alumni and students to conduct research and scan historical materials ranging from yearbooks to old school newspapers.

The Hall of History is the current repository for all Pasadena ISD yearbooks. The collection, which dates back to 1939, is about 90 percent complete.

Plans are to cover the museum walls with nostalgic images, including dozens of vintage photographs, most of them taken from South Houston yearbooks.

“Archival material is quite scarce,” Carter said. “But using modern photo-editing techniques, we have been able to scan many of the best photos and make display prints that are close, in quality, to glossy originals. The high quality of some shots has enabled us to make poster and canvas enlargements that will allow the visitor to enjoy a vivid look at what campus life was like from the late 1950s all the way up to 2010.”

The Hall of History will cap a preservation project that began with the school’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2007. Out of that event, an Alumni Hall of Honor was established in 2011, followed by a Teacher and Staff Hall of Honor in 2013. Since then 73 alumni and 23 teachers have been inducted and honored with plaques that line the walls along the corridor.

“Much of the impetus for the Hall of History came from the efforts of the library staff at Pasadena High to preserve that school’s heritage, which is now approaching the 100-year mark,” Carter said.

“We wanted to take that approach a step farther by setting aside a large space and dedicating the entire area to a museum, one that connects directly to our heritage displays in the Hall of Honor.”

All donated items will be tagged and catalogued. Although all items may not be displayed at all times, Carter said, all will be securely stored in an adjacent space.

“We’ve already had several teachers bring their students to the Hall of Honor displays as part of class discussions and projects related to South Houston’s past – and our alumni and the general public have also shown a strong interest,” Fullen said.

“We expect that the Hall of History will heighten that interest even more and lock in place an appreciation of our school’s special place in the history of our community.”

South Houston Principal Dr. Steve Fullen (white shirt) helps remove the template for the lettering on the entrance to the school's Hall of History, set to open at Homecoming, Oct. 16, 2015. Fullen is flanked by assistant principals Bradley Luster and Richard Stallings.

South Houston's first cheerleading squad: Boys are Don Meador, Norman Hayes, and Bob Ely; girls are Bethel Barcello, Judy Fisher and Janey Matthews.

South Houston students take a stroll to the cafeteria in 1961. In the front are Dwane Sample, Judy Reid and Lynda Lane, all Class of 1962.

An artist from Bauer Graphics installs lettering marking the the opening of the school on the Hall of History's timeline. 

Juniors Hazel Wilson and Kathy Fairman bestow upon a group of beanie-topped sophomores the honor of carrying their books to class in a 1961 yearbook photo. Freshman were not included in the student body until the 1964-65 school year.

Members of the 'Jannettes anxiously cheer on their Trojan football team in a 1966 contest. The 1966 season marked the drill team's debut. 

Still under construction, the museum, its walls and glass cases await the arrival of alumni memorabilia. 

*Larry Willoughby's "Building Bridges"... click here
*Bill Hughes' "Matt Mercury -- Plot of the Galactic Mastermind" trailer... click here

South Houston High's 2015 Alumni Hall of Honor inductees: Larry Willoughby, Class of 1969; Bob Garner, Class of 1971; and Bill Hughes, Class of 1980.

side photoThree South Houston High School graduates, all entrepreneurs with a passion to entertain, have been selected for induction later this fall in the school’s Alumni Hall of Honor.

Chosen for induction are Larry Willoughby, a Grammy-nominated songwriter and Nashville record executive; Bob Garner, a West Texas rancher and host of a popular spring bash for Trojan alumni; and Bill Hughes, an award-winning sci-fi illustrator and filmmaker.

Willoughby graduated from South Houston in 1969, Garner in 1971 and Hughes in 1980.

The three will be honored during Homecoming festivities on Oct. 16 along with three former teachers selected earlier this summer for induction in the school’s Faculty and Staff Hall of Honor. The teachers are Barbara Coon, a physics teacher and counselor during her South Houston tenure; Ella Gauthier, a math teacher and success coordinator; and George Neal, a law enforcement instructor and coach.

Willoughby, Garner and Hughes will bring to 76 the number of South Houston alumni who have been inducted into the Hall of Honor since the program was launched nearly five years ago. The number of teachers inducted will rise to 26 with the addition of Coon, Gauthier and Neal.

The three alumni inductees remain active in their chosen professions.

Willoughby is currently vice present of A&R (artists and repertoire) for Capitol Records’ Nashville division. In that position, he has helped shaped the careers of numerous country recording stars, among them Keith Urban, Trace Atkins and Deana Carter.

Garner, in addition to his ranching enterprises, owns three pool and lake management companies in Texas. A navy veteran with 15 years of active service, Garner served two tours in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, receiving numerous decorations and service awards.

Hughes has redirected his love of comic books and science fiction into an independent filmmaking career. He recently expanded his 2005 short film, “Matt Mercury and his Rocket Rangers,” into a full-length, space comedy feature, released earlier this summer. The film, “Matt Mercury – Plot of the Galactic Mastermind,” was recently nominated for best special effects among independent productions by the Austin Revolution Film Festival.

Active in choir and Future Farmers of America in high school, Willoughby got his big break in the music business when he auditioned for country singer/songwriter Guy Clark and earned a spot as a guitar player and backup vocalist in Clark’s band. Under Clark’s guidance, Willoughby honed his own songwriting and performing skills.

Soon after, he landed a recording contract with Atlantic Records. His debut album, “Building Bridges,” rose to No. 47 on the Billboard magazine chart in 1984. The title track from the album reached No. 55 as a single, but 12 years later took him to new heights.

The song was covered by Brooks & Dunn and rearranged with backing vocals from Sheryl Crow and Vince Gill. That version soared to No. 4 on the charts and earned a Grammy nomination for Best Country Collaboration.

Willoughby spent several years on tour after the release of his “Building Bridges” album, then found himself drawn to the business side of country music. He signed on as tour manager for country stars Rodney Crowell – his cousin – and Rosanne Cash before moving in the direction of artist development.

After a stint as director of membership with ASCAP/Nashville, he was hired away for the spot of Director of A&R at MCA/Universal Records, a label featuring the talents of Gill, George Strait, Reba McEntire, Wynonna and Trisha Yearwood.

During Willoughby’s tenure, MCA outpaced all rivals in country music awards.  Even with his move to Capitol as vice president of A&R, he has kept a hand in songwriting. His songs have been recorded by such artists as Waylon Jennings, Eddy Raven, Big House, the Amazing Rhythm Aces, Nicolette Larson and the Oak Ridge Boys.

Willoughby is married to the former Janet Howard, also a 1969 South Houston graduate.

BOB GARNER, Class of 1971
Garner, a football trainer and choir member during his high school days, has owned and developed three ranches since completing his naval career in 1995, the latest located outside Goldthwaite, Texas. At the same time, he built his two corporations – Lone Star Pool Management and Lone Star Lake Management – into industry leaders.

His lake management firm is the state’s second largest. He also established Lone Star Lifeguards to train nearly 300 lifeguards per season for his pool management firm.

It was in 2004, while operating a ranch outside of Hempstead, that Garner hosted the first “Edgebrook Reunion,” a weekend bonfire bash for South Houston High students from the 1960s and 1970s. With organizational help from classmate Martha Collins Manuel, Garner hosted around 300 alumni, spouses and friends at his ranch that year – the start of what has become a spring tradition, since moved to Garner’s ranching operations near Goldthwaite.

Garner’s reunions are credited with sparking renewed interest in alumni activities at South Houston and for providing momentum that helped lead to the creation of the school’s new Alumni Association and the Hall of Honor itself.

BILL HUGHES, Class of 1980
Hughes honed his writing and drawing skills while a staffer on the South Houston student newspaper. Living close to NASA and inspired by sci-fi productions with as “Star Trek,” “Lost in Space” and “Planet of the Apes,” Hughes enjoyed a creative surge with the release of “Stars Wars” in 1977.

While still at South Houston, he produced his first illustrated story, “Manhattan Rogers and his Flying Devil-Doggie Commandoes.” After graduation, he attended the University of Houston and started his own caricature business at Astroworld.

While at UH, he produced his first full comic book, based on the same “Manhattan Rogers” character. Later, after entering an art contest with a cartoon drawing of a pirate, he landed a deal to turn his cartoon subject into a comic book series, the “Voyages of the SheBuccaneer.”

In 1996, his association with the publisher led to an opportunity to illustrate and design a “Star Wars” brand book, “Droids,” for Dark Horse Comics.

In 2005, in partnership with wife Heidi, Hughes ventured into independent filmmaking. His first “Matt Mercury” short proved a hit with critics and won several awards.

Hughes launched his own studio, “WonderVista,” and began to branch out from sci-fi. A deal with the cowboy band Riders in the Sky led to a series of band coloring books, a comic book telling the story of the Alamo and an animated version of the comic book. That project continues with James Drury, former star of the TV series “The Virginia,” in the cast as Buffalo Bill Cody. Hughes also launched a website,, that offers bible stories for children.

Hughes’ “Matt Mercury” creation remains his franchise. Plans are in the works for an animated series based on the film, a series of novels and a video game.

Alumni and teacher inductees will be honored at a special reception during Homecoming Open House activities on Oct. 16. The Open House will begin at 10:30 a.m. with the grand opening of South Houston High’s new Hall of History, a campus museum featuring photos and memorabilia of the school’s first 53 years.

A courtyard picnic will follow with the Hall of Honor reception set for 12:30 p.m. and a student/alumni pep rally at 1:45.

The inductees will be honored again during ceremonies preceding the Trojans’ Homecoming Game against Pasadena that same night. Ceremonies begin at 6:30 p.m. with the kickoff at 7.