History of Jonas Henderson High School
Jonas Henderson High School was named for the late Professor Jonas Henderson, Sr. who gave fifty-four years of his life toward developing qualitative educational standards to the students of his time. Professor Henderson was the principal of Howe Institute that was located on the spot where the Iberia Parish Court House presently stands. Howe Institute was a denominational school supported by the Union Sixth District Baptist Association. The Association is in existence today. The last five years of Professor Henderson’s teaching life, before retirement, were spent as a classroom teacher in the Iberia Parish Training School of which the late Mr. A. B. Simon was principal.
Mr. John Berry Henderson, better known as J. B. Henderson, a son of Professor Jonas Henderson, Sr., left the New Iberia area for work/study purposes, but returned to New Iberia in August of 1950 and was considered for principalship of what was then to be the New Iberia Colored High School that was under construction and to be opened at a later date.
In September of 1950, Mr. Henderson became the principal of grades 9-12 at the Iberia Parish Training School and the late Professor A. B. Simon who was principal of grades 1-12, became the principal of grades 1-8.
The new school located on Anderson Street was instead named Jonas Henderson High School and its doors were opened for occupancy on January 9, 1950 with approximately 150 students bused from Iberia Parish Training School to the new structure.
The first faculty of the school numbered five teachers and a librarian. Mrs. Elodia Chatman Rheams taught English and Mrs. Leola F. Henderson taught Social Studies. The Math classes were taught by Mr. Frank Moore, Science by Mrs. Mary Ruth Rogers, and the late Mrs. W. Porter taught Home Economics. The late Mrs. Florence A. Pemilton was the librarian.
The five faculty members gave of their best as classroom teachers and worked hard in the extra-curricular activities of our time to produce well-rounded students in Music, Panel Discussions, and Speech and Drama. There was no music department, but Mr. Henderson’s sister, Miss Collie Henderson came in voluntarily and assisted with the school’s growth by playing the piano and developed a mixed chorus that was directed by the Science teacher, Mrs. Rogers. Mrs. Chatman doubled as Speech and Drama along with her teaching duties. The Social Studies teacher, Mrs. Henderson directed the speech panels. All of these extra-curricular groups represented Henderson High at the meets of the Louisiana Interscholastic Athletic and Literary Organization better known as the LIALO. The students performed well in all areas and Henderson High became well known all over the state of Louisiana because of their participation and their outstanding abilities.
An important feature during those days was the fact that each homeroom teacher was called a class sponsor and remained so from the freshman through senior years spent at Henderson. This practice helped to promote a closeness whereby everyone expressed a certain type of loyalty to the teacher-student and student-student relationships.
During the early days of Henderson High, Mr. Henderson placed emphasis on the use of the auditorium. Each class presented a program at an assembly. It was here that the students received educational experiences and were taught the proper decorum that should be displayed during an assembly. For the first time, emphasis was placed on punctuality, school attendance, and the meaning of being loyal to one’s school and to each other.
A few school years later, the curriculum expanded to include Industrial Arts, Business Education, Music (both vocal and instrumental), Physical Education, and Speech and Drama.
With the addition of sports to the curriculum, learning sessions were taught by Mr. Henderson to have students act intelligently to the new sports events by teaching the proper signals of the game and what each signal meant.
The first coach at Henderson High School was Mr. Harold Miller- better known as “Coach Kankakee” because he was from Kankakee, Illinois. The first voice teacher was Mrs. Ethel Atlas Sparrow who brought a certain uniformity to the first organized Music Department of the school.
Henderson High’s students excelled in academic work, music, and athletics, and measured favorably with other outstanding schools within the state.
The girls in Home Economics were able to join the then NHA club (New Homemakers of America). Outstanding math students were inducted into Mu Alpha Theta, a math club, and there were other organizations and clubs connected with studies of the school that students worked hard to become affiliated with. There was always a functioning Student Council and many Career Day activities where outstanding personalities came to help with counseling students to become self-proficient and well-rounded students and citizens of America.
The mascot of the school was the tiger. The school’s colors were purple and gold and were suggested by the librarian, the late Mrs. Florence Pemilton. The words of the Alma Mater were set to music by M. Leslie Bennett, the band director at that time. Each school day began with the singing of the Alma Mater in every homeroom, and every student knew it and was proud of it.
Jonas Henderson high school remained on Anderson Street until the educational program expanded, too large for its present facilities, So… in 1967, the new Jonas Henderson High School on Jefferson Island Road was opened. The holding power of the first Jonas Henderson High School was largely responsible for the larger and much more modern facility. The Henderson High on Anderson Street was promoted by the late Superintendent, Mr. F. F. Wimberly.
The 1967 move to the new Jonas Henderson High School had approximately fifty faculty members and about nine hundred students.
Jonas Henderson High School students brought a great deal of notoriety to the school and made outstanding contributions in colleges they attended and in other endeavors, also to the city of New Iberia and to Iberia Parish. It provided many opportunities for students to get a high school education and to further their aspirations in varying vocations.
Many Henderson graduates are now making contributions to themselves, their families, and the communities in which they live in all walks of life.
Jonas Henderson High School was accredited and met the criterion to be approved and rated by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Emphasis at that time was “Educating the Whole Child”.
The last class to graduate from Jonas Henderson High School was in 1969.
Iberia Parish became integrated in September of 1969 and since that time, Jonas Henderson High School has become known as New Iberia Freshman High School.
There has been, and there will always be a certain indescribable kind of loyalty among students that attended Jonas Henderson High School. We Remember, and probably will forever, out of sentimentality, remember each of the schools as HENDERSON HIGH!