Washington High School History
Washington High School was initially established in the early 1940’s as Airport Elementary. It was originally located at Chennault Airfield, which was a military base located in Lake Charles, Louisiana. In 1941, the first school year commenced with a faculty of ten teachers and five hundred seventeen students. Two additional teachers were added to the faculty in January of the first school year in order to reduce crowded classrooms. Four army barracks divided the twelve classrooms, serving children from grades 1-8. Because of a lack of transportation in the black community and the school location, buses were used to transport students who did not live within walking distance. This provision helped the school maintain one of the best attendance records among Calcasieu Parish schools at that time. Throughout the school year, high grade point averages were maintained. As a result of the academic excellence, twelve students in the eighth grade completed their elementary work.
In 1947, the PTA (Parent Teacher Association) was established to help increase enrollment at the school and to attract more Parents to become participants in school-related activities. The PTA had a strong desire to work diligently and cooperatively with the school to attain goals that would resolve these existing issues. Airport Elementary School opened its doors to a larger pupil enrollment and a faculty increased from twelve teachers to seventeen teachers for the 1948 -1949 session. Twenty -two students completed eighth grade and entered high school. This was an increase compared to the twelve students who had completed eighth grade the previous school year. Airport Elementary School closed its doors after the 1949 school year.
On September 2, 1949, construction began on Washington Elementary School, which would be the new school site for African American students; the school would house grades 1-12.
In 1847 Spencer Washington was born in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana. In 1878, he and his brother Isham purchased 80 acres of property beginning on the east side of North Prater Street to Highway 171 and from the Southern Pacific Railroad Track north to Opelousas Street. The original property was homesteaded and later purchased through land grant entitlement, accession/ serial number LA0320_497BLM serial number: LA No S/N. The Washington family was dedicated to the education of all children and were intent on providing an opportunity for black children to have a place to attend school in their own community. This was the beginning of Washington School which was built on land donated by Spencer Washington for black students.
Parents, teachers and students were delighted to begin the 1951-1952 school term in the newly constructed building known as Washington Elementary School, located at 301 Cherry Street. After several weeks of construction, a cafeteria was added. It served more than $2,000 worth of free, hot lunches to the students. In March 1952, two teachers were added to the faculty and two more teachers were added in October 1952 because of the population growth of the school. The faculty expanded to nineteen teachers.
Washington High School began as a high school, grades 1-12 in 1953. More than a thousand students and thirty-three faculty members began the 1953-1954 school year. During this school year, enrollment increased, and two additional teachers were added. The year ended with an enrollment of 1330 students. Ninety -five elementary graduates, and 16 high school graduates. Because of overcrowding, four rooms were added to the Cherry Street building in the summer of 1954. The 1954-1955 school year began on September 7, 1954, forty-two teachers, a secretary, principal and over fifteen hundred students were welcomed.
In 1970’s, middle schools were introduced, and Washington Elementary School became Washington High School, grades 9-12. Washington High school continued operations until 1984, when it merged with Marion High School. The merger created Washington-Marion High School. The building on Cherry Street is still in use and was renovated; it became the new site for Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic School.
Jessie D. Clifton Elementary, named in honor of the first principal, is currently using the building on 100 North Prater Street. The school’s motto, “Together We Stand, Divided We Fall,” is carried on today in the hearts 0f its graduates.
Notable individuals were Mrs. Jessie D. Clifton, principal of Washington High School from 1950’s to the 1960’s; and Mr. Roscoe J. Moore, principal of Washington High School from 1970’s to its closing. The Washington LeDeaux families were proud to have contributed to the education of black students from the north Lake Charles, Brownsville, Cove, Fisherville, Gossport and Iowa communities.
Washington High School Alma Mater
Washington, O’ Washington
We your children are.
We love you, We love you
For all your worth and more.
In our rooms and on the field;
Where ever we may be,We will always keep your name and
We’ll raise your banner high.For Washington,
for Washington We’ll praise thee ever more.
We love every part of our school
and adore every inch of our ground.
Whenever you need us dear Washington,
We will always be around.