Austin-East High School

Austin-East High School, also known as Austin-East Magnet High School, is a public high school in Knoxville, Tennessee, operated by Knox County Schools.

Austin-East Magnet High School
2800 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue

Coordinates35°59′21″N 83°53′14″W / 35.98917°N 83.88722°W / 35.98917; -83.88722Coordinates: 35°59′21″N 83°53′14″W / 35.98917°N 83.88722°W / 35.98917; -83.88722
School districtKnox County Schools
Teaching staff54.90 (FTE)[1]
Enrollment685 (2018-19)[1]
Student to teacher ratio12.48[1]

The school includes a magnet school program in performing arts.[2]


Austin-East is the successor to two formerly racially segregated schools, the all-black Austin High School and the all-white East High School. The two schools were combined in 1968 to form the integrated Austin East High School, housed in the East High School building.[3]

Austin High School opened in 1879. It was named for Emily Austin, a white woman from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who raised money to establish the school as Knoxville's first black high school. She had arrived in Knoxville in 1870 with the goal of helping to educate African American children, who at the time were schooled in church basements, lodge halls, and one-room schoolhouses scattered throughout the area. For eight years she worked as a grade school teacher in black schools in Knoxville, then she returned to the North to seek donations for establishment of a black high school. She succeeded in raising $6,500, which was matched by $2,000 from the Knoxville Board of Education to start Austin High School.[3]

Edenton, North Carolina, native John W. Manning became school principal in 1881, the first black person to hold that position. An 1881 graduate of Yale University, Manning remained as principal until retiring in 1912. He was succeeded as principal by Charles W. Cansler, who had been teaching at Austin since 1900.[3]

In 1916, Austin High School left its initial location on Central Street in Knoxville to move to a new building on Payne Avenue. At the Payne Avenue location, the school was renamed Knoxville Colored High School. By 1928, that school building had become overcrowded due to a growing African American population, and the school moved to a new location on Vine Street, once again using the Austin High School name.[3] William A. Robinson became school principal in 1928. Robinson served for just two years before moving to Atlanta and being succeeded as principal by Thomas R. Davis. Davis was principal until his death in 1948, when Dean of Girls Fannie C. Clay assumed the position of acting principal until the appointment of Otis T. Hogue as principal in the fall of 1949.[3] In 1952 Austin moved to a new modern building one block from its previous location, remaining there until its merger with East High School.[3]

East High School was one of four schools, the others being West, South (now South-Doyle), and Fulton, that opened in 1951 following the split-up of old Knoxville High.[4] Initially an all-white school, East began to enroll black students in the early 1960s as the Knoxville city schools underwent a slow process of racial integration.[5] The school graduated a total of 17 classes before its merger with Austin High School in 1968.[6] Its sports teams were called the "Mountaineers."[6]

In 1968 the two schools, which were only some eight to ten blocks apart, were combined to form a single racially integrated high school located in the East High building and named Austin East High School.[3] The Austin school site became the location of Vine Middle School.[5] Following the merger, many white students from East High transferred to other high schools, leaving Austin-East as a predominantly black school.[7]

In 1987, authority for the school shifted from the city of Knoxville to Knox County when the city school system was consolidated into Knox County Schools.[8]

In 1997, the school received magnet school designation, offering a focus in performing arts, science and math.[9] In spite of the magnet program, which was intended to boost white enrollment, as of 2008-2009 more than 80% of Austin-East's students were African American. After several years of failing to meet performance benchmarks set under the No Child Left Behind Act, in 2008-2009 the school was reorganized into small learning communities.[10]

Magnet programEdit

The Austin-East magnet program in performing arts operates as a "school-within-a-school." Specialized offerings include dance, theater, vocal and instrumental music, and finance and business.[9]


Austin-East fields interscholastic teams in football, soccer, basketball, baseball, softball, cross country, track and field, marching band, wrestling, volleyball.[11] The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) classifies the school's football team in Class 3A[12] Its sports teams are nicknamed "Roadrunners." The boys' basketball team won the state championship in 1977 (AAA), 1985(AA), and 1987 (AA).[13][14] The football team won the Class 2A state championship in 1983, 1986, and the Class 3A state championship in 2001.[14][15] In 2007, Austin-East won the state championship in Class AA girls' basketball.[16] The boys track team won state championships in 1981(AAA) and 1987(A/AA). The girls track team won the A/AA championship in 1986, 1987, 1988, and 2007.[14]

Notable alumniEdit

  • Daniel Brown, the first African American to serve as mayor of Knoxville, is an Austin High School graduate
  • NFL player and executive Joey Clinkscales attended Austin-East in the late 1970s and early 1980s
  • Artists Beauford Delaney and Joseph Delaney attended Austin High School in the 1910s.[17]
  • Joe Fishback, 1987 graduate, former NFL athlete.
  • Poet Nikki Giovanni attended Austin High School from 1958 to 1960.[18]
  • Paul Hogue, basketball player, 2-time NCAA champion with Cincinnati, first-round pick in 1962 NBA Draft, attended Austin.
  • NFL player and executive Reggie McKenzie was the valedictorian for the Austin-East Class of 1981.[19] His twin brother, Raleigh McKenzie, also attended Austin-East.[20]
  • Football coach Carl Torbush attended East High School and remained at Austin-East after the merger for his senior year, graduating in the merged school's first class. He played several sports in high school and was the first Austin-East football player to receive all-state recognition. Torbush recalls being the only white student on some of his senior-year sports teams.[7][21]
  • Leroy Thompson, 1987 graduate, former NFL athlete, All-American football player who led Austin-East to a football, basketball, and track state championship his senior year.
  • NBA player and coach Elston Turner is a 1977 Austin-East graduate who played on the school's 1977 state championship basketball team.[22]
  • Bianca Belair, 2007 graduate, current NXT wrestler and former track and CrossFit competitor.


  1. ^ a b c "Austin East High/Magnet". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved May 7, 2020.
  2. ^ Magnet Schools Archived August 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Knox County Schools website
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Robert J. Booker, Austin High School (1879-1968), A Profile of African Americans in Tennessee History, Tennessee State University website, accessed April 7, 2011
  4. ^ John Shearer, Historic Knoxville High Recognized for Classic Revival Detailing, Knoxville News Sentinel, May 28, 2010. Retrieved: April 8, 2011.
  5. ^ a b John Shearer, Students, leaders made integration successful, Knoxville News Sentinel, February 13, 2011
  6. ^ a b Reunion brings together Knoxville East High School students, WBIR-TV, September 4, 2010
  7. ^ a b John Shearer, Experiences from merger formed coach; Torbush helped ease Austin-East transition, Knoxville News Sentinel, February 13, 2011
  8. ^ Ed Young and Harry Green, School System Consolidation, TACIR Staff Education Brief 8, Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, November 2005
  9. ^ a b Austin-East High School (profile), Knoxville News Sentinel website, accessed April 8, 2011
  10. ^ Rebecca Williams, Magnet schools offer variety, but still have problem attracting students, Knoxville News Sentinel, March 17, 2009
  11. ^ Member School Directory listing Archived July 28, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association website, accessed April 9, 2011
  12. ^ Classifications Archived April 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association website, accessed April 9, 2011
  13. ^ Mike Strange, Chemistry made A-E state champs; 12 Roadrunners went on to play at some level of college basketball, Knoxville News Sentinel, February 26, 2008
  14. ^ a b c TSSAA website Archived January 20, 2002, at the Wayback Machine, accessed July 25, 2011
  15. ^ Oak Ridge taps former player Stanton Stevens as head football coach Archived March 22, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, WATE-TV website, April 14, 2005.
  16. ^ 2007 TSSAA Class AA Girls Basketball State Tournament Bracket Archived July 28, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, TSSAA website, accessed April 9, 2011.
  17. ^ Jack Neely, "A Tale of Two Brothers," Metro Pulse, April 3–10, 1997. Accessed on the University of Tennessee website, April 7, 2011.
  18. ^ Nikki Giovanni Bio: Timeline Archived February 10, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Nikki Giovanni website, accessed April 7, 2011
  19. ^ Reggie McKenzie - Bio Archived February 25, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved: April 7, 2011.
  20. ^ Jesse Smithey, "Austin-East Honors Raleigh, Reggie McKenzie," Knoxville News Sentinel, September 10, 2011. Retrieved: March 24, 2013.
  21. ^ Carl Torbush profile Archived October 30, 2006, at the Wayback Machine, University of North Carolina Athletics website, accessed April 7, 2011
  22. ^ About Elston Archived March 22, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Elston Turner Basketball Camp website, accessed April 9, 2011

External linksEdit