Central High School (Tulsa, Oklahoma)

Central High School is the oldest high school in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was founded in 1906 as Tulsa High School, and located in downtown Tulsa until 1976. The school now has a 47-acre (19 ha) campus in northwest Tulsa. Tulsa Central is part of the Tulsa Public Schools, Oklahoma's largest school district, and is a public school for students from grades 9 through 12. Since 1997 it has served as a fine and performing arts magnet school.[2]

Central High School
Central High School - 05 - Front Left 02.png
3101 West Edison Street
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74127
TypePublic fine arts and performing arts magnet school
PrincipalJason Gilley
Staff24.76 (FTE)[1]
Number of students483 (2018–19)[1]
Student to teacher ratio19.51[1]
Color(s)Crimson and cream


The original Tulsa High School was erected in 1906 at Fourth and Boston in downtown Tulsa. In 1913 it became the third school in the state to win accreditation. A new building opened in 1917 at the corner of Sixth and Cincinnati, and was enlarged in 1922. The Manual Arts building at Ninth and Cincinnati was added in 1925.[3] Tulsa Central was at one time said to be the second largest high school in the country, and included an indoor pool, an indoor track, an extensive art collection, and a large pipe organ.[4][5]

Central was Tulsa's only public high school for white students, and by 1938 it had grown to its peak enrollment of more than 5,000 students in grades 10–12.[3] Finally, Tulsa opened two new high schools: Webster High School in West Tulsa (in 1938), and Will Rogers High School east of downtown (in 1939).[6] Booker T. Washington High School was established for African American students in 1913. Tulsa's schools were legally racially segregated by race until 1955, and remained segregated de facto at least into the 1970s, due to population patterns and school policies.[7]

The construction of Tulsa's Inner Dispersal Loop freeway impaired the school's access to the outdoor physical education facilities at Central Park and Tracy Park. The cost of downtown parking was also a problem. These factors led to the decision to move the school out of downtown. The new 47-acre (19 ha) campus was opened in 1976, at 31st West Avenue and Edison Street,[3] in the portion of northwest Tulsa that is located in Osage County.

The old Central High School building at Sixth and Cincinnati was leased by Public Service Company of Oklahoma ("PSO"). After a complete renovation and extensive interior modifications in 1977, it now serves as PSO's headquarters. The renovated and adapted building has been named a Tulsa landmark by the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture.[4][8][9] The former Manual Arts Building at Ninth and Cincinnati is now part of the downtown campus of Tulsa Community College.[3] PSO terminated the old high school building lease and bought the building outright in 2013.[10]

Notable facultyEdit

Adah RobinsonEdit

Adah Robinson, an art teacher at Tulsa Central for several years in the late 1910s, is credited with the design of the Boston Avenue Methodist Church, an outstanding example of religious Art Deco architecture that is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.[11][12] Robinson's collaborator in the design was Bruce Goff, her former student at Tulsa Central, and an architectural prodigy who designed 61 Tulsa buildings between 1920[13] and 1931.[14] The precise extent of Goff's and Robinson's respective contributions to the church remains controversial.[15]

Goff and Robinson also collaborated on the design of Robinson's own house, built 1927–1929, and now listed as an Art Deco landmark in Tulsa's Tracy Park Historic District. The house was finished by another Robinson student, Joseph R. Koberling, Jr. who also became an important Tulsa architect and later worked on another city landmark, Will Rogers High School.[14][16][17]

In 1928, Robinson established and headed the art department at the University of Tulsa. She redesigned the interiors of several other notable Tulsa churches. She received an honorary doctorate from the University of Tulsa in 1936. From 1945 to 1959 she chaired the art department at Trinity University (Texas), in San Antonio, Texas. She died in Tulsa in 1962.[18]

Isabelle RonanEdit

Isabelle Ronan, who taught at Tulsa Central from 1922 to 1955, became a well-known mentor for students interested in performing arts and broadcasting. In the words of a 1997 Tulsa World article,

The Central High School of that era was known for its superior theater and drama department, a different discipline from "speech" connected with debate or oratory. The reason: A gifted and inspired teacher named Isabelle Ronan, who had a knack for recognizing students with theatrical talent and desire to perform. She was the MISS Ronan to students, other teachers and administrative staff as well.[19]

Teacher of Paul HarveyEdit

One of Ronan's most famous students was radio legend Paul Harvey, then named Paul Harvey Aurandt. Harvey credited Ronan with getting his career started at the age of 14. Harvey said that Ronan was "impressed by his voice".[20]

She took me by the hand and marched me down to KVOO, and said this young man ought to be on the radio. She just wouldn't accept no. So I did my school chores in the daytime and hung around the radio station so many hours at night that they finally put me on the payroll to limit those hours.[21]

Harvey told this story in repeated interviews.[20][21][22] He also paid tribute to Ronan in a nostalgic 1994 radio broadcast delivered after he had returned to Tulsa for a fundraising banquet.[23]

Other notable Ronan studentsEdit

In addition to Paul Harvey, other Ronan students at Tulsa Central who went on to professional success in broadcasting or the performing arts included:

Notable coachesEdit

Eddie Sutton began his head coaching career at Tulsa Central, where he coached 1959–1966 before going on to become one of only seven major men's college basketball coaches to have over 800 career wins.[32]

Tommy Hudspeth coached football at Tulsa Central in 1956 before moving on to the college and professional ranks, most notably for eight years as the head coach at Brigham Young University.

Art Griffith was the wrestling coach at Tulsa Central for 15 years, winning ten state and two national wrestling tournaments. He moved on to Oklahoma State University in 1941, where he led the Cowboys to 8 national championships and was elected to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.[33] Griffith's successor at Tulsa Central was Rex Peery, who later became the Pittsburgh Panthers wrestling coach, and was also elected to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.[34][35]

Notable alumniEdit

In addition to the Adah Robinson and Isabelle Ronan students mentioned above, other notable persons who attended Tulsa Central include:


  1. ^ a b c "CENTRAL HS". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved January 28, 2021.
  2. ^ Kris Dudley, "Fame: Central High School Takes on Role as Magnet Site for the Arts", Tulsa World, August 20, 1997.
  3. ^ a b c d Joyce Saunders, "Central High School" at Tulsa Central High School Foundation (retrieved March 24, 2009).
  4. ^ a b Kirby Lee Davis, "These Walls: Tulsa's Central High School", Oklahoma City Journal-Record, April 11, 2008 (retrieved March 24, 2009).
  5. ^ Danna Sue Walker, "Piping up", Tulsa World, February 14, 2003.
  6. ^ Barbara Hoberock, "Grads Recall Central's Fast Times", Tulsa World, May 27, 1990.
  7. ^ "School Desegregation in Tulsa, Oklahoma" (abstract), U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 1977.
  8. ^ "About Us" at Public Service Company of Oklahoma ("PSO") website (retrieved March 24, 2009). (Note that the current PSO Building—the former Central High School building at Sixth and Cincinnati—is not the same building as the older Public Service Company building at Sixth and Main, which is now on the listed on the Register of Historic Places for Tulsa County.)
  9. ^ Danna Sue Walker, "Tulsa Foundation for Architecture honors local people and places", Tulsa World, November 9, 2007.
  10. ^ Evatt, Robert. "AEP-PSO buys its main office." Tulsa World. December 11, 2013. Accessed September 18, 2013.
  11. ^ "Boston Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church, South". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on December 14, 2009. Retrieved January 18, 2008.
  12. ^ Art Deco Buildings in Tulsa: Boston Avenue Methodist Church Archived October 13, 2008, at the Wayback Machine at Tulsa Preservation Commission website.
  13. ^ One of Goff's first designs was the McGregor House, c. 1920, at 1401 S. Quaker Avenue in Tulsa, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. https://www.nps.gov/nr/feature/places/14000299.htm
  14. ^ a b Wayne Curtis, "Tulsa's Deco Gems: How an Oklahoma city fell in love with art deco and never really got over it", Preservation, July/August 2008.
  15. ^ Gene Curtis, "Dispute rages over church's designer", Tulsa World, December 25, 2006.
  16. ^ Art Deco Buildings in Tulsa: Adah Robinson Residence Archived January 3, 2012, at the Wayback Machine at Tulsa Preservation Commission website.
  17. ^ Art Deco Buildings in Tulsa: Will Rogers High School Archived October 22, 2009, at the Wayback Machine at Tulsa Preservation Commission website.
  18. ^ Dianna Everett, "Robinson, Adah Matilda (1882–1962)" Archived February 21, 2014, at the Wayback Machine at Oklahoma Historical Society Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Archived December 21, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Lou Ann Ruark, "Story Teller: Tulsa Woman's Readings, Now Stilled, Linger in Memories", Tulsa World, November 2, 1997.
  20. ^ a b Rick Kogan, "Good days for Paul Harvey"[permanent dead link], Chicago Tribune, August 4, 2002.
  21. ^ a b Joe Howard, "Paul Harvey: A Legend Looks Back" Archived September 28, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Radio Ink, November 2, 2006.
  22. ^ Marc Fisher, "A Lifetime on the Radio" Archived November 20, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, American Journalism Review, October 1998.
  23. ^ "Return to Hometown Lets Harvey Lay Ghosts to Rest", transcript of "Tulsa Travelog" from Paul Harvey's radio program as reprinted in Tulsa World, March 20, 1994.
  24. ^ Thomas Conner, "Randall's dreams of acting started in Tulsa", Tulsa World, May 19, 2004.
  25. ^ "Soap star and former Tulsan Mary Stuart dies", Tulsa World, March 2, 2002.
  26. ^ "Mary Stuart, 76, a Star In 2 Soap Operas, Is Dead", The New York Times, March 3, 2002.
  27. ^ Phil Sweetland, "Danny Dark, voice of StarKist tuna and others; 65", San Diego Union-Tribune, July 3, 2004.
  28. ^ a b "Central High alumni; Miss Isabelle Ronan, teacher", at Tulsa TV Memories.
  29. ^ James D. Watts Jr., "Pitter Patter", Tulsa World, October 25, 2002.
  30. ^ Chicago Television Timeline. (Retrieved November 5, 2011.)
  31. ^ "Anchor's Aweigh: Former WMAQ Newscaster Gladly Watches His Life Go Adrift", Chicago Tribune, November 27, 1988.
  32. ^ a b c d "Thursday a big day for Central", Tulsa World, September 23, 2001.
  33. ^ "Art Griffith" biography Archived May 25, 2011, at the Wayback Machine at National Wrestling Hall of Fame website.
  34. ^ Denny Diehl, "Peery Family," in Jairus K. Hammond, The History of Collegiate Wrestling (Stillwater, OK: National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum, 2006), ISBN 978-0-9765064-0-9, pp. 112–113 (excerpt available here).
  35. ^ Rex Peery biography Archived May 25, 2011, at the Wayback Machine at National Wrestling Hall of Fame website.
  36. ^ "Alumni Named to Central High Hall of Fame", Tulsa World, November 3, 1991.
  37. ^ "Previous Librarians of Congress: Daniel J. Boorstin 1914–2004" at Library of Congress website.
  38. ^ a b Kline, Joshua. The White Dove Review: How a Group of Tulsa Teens Created a Literary Legend This Land Press (2010).
  39. ^ "JJ Cale" (obituary), The Sunday Telegraph, July 28, 2013.
  40. ^ Jennifer Chancellor, "Now hear this: Tulsa Sound stalwart Rocky Frisco keeps the music coming", Tulsa World, December 28, 2007.
  41. ^ Dustin O'Connor, "Hartz, James L." Archived July 30, 2010, at the Wayback Machine at Oklahoma Historical Society Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture Archived December 21, 2008, at the Wayback Machine (retrieved June 18, 2009).
  42. ^ "Ben Henneke: A gentleman and a scholar", Tulsa World, November 17, 2009.
  43. ^ "Biography GARY HOWARD". The Oklahoman newsok.com. August 15, 1999. Retrieved May 17, 2015.
  44. ^ a b Andrea Eger, "Central grads to be honored", Tulsa World, November 12, 2000.
  45. ^ Braudrick, Nicole L. (May 1, 1996). "Western Soul: Brandon Jenkins Reinvents His Style". Tulsa World.
  46. ^ Ziva Branstetter, "George Kaiser makes mark on Tulsa", Tulsa World, October 16, 2011.
  47. ^ "Leroy McGuirk" Archived January 30, 2009, at the Wayback Machine biography at Oklafan.com
  48. ^ Yvonne Litchfield, "`Golden Memories' await Central High's class of '49", Tulsa World, April 18, 1999.
  49. ^ Manny Gamallo, "Lingering Vietnam War touched many in state: Tulsan's 'celebrity' status led to torture as a captive of the North Vietnamese", Tulsa World, July 15, 2007.
  50. ^ Gene Curtis, "Only in Oklahoma: Tulsa Marine saved others before he died", Tulsa World, March 23, 2007.
  51. ^ Patrick Suppes, "Intellectual Autobiography (written in 1978)" at Stanford University website (accessed December 2, 2010).

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 36°09′46″N 96°01′37″W / 36.162761°N 96.026927°W / 36.162761; -96.026927