Downtown Block 77 Goes Back to School

“Houston must have looked huge to Lyndon Johnson as he drove toward it across the flat Gulf plains in his battered little car,” writes Robert Caro in his biography of the former president. Johnson’s destination: Sam Houston High School (shown at top), which opened in 1921 in place of the even-older Central High School on the block bounded by Austin, Rusk, Caroline, and Capitol — the same spot where the new Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts is now “90 percent complete,according to Paper City’s Annie Gallay.

Hired to teach public speaking and coach the debate team, Johnson — writes Caro — promised his new principal he’d win the state championship. He didn’t, coming in second at the tournament in Austin. Still, Johnson had succeeded in making a name for himself among staff — who gave him a $100 raise and a contract for the next school year — and among the school’s 1,800 students — who jockeyed for enrollment in “Mr. Johnson’s speech class” during the following school year. By the end of LBJ’s first full year at Sam Houston, reports Caro, enrollment had increased from 60 to 110 new students.

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The new HSPVA will house about 750 students — some of which have already been over to the unfinished campus to check it out, reports Paper City. (Its opening is planned for next year.) Between the start of its construction in 2016 and the demolition of Sam Houston High (which in its later years functioned as HISD’s headquarters) in the early ’70s, the block spent about 4 decades as a publicly-owned parking lot.

Photos: Houston Post archives (Sam Houston High School); Houston ISD (HSPVA)

Sam Houston High to HSPVA

6 Comment

  • The house where LBJ lived during his teaching days in Houston still stands at 435 Hawthorne.

  • Of course the old school was demolished for a parking lot. Is there anything more “Houston” than that?

  • GlenW – And now it’s been converted again to a school. One of the crown jewels within the district, I might add. Change isn’t always bad.

  • The school’s principal is your pal, friend. -al.

  • I have seen Robert Caro being interviewed on his biographical research on LBJ, but I haven’t yet read his work (need to do that). Anyway … it is interesting to recognize that LBJ had a strong Houston connection, which helped propel him into the presidency. Like all of us, he was not a perfect person … but he did some good things. My main point: I think it would be fitting for the new HSPVA to have a plaque or something to remind people of the history of that location. It is an oddity of Houston that we so rarely remember the people who passed through here who wound up having an impact on society.

  • “promised his new principle”? What did the principal think about that?