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  • Thu, October 01, 2015 6:40 PM | Anonymous member

    On the morning of May 16, 2007, Bernard Rapoport arrived at a VIP reception inside an old classroom at his alma mater, Jefferson High School. The room was abuzz with fellow grads, giants in their field, sipping coffee, enjoying pastries. Each was invited, like Rapoport, for a unique occasion.

    In the room stood a Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, a retired Army Brigadier General, a Hollywood producer with a classic film, “The Big Chill,” that earned a Best Picture Oscar nomination. In the next hour, they and others would be inducted as charter members into the Jefferson Alumni Hall of Fame. As Rapoport gazed about the room, his throat tightened, his eyes grew moist.

    As a Hall of Fame organizer and alum (Class of ‘77), I introduced myself to the gentleman who had become a great philanthropist, donating millions to charitable causes. As we shook hands, I studied his face, watching it fill with emotion. Perhaps he could read my mind. For without being asked, Rapoport (‘35) explained: “This is the first time,” he said, “that anyone has honored me without asking for money.”

    The wealthy know the expectation attached to awards. We celebrate your achievements, you write a big check. The invitation extended to Rapoport asked for nothing except his presence. “Bernie” or “B,” as friends used to call him, was moved and you could see it in his eyes.

    Before “B” made his riches, he grew up with pennies. The son of Jewish immigrants, B knew poverty as a youth. His father peddled blankets for 10 cents in impoverished San Antonio neighborhoods. At age 6, he came home from school to find the family furniture in the streets, his parents evicted. For years, the Rapoports’ never had running water, gas and telephone service at the same time.

    A bright student, B graduated from Jefferson during the Depression and earned a scholarship to the University of Texas. He worked through school at a jewelry store. After earning his degree in 1939 (BA Economics), B took a job in Austin, and later in Wichita Falls. While flying to San Antonio in December 1942, B had a layover in Waco. There, he met Audre Newman and fell in love. Within weeks, they married. 

    Not long after, Audre persuaded her husband to open a jewelry store in Waco. B remained in the jewelry business for several years. 

    In 1951, he borrowed $25,000 and started a company in Indianapolis, Ind., American Life, which sold low-cost hospital insurance plans. With the assistance of his uncle and company president, Harold Goodman, American LIfe grew quickly. In two years, the start-up went from receiving $95,000 in premium income to $1 million. 

    In 1954, B and Goodman formed a new company, American Income LIfe Insurance. By 1956, the company was operating in 13 states. Two years later, American Income moved its headquarters to Waco. The company’s income reached $31.5 million In 1973. The company was sold for $563 million in 1994. 

    Wealth brought out the best in B. He donated millions of dollars to UT for scholarships and endowed chairs. In 1987, he spent $46 million to start the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation, which benefited education and the arts and supported numerous Jewish institutions. Fortune magazine named him one of America’s “40 Most Generous Philanthropists.” 

    Former UT chancellor William Cunningham once told the New York Times, “I have never known anyone who liked to make money as much as he did, and liked to give it away as much as he did.”

    On April 5, 2012, B died in Waco. He was 94. His passing generated an outpouring of tributes and considerable media attention. He was recalled as a kind man with a big heart. He was remembered for starting a volunteer tutoring in Waco’s public schools, for serving himself as a weekly volunteer. “Through education,” he said after winning the Horatio Alger Award in 1999, “we accord people their dignity.”

    When I read of his passing, I found myself back in the classroom, shaking his hand, looking into those eyes. I will never forget that moment, the sound of his voice, the emotion he conveyed. A man who had given so much was now receiving, and the honor, poignant and priceless, moved him as he had moved others.

  • Sat, April 12, 2014 10:16 AM | Anonymous member

    He walked into my living room to prepare for a TV quiz show. He was lean and confident and wore the perfect accoutrement for a teenager equally skilled at discussing science, mathematics or crushing you in a debate: black, horned-rim glasses.

    W.E. Moerner looked and sounded every bit as intelligent as his reputation. My mother, Blanche, had told me all about him. She did not use the word “genius.” But she spun such incredible and vivid anecdotes about him that it was impossible not to reach that conclusion.

    As senior counselor at Jefferson, my mother worked closely with Moerner and his cohort of brilliant friends. On this day in 1971, the four Jeff team members came to our house to practice for “On The Spot,” a local quiz show produced by Frank Rosengren (Class of 1944) that featured opposing high school teams answering questions about current events. Moerner does not recall the school Jefferson faced that day. Nor does he remember the outcome. But I remember this: Jefferson won easily.

    My mother told me that Moerner had received a full scholarship to attend Washington University in Missouri. That was in 1971. I never heard about him again until last year when I came upon his name on the internet. I learned he had become chemistry department chair at Stanford University. I also learned that he had won the Wolf Prize in chemistry. I found two online reporters who predicted him as a future Nobel Prize winner.

    As a researcher for IBM In the late 1980s, Moerner and his postdoctoral scholar from Germany, Lothar Kador, used a laser to study the behavior of molecules. At the time, molecules could not be measured or detected individually. They had to be measured in huge aggregates of clusters of millions or billions. Using precision laser spectroscopic techniques, Moerner and Kador were the first to detect a single molecule in condensed matter with light.

    “We removed all averaging over a large ensemble of assumed identical molecules,” Moerner explains. “It’s very much like saying that the average house in the United States is 1,000 square feet. But we know there is tremendous variation and individual differences in the houses. That’s the way it was before this experiment to detect and measure molecules, one by one. It represents the ultimate detection limit. It lets us test whether all molecules are identical or slightly different in various ways.”

    The optical study of single molecules has since become widely used in chemistry, physics and biology. In 2008, Moerner received the Wolf Prize for his discovery. The prize, awarded to scientists as well as artists, is considered second in importance to the Nobel Prize. More than 30 Wolf Prize recipients have gone on to win the Nobel in medicine, physics and chemistry.

    My late mother (Class of 1950) would be proud. She would not be surprised. The stories she told about Moerner pointed to a future as bright as the laser that would detect a single molecule. What mom admired most was Moerner’s diverse talents and broad range of interests. He played the bassoon in the marching band. He served as editor of “Each Has Spoken” and president of the National Honor Society. He worked on the stage crew, competed on the debate team and served as Sgt. of Arms in BiPhyChem. He was a member of Masque & Gavel, Quill & Scroll, the Forum, the Russian Toastmasters, the Radio club and the Sophomore Scholastic Society. He was a National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT) finalist.

    “There were no aspirations for greatness when I was at Jeff,” Moerner says. “I was just having fun learning. I  enjoyed mathematics and science and was involved in a whole bunch of activities.”

    Mom encouraged Moerner to apply for the prestigious Langsdorf Fellowship from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Washington University. He not only applied for and received it, W.E. squeezed every ounce of learning possible from the award. Moerner earned three bachelor’s degrees in four years: one in electrical engineering, one in physics, one in mathematics, all with highest honors.

    He later earned a master’s and doctorate in physics from Cornell. Then he went to IBM Research and made history. International acclaim followed. Scientific bloggers began predicting a Nobel in his future. Whether he wins the prize or not, Moerner’s single molecule legacy is secure.

    As the “Everyday Scientist” blog noted in 2012, “Single-molecule imaging has matured into an important technique in biophysics. Just go to a Biophysical Society meeting and see all the talks and posters with ‘single molecule’ in the title!”

    Once, 43 years ago, a horned-rimmed high school senior walked into my living room to prepare for a quiz show. Days later, when the TV lights flashed on and the contest began, viewers got a glimpse of a young man who would change the world of science
  • Sat, December 21, 2013 8:04 PM | Anonymous member

    In the orchestra pit, a driving ensemble of horns, bass and drums played the theme to "Rocky." On steps leading to the stage climbed an elderly woman, short, slightly stooped with gray hair and a look of wonder.

    Sixty four years after graduating from Jefferson High School, Marcia Nasatir (nee: Birenberg) returned to her alma mater with a reception befitting a Hollywood star: a blast of trumpets, a video clip on an overhead screen, a thunderous ovation in an auditorium overflowing with people and history.

    When the music ended and the screen went black, Nasatir settled in behind a podium to address a gathering of students, faculty and alumni. Nasatir left Jefferson in 1943 to pursue a degree in journalism at Northwestern. She returned as a behind-the-scenes giant in Hollywood: the producer of "The Big Chill" (three Oscar nominations) and "Ironweed" (two Oscar nominations), the former president of Johnny Carson Productions and the first female vice president of United Artists, which produced "Rocky," "Coming Home," and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," each film a winner of multiple Oscars.

    Before she uttered a word, awe, thick and palpable, spread from stage to balcony, sweeping over seats and filling hearts. It was hard to tell who was moved more: the woman or her audience. Nasatir thanked everyone present, reflected briefly on her years at Jefferson and encouraged students to dream big.

    Dream they did. On May 16, 2007, a parade of illustrious graduates took turns presenting stories and remarks to an astonished student body during Jefferson’s 75th anniversary. Who knew that in the distant and mostly forgotten past were former students -- newly enshrined in the Alumni Hall of Fame -- who had changed the world?

    A Nobel Prize winner in chemistry (Robert Curl, Class of ‘50) recalled the Jefferson teacher -- the late Lorena Davis -- who inspired him to scientific discovery. A retired Johnson Space Center director (Aaron Cohen, Class of ‘49) recounted the high school classes that led him to a career in engineering, where he helped design the lunar module that carried the first man to the lunar surface.

    “The courses I took at Jefferson High School enabled me and gave me the confidence and the capability to work on that project of sending me to the moon,” Cohen said.

    The revelations overwhelmed. The unveiling of the Alumni Hall of Fame was, by design, like the unveiling of a dramatic surprise, one after another, until, at the end, the audience was emotionally spent.

    Soft but audible “wows” filled the aisles. Also heard, echoing out the auditorium and down the hallway, from student to teacher and aid to administrator, was this: “I had no idea.” Then there was the grizzled coach who stamped a single word on the event: “awesome.”

    And so it was. The Jefferson High School Alumni Hall of Fame was created six years ago to educate and inspire current students and to honor 16 from another generation. It was presented with fanfare, filmed for posterity, reported by local media and celebrated with raw emotion.

    Perhaps no one was more touched than Bernard Rapoport (Class of ‘34), a philanthropist who has donated millions of dollars to charity and higher education. “This is the first time,” Rapoport said off stage, his eyes welling, “that anyone has honored me without asking for money.”

    Two retired Jefferson teachers, a former librarian and a journalist -- yours truly -- selected the honored graduates from dozens of distinguished candidates. Overwhelmed by the volume of accomplished alumni -- two State Supreme Court Justices did not make the cut -- the selection committee set a lofty standard: Only graduates who had made an international or national impact would be considered for the Hall of Fame.

    The teachers (Mary Jo Klingman and Betty Janert), the librarian (Sheila Acosta) and I met for months to research and narrow the field. We wanted students to learn about renowned alumni from previous generations. But we also wanted them to connect with more contemporary alumni. To strike that balance, we selected 12 alumni for the Hall of Fame and honored four  more as “distinguished alumni,” graduates who, in some cases, are still building their legacies and may lack international or national achievement.

    Below are capsules of those inducted:

    Hall of Fame Honorees

    Robert Cole (Class of 1933) -- Military hero. Lt. Col. Cole received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the D-Day invasion of France in World War II. While commanding a battalion of paratroopers to capture heavily fortified bridges over the Douve River, his unit became pinned during intense enemy fire. Despite the loss of many lives, Lt. Cole inspired the rest of his men to follow him and led them to establish a bridgehead essential to the success of the invasion.

    Aaron Cohen (Class of 1949) -- Spaceflight pioneer. In 1969, Cohen managed the computer guidance system for the Apollo 11 command and landing modules that carried the first man to the moon. In 33 years at NASA, he played critical roles in six lunar landings. A brilliant engineer, he also managed the Space Shuttle Orbiter and served as director of the Johnson Space Center for 13 years. At Jefferson, he was a state singles champion in tennis.

    Robert Curl (Class of 1950) -- Nobel Prize winner. In 1996, Curl and two colleagues were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their discovery of fullerenes, molecules composed entirely of carbon in the form of a hollow sphere, also called “buckyballs.” Curl has been a professor of chemistry at Rice, his alma mater, since 1958. His research interests at Rice included developing DNA genotyping and sequencing instrumentation.

    Lillian Dunlap (Class of 1938) -- Brigadier General. Dunlap began her nursing career as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1942 and became the second woman promoted to Brigadier General in the U.S. Army. She also served as Chief of the Army Nurse Corps. Her military awards include the Distinguished Service Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal. Gen. Dunlap was a founding member of the Army Medical Department Museum Foundation and served as its president.

    Gus Garcia (Class of 1932) -- Civil rights lawyer. The first valedictorian of Jefferson, Garcia was an assistant Bexar County District Attorney and served in World War II. In 1954, he won a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case in the murder trial of Pete Hernandez. The high court ruled that Hispanics could not be excluded from juries and ordered a new trial. The decision enabled Hispanics to successfully fight discrimination in housing and employment.

    Henry B. Gonzalez (Class of 1935) -- Congressman. Before he became the first Hispanic from Texas elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, Henry B. served on the San Antonio City Council, in the Texas House of Representatives and in the Texas Senate. His 36-hour filibuster in the Texas Legislature succeeded in killing eight racial segregation bills. He served in Congress from 1961-1998, longer than any other Hispanic.

    Jim Lehrer (Class of 1952) -- Television journalist. A former sports editor of The Declaration,  Lehrer has become one of the most recognized and honored journalists in the U.S. A winner of two Emmy Awards, he co-anchored The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour for years, anchored the PBS NewsHour and has moderated 12 presidential debates. A former newspaper reporter,  Lehrer has written several novels and is a member of the Television Hall of Fame.

    Marcia Nasatir (Class of 1943) -- Film executive, producer. As a literary agent, Nasatir sold the movie rights to “All The President’s Men” and “The Exorcist.” She became the first female vice president at United Artists, which produced “Rocky” and “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” -- all multiple Academy Award winners. She produced “The Big Chill,” which received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, and served as President of Johnny Carson Productions.

    Tommy Nobis (Class of 1962) -- NFL star. The Atlanta Falcons selected Nobis, a linebacker, with the first pick of the 1966 NFL draft. He earned Rookie Of The Year honors and was voted to five Pro Bowls. In college, he starred on Texas’ 1963 national championship team and won All-America honors. Sports Illustrated called him the best linebacker in college football history and named him to its All-Century team. Nobis is in the College Football Hall of Fame.

    Bernard Rapoport (Class of 1935) -- Philanthropist. The son of a father who sold blankets for 10 cents, Rapoport became one of America’s great rags-to-riches stories. He borrowed $25,000 to start American Income Life and sold the insurance company for $563 million. He  donated $46 million to start a foundation that benefitted education and the arts. He donated millions to the University of Texas and is a former Chairman of the UT Board of Regents.

    Blair Reeves (Class of 1942) -- Judge, war hero. Paralyzed from gunfire on Okinawa in World War II, Reeves returned to the U.S., completed law school and became a distinguished jurist. He served as a Bexar County judge and Chief Justice of the 4th Court of Appeals. In 1967, he cast the deciding vote to double the local hospital tax, which led to the University of Texas Health Science Center, an internationally known research center.

    Kyle Rote (Class of 1947) -- NFL star. As a receiver, Kyle led the New York Giants to the 1956 NFL championship and played in four Pro Bowls. As a halfback at SMU, he finished second in the Heisman Trophy, threw the discus and pole vaulted. He led Jefferson to the state finals in football (1946) and basketball (1947). He hit .347 as a minor league baseball player. Mickey Mantle once said, “Kyle Rote is the greatest natural athlete I ever saw.”

    Distinguished Graduates

    Holly Dunn (Class of 1975) -- Country music star. Dunn was named among the Top 100 country music artists in history. She earned three Grammy Award nominations and recorded four No. 1 hits and several Top 10 singles. Dunn was named Top New Female Vocalist in 1986, Country Songwriter of the Year in 1988 and was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. She has performed for Presidents Reagan, Clinton and both Bush’s.

    Ed Garza (Class of 1986) -- Mayor, city councilman. Garza served two terms on the City  Council, representing the Jefferson neighborhood in District 7, before becoming the youngest mayor -- at age 32 -- in San Antonio history in 2001. Garza served two terms as mayor. He has served as President of the San Antonio Independent District School Board and has served as an adjunct professor at UTSA and St. Mary’s University.

    Laura Groff (Class of 1982) -- Volleyball star, coach. After winning the Tommy Nobis award as a three-sport star at Jefferson, Laura captained the University of Texas to four Southwest Conference volleyball championships. She earned All-America honors and was named to the SWC All-Decade team. After playing pro volleyball, Laura became a championship coach at St. Mary’s and the winningest coach in history at UTSA.

    Alfredo Valenzuela (Class of 1966) -- Major General. After graduating with a C average from Jefferson, Valenzuela served 33 years in the U.S. Army and earned four degrees from St. Mary’s University. He rose to become commanding general of the U.S. Army South -- an area that covers Central and South America and the Caribbean. Before he retired in 2004 with numerous medals and two stars. Maj. Gen. Valenzuela served in posts around the world.

  • Tue, July 30, 2013 10:30 PM | Anonymous member

    It was the pep talk of a lifetime, a pre-game speech charged with enough star power to light up a stadium. Sixty four years later, Joe Monaco barely remembers a word. What he does recall, though, is the awe that swept over him and his Jefferson High teammates when five surprise guests entered the room.

    1949 state championship trophyThe 1949 Mustangs blinked in wonder. There before them stood five SMU football stars: Doak Walker, the 1948 Heisman Trophy winner; Kyle Rote, a future Heisman runner-up; Pat Knight, a rugged all-Southwest Conference linebacker; and ends Sonny Payne and Benny White, who had starred at Jefferson with Knight and Rote.

    At the invitation of Jefferson coach Jewell Wallace, the Fantastic Five arrived to inspire the Mustangs before their state championship game against Dallas Sunset. For a gathering of teen boys, it was like listening to Knute Rockne deliver “Win One For The Gipper” -- times five.

    The Sunset Bisons were bigger and stronger than the Mustangs. They were playing at home in Dallas, and featured a future NFL tackle, 245-pound Don “Tiny” Goss, who was all but impossible to block. The Mustangs, on the other hand, featured a pair of 145-pound halfbacks, S.M. Meeks and Louis Pantuso, and a line anchored by 166-pound center, Dan Blenis. Only one starting lineman -- 206-pound tackle Eric Knebel -- weighed more than 188 pounds.

    It didn’t matter. After the Walker-Rote and Co. speech in a Dallas hotel room, the Mustangs took apart Sunset, 31-13, at Dal-Hi Stadium to claim the school’s first and only state football title, then known as the City Conference state championship.

    Quarterback Eddie Mac Chambers threw three touchdown passes to Don Raybourn. Meeks scored on a 45-yard run. Billy Quinn ran 14 yards for the final touchdown. In the jubilant aftermath, Mac Chambers told reporters, “I waited three years for this!”

    Players celebrated at after-parties. Some secured dinner dates; others found fun in ways that,  one player recalls, almost got them in trouble. But for most, one memory stands out. “We got to meet Walker, Rote, Knight and Payne,” says Monaco, a reserve tackle. “That was the highlight of the whole trip.”

    Jefferson completed a run through adversity and adventure few modern teams could imagine. The Mustangs of 1949 -- lightly padded and dressed in helmets without facemasks -- ran out of the T-formation and lost their season-opener by three touchdowns.

    In that game, fullback Paul Williams lost an eye after an Austin High player planted a cleated shoe on his face. A second Mustang, David Makar, broke a leg against Corpus Christi. Guard Jack Hammer caught the measles. Several players were felled by a virus before the state semifinal game against San Jacinto, and one of them, starting tackle Richard Tynan, spent three days at Baptist Memorial Hospital.

    1949 championship patchThe Mustangs played their opener against a defense that knew when one halfback would get the ball. Former teammates, now in their 80s, recall that Pantuso, a devout Catholic, made the sign of the cross, just before taking a handoff from Mac Chambers.

    “It didn’t take long for the spotters up in the press box to figure that out and the guys from Austin clobbered him,” says Morris Spector, a reserve tackle and retired physician. “I think in the second half, we found out about it. After the game we told Louie, ‘You can’t do that.’ He said, ‘I don’t know. I’m going to have to check with my parish priest.’ It was really something.”

    No one is sure who persuaded Pantuso to quit crossing himself -- the coach? his priest? -- but once he did, the Mustangs began to roll. After losing to Austin, Jefferson upset Temple, 13-12, beat Kerrville Tivy and Corpus Christi by two touchdowns each, and smashed their next four opponents -- Lanier, Harlandale, Burbank and Alamo Heights -- by a combined score of 184-6.

    A historic and heavily-hyped game against Fox Tech unfolded on Nov. 11. Jefferson had never lost to Tech, and sought an emotional edge by naming Williams (blinded in one eye) and Makar (broken leg) honorary captains. Tech coach Pat Shannon countered by naming three captains for the game: quarterback David Casanova, fullback Raul Valdez and offensive tackle Alvin Padilla.

    The San Antonio Light reported that Wallace designed several gadget plays for his offense. The paper also reported: “Shannon’s crew is in tip-top physical condition and is confident it can give Tech its first football victory over Jefferson. ...”

    The Mustangs were defending city champions. The Buffaloes had their best team in history.

    Tech upset Brackenridge two weeks earlier to enter the game 7-1. Jeff arrived at 7-1. One hour before kickoff, Alamo Stadium was half full. A light drizzle fell. The night was cool, the atmosphere electric. At kickoff, an overflow crowd roared, 26,208 strong, an Alamo Stadium record that remains.

    “I remember it was very loud,” Shannon told the San Antonio Express-News decades later. “Our tackles called the blocking (on the line of scrimmage) and couldn't hear too tell.“

    The game featured dazzling scores and jarring tackles, missed opportunities and devastating regret. Three Mustangs hobbled to the sidelines with injuries, including Pantuso. Three Buffaloes went down, including Valdez, who was helped off the field three times.

    The injured returned, took more hits and played through the pain. Pantuso scored on an 11-yard run and Raybourn caught a 16-yard touchdown pass to give Jeff a 14-0 lead.

    Tech answered with two touchdowns from Valdez.

    He ran 26 yards for the first score, while shaking off “half a dozen tacklers,” according to The Light. On the second, he a recovered a fumble in the end zone. Roy Camacho missed the first conversion attempt, Manuel Jung made the second and Tech trailed, 14-13.

    Meeks responded with a dagger, returning the kickoff 80-yards to extend Jeff’s lead, 20-13.  

    Meeks rushed for 169 yards but did not score again. A battered Valdez rushed for 128 yards and carried Tech -- on its final drive -- into Jefferson territory late in the fourth.

    On third down, Meeks dropped an interception. On fourth down, Roy Menchaca found himself wide open near the goal line. Quarterback Dickie Delgado threw a pass with six points written on it. The ball went through Camacho’s hands. “He could have won the game for them,” Spector says.

    The Mustangs ran out the clock and carried Wallace off the field. On the bus ride home, the team followed a post-game tradition and launched into, “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

    “That was our song,” Monaco says. “Coming to the stadium, we sang the school song. On the way back, we sang, ‘Onward Christian Soldiers.’ Jewell Wallace was a very religious man. We always said a prayer before we went out to play.”

    Jefferson beat Brackenridge in its annual Thanksgiving Day matchup, 26-14, to complete the regular season 9-1. A virus scare followed. Days before the Mustangs played San Jacinto, Meeks, Chambers and Raybourn left school ill. Tynan was hospitalized. End Don Barksdale and back Pat Toler also battled the infectious disease.

    Remarkably, the players recovered. Unfortunately, rain turned Alamo Stadium into a slop of mud. Jeff scored only once. Meeks ran 45 yards for a touchdown and Raybourn kicked the conversion, which was enough to win, 7-6, and advance to the state championship game.

    In the late 1940s, schools from small Texas towns, such as New Braunfels and Wharton, competed in Class 1A. Those from mid-size cities, such as Waco and Austin, competed in 2A. But schools from the most populated cities -- San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth -- competed in the City Conference, the state’s largest classification. From 1948-50, the winner of that classification was known as the City Conference State Champion.

    The Mustangs had played in one state championship game and lost to Odessa, 21-14, in 1946. Kyle Rote starred on that team and later made national headlines at SMU, rushing for 115 yards, passing for 146 and accounting for all three touchdowns in a 27-20 loss to No. 1 Notre Dame in 1949.

    The ‘46 Mustangs sent Rote and Pat Knight to the NFL. The Mustangs of 1961 sent four players into pro ball -- Tommy Nobis, Phil Harris, Dick Cunningham and George Gaiser. The Mustangs of 1949 did not produce any NFL players. But they occupy a unique place in school history.

    On Dec. 10, 1949, Meeks rushed for 134 yards against Sunset, scoring once on a 49-yard dash. Wallace pronounced him “the best running back I’ve ever coached.” While teammates celebrated, some tried to explain how difficult it was to block and run past Goss.

    Jefferson guard Rudy Fuentes told an Express reporter: “One time he (Goss) picked me up in one arm and center Dan Blenis in the other and threw us both back in the backfield.”

    Respect for Goss ran deep. But he alone couldn’t stop the Mustangs. As the Express put it in  headline type: “Ponies slaughter Sunset.”

    Five Mustangs made the newspaper’s 11-man All-City first team: Meeks, Pantuso, Raybourn, Knebel and Barksdale. Meeks starred at the University of Houston, where Wallace coached in 1946 and 1947. A few others played college ball, most notably Quinn, who made all-Southwest Conference at Texas.

    1949 football team in MonticelloSurviving Mustangs remember details from 1949 differently. Spector knows the last name of the Fox Tech receiver who dropped the touchdown pass. Some don’t recall the play. Spector and Jones remember Williams losing an eye. Others do not. But the most glaring disconnect of memory centers on the state championship pre-game speech.

    Monaco and Roy Jones can still see and hear Walker and Rote, addressing the team. Spector and Buenz have no such memory. “Boy, you’d think if Doak Walker and Kyle Rote had been there, you’d remember the speech,” Buenz says. “I’m sure it happened. But I don’t remember that.”

    Sonny Payne, Rote’s best friend since first grade, was there but doesn’t remember much. Payne recalls that Rote and Walker did most of the speaking. He surmises their message centered on a familiar theme. “We had always been told, ‘You’ve got four quarters to play and a lifetime to think about it,’ Payne says. “In other words, do your best and win so you can have lots of good thoughts and memories.”

    Perhaps Buenz and Spector missed the pep talk. Perhaps they and others arrived late. Or

    perhaps time is obscuring a gem of glory. Wallace died in 1999. Quinn passed on in 2002. Meeks and Pantuso are gone. No one knows how many Mustangs remain. Memories are crumbling like a rose, one petal at a time.

    One Mustang recalls patches of light, another sees shadow. But what the eye cannot see, the heart can still feel. A warm glow. Lingering pride. The magic, after all these years, simmers somewhere between the soul and spirit, in a place not even time can touch.

    Spector knows the feeling and nods, lips curling into a smile, eyes beginning to gleam. “That was probably,” he says, “the best year of my life.”

  • Mon, January 14, 2013 8:52 PM | Anonymous member

    mayor of san antonio, julian castroOn Sept. 4, 26 million television viewers tuned in to watch the first Hispanic deliver the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. The speaker, the mayor of San Antonio, was introduced by his twin brother, a State Representative running for Congress. As the two embraced, then saluted the crowd, the only discernible difference between them was the color of their neck ties.

    The mayor wore blue, the State Representative purple, two Latinos commanding a stage neither imagined in the humble home of their youth. The mayor, older by one minute, soaked in the applause and reflected on the journey that led him from a historic school to a historic moment.

    representative joaquin castro“Twenty years ago, Joaquin and I left home for college and then for law school,” Julian Castro said. “In those classrooms, we met some of the brightest folks in the world. But at the end of our days I couldn't help but to think back to my classmates at Thomas Jefferson High School in San Antonio. They had the same talent, the same brains, the same dreams as the folks we sat with at Stanford and Harvard. I realized the difference wasn't one of intelligence or drive. The difference was opportunity.”

    The national media declared Julian a political sensation, the face and future of his party. Wrote the New York Times: “The speculation lately about Mr. Castro’s future has reached fever pitch; there is talk of his running for governor, earning a place in Mr. Obama’s cabinet and even becoming the first Hispanic president.”

    Julian (Class of ‘92) isn’t the first Jefferson graduate mentioned as presidential timber (more on that later). But he is the first to generate strong speculation on prime-time TV. How did he and Joaquin arrive on the national stage?

    The Castro twins climbed on the shoulders of giants, some of them from Thomas Jefferson High.

    late representative henry b gonzalesIn 1953, Henry B. Gonzalez (Class of ‘35) became the first Mexican American elected to the San Antonio City Council. His advocacy helped integrate a city that denied Mexican Americans and African Americans equal access to public facilities. As the San Antonio Express-News once reported: “City Councilman Gonzalez sponsored the ordinance that ended racial segregation in San Antonio’s recreational areas, including city swimming pools.”

    A champion for the disenfranchised, Gonzalez took his fight to the State Senate. In 1957, he and Senator Abraham “Chick” Kazen held a 36-hour filibuster in an attempt to kill 10 racial segregation bills. Kazen started the filibuster and yielded to Gonzalez, who spoke 22 hours and two minutes without stopping. The filibuster, the longest in the history of the Texas Legislature, made national headlines. Its effect? Eight of the 10 bills Gonzalez and Kazen opposed died.

    Gonzalez mounted an unsuccessful campaign for governor in 1958. He also lost a race for the U.S. Senate in 1961. But later that year, Gonzalez became the first Hispanic from Texas elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He served constituents in the 20th Congressional District for 37 years.

    Fourteen years later, Joaquin Castro was elected to the same seat. “There is so much history in Henry B’s service,” says Joaquin (Class of ‘92). “Following an early Jefferson graduate is special.”

    Gonzalez cut a wide national profile. He chaired the Banking Committee, led a restructuring of the federal deposit system and correctly predicted the collapse of the savings and loan industry. A lesser-known legacy: He urged an investigation into the assassination of federal judge John H. Wood, a Jefferson graduate slain in 1979.

    More than two dozen Jefferson alumni have followed him into elective office but no one has served longer. Franklin Scott Spears (Class of ‘48) came the closest – 34 years. Spears served as a Representative in the Texas House from 1958-61, a state Senator from 1961-67 and a District judge from 1968-78. A descendant of James Wilson, who signed the Declaration of Independence and served on the U.S. Supreme Court, Spears is best remembered as a Texas Supreme Court Justice. He served on the high court from 1978-1990.

    In addition to Gonzalez and Spears, at least three more Jefferson alumni have served in the Texas Legislature: Representative Leo Alvarado (1992-2000), Representative Joaquin Castro (2002-present in the House) and Leticia Van de Putte, who served in the House (1991-99) and the Senate (1999-present). In 2008, Van de Putte (Class of ‘73) co-chaired the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

    “As a Jefferson alum,” Joaquin says, “I’m proud that a few generations of Jeff grads have been at the forefront in public service for our state and nation. The neighborhoods around Jefferson have been a hotbed of civic-mindedness. When I go back to the school, there is usually someone who says they are interested in running for office someday.”

    The alumni legacy includes service in government and the courts. Rose Spector (Class of ‘50) became the first woman in Texas elected to the State Supreme Court in 1992. Fred Biery (Class of ‘66) served as a District Court and Appellate Judge before President Clinton appointed him to the federal bench in 1994.

    Other jurists from Jefferson include: Appellate judges Blair Reeves, Preston Dial and John F. Onion; District Court judges Peter Michael Curry, John Yates and Tony Fero; and Justices of the Peace Phil Harris and Robert G. Lee.

    Alumni have made history in municipal government. At 26-years-old in 2001, Julian Castro became the youngest person elected to the San Antonio City Council. At 34, he became the youngest mayor of a major U.S. city.

    “Jefferson students today have a long list of folks to study and think about if they have an interest in office,” Julian says. “And that’s a good thing. I hope it inspires a new generation.”

    He serves on the council today with another Jefferson graduate, Diego Bernal (Class of ‘95), who represents District 1. Besides Castro, Bernal and Gonzalez, other alumni who have served as City Council members include: Jack Kaufman (1961-65); Al Rhode (1975-77); John Steen (1977-81); Joe Alderete (1977-85); Roger Flores Sr. (1995-99), Ed Garza (1997-01); Bobby Perez (1999-03), Elena Guajardo (2005-07) and Louis Rowe (2008-09).

    Garza also served as mayor (2001-05) before becoming a trustee – and school board president – of the San Antonio Independent School District.

    Henry B. may have been the first Jefferson graduate to run for governor – but he wasn’t the last. In 1990, John Silber (Class of ‘43) used his position as President of Boston University to run for governor of Massachusetts. After winning the Democratic primary, he appeared headed for victory and there was talk of a presidential candidacy in 1992. But Silber lost a close race and never ran for office again.

    In the wake of the Democratic National Convention, speculation grows that Julian Castro will one day run for governor, and if successful, perhaps seek the White House. Term limits allow Julian to serve as mayor until 2016, which he insists is all he wants to do. Then what?

    He’s not saying, but others are saying it for him: Julian Castro could go where nobody from Jefferson – or San Antonio – has gone before.

    About Ken Rodriguez: An Alamo City native and graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School, Ken Rodriguez is a former sports and Metro columnist at the San Antonio Express-News. In 1999, Ken was a member of a Miami Herald team that won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. In 2006, the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors awarded him first place in the state for general column writing. He has worked as a marketer at Our Lady of the Lake University since 2009. Ken also writes freelance stories for a number of magazines and Web sites.

    Join other alumni and friends as we help preserve Thomas Jefferson High School. Learn how you can support the TJHS Historical Preservation Society!
  • Sat, January 12, 2013 9:45 AM | Anna Catalani
    portrait of David Frederick

    In a prelude to his first presentation before the U.S. Supreme Court, a young Washington lawyer enjoyed a front row seat to a historic legal drama. On January 13, 1997, a vigorous back-and-forth erupted between lawyers representing William Jefferson Clinton and Paula Jones, a case that would determine whether a sitting U.S. President could claim immunity from civil litigation.

    From a raised mahogany bench, nine black-robed justices interrupted with pointed questions. In a courtroom adorned with ivory columns and marble walls, dark suits fumbled for answers and butterflies took flight in the stomach of David Frederick (Class of ‘79), the young lawyer waiting to argue his case. When the proceedings ended, Frederick would approach the bench and present his first case before the United State Supreme Court: Harbor Tug and Barge Co. v. Papai.

    "I was tremendously nervous," Frederick recalls. "I'm watching this historic argument and then the courtroom empties. I turn around and there are six people left. Three are related to me. They've come to see me argue.”

    The high court moved from a landmark case involving the separation of powers to an obscure legal dispute involving an injured longshore worker. As Frederick moved his briefs and notes to counsel table, Chief Justice William Rehnquist turned to Justice John Paul Stevens. The microphone, not yet turned off, carried these words: “Now this next case is really hard.”

    Thus began the first of Frederick's 40 cases before the high court. Sixteen years later, Frederick, 51, ranks among America's brightest legal minds, a persuasive orator who has prevailed in a majority of cases before the Supreme Court. His 41st case is scheduled for March.

    Frederick developed his oratory skills at Jefferson High School. He played a prominent role on the speech and debate team that went undefeated through four years of sweepstakes competition. As a senior in 1979, Frederick led Jefferson to the National Forensic League national tournament championship, scoring points in extemporaneous speaking (in which he finished second) and original oratory (eighth).

    "What I do now is advanced extemporaneous speaking," Frederick says, "because when I'm arguing a case before the Supreme Court, I want to connect with the justices. I get interrupted with questions, and I have to give a crisp sound bite response. So all the training I did at Jefferson -- hundreds and hundreds of hours of practices, night after night -- prepared me for what I'm doing now."

    In the fall of 1975, Frederick arrived at Jefferson with an interest in lighting and sound, the unglamorous, behind-the-scenes work of the school's stage crew. Two teachers, however, redirected him to another craft. B.J. Naeglin taught Frederick at Longfellow Middle School, where he excelled in speech. B.J.'s husband, Lanny, coached the speech and debate team at Jefferson.

    “They projected I would be pretty good at extemporaneous speaking,” Frederick recalls, “but I had no idea what they were talking about.”

    He became a quick study, piling up trophies as a freshman, placing second in original oratory at nationals as a sophomore. Todd Wong, Frederick’s high school debate partner, recognized the potential. “He’s a brilliant fellow, a fantastic speaker, a powerful advocate and a really good person,” says Wong (Class of ‘79). “What he’s achieved doesn’t surprise me.”

    At the University of Pittsburgh, Frederick starred on the award-winning debate team, graduated with highest honors in political science and became the school’s first Rhodes Scholar. He earned a doctorate of comparative politics from Oxford and a law degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White.

    Eventually, he worked for the Solicitor General, who represents the federal government in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. As an assistant to the Solicitor General, Frederick learned how to strategize and fashion strong government positions. But like a tough prosecutor who becomes a skilled defense lawyer, Frederick switched sides and parlayed his knowledge and experience into victories for a wide range of private-sector clients, including States in boundary disputes, a foreign governmental entity that sells electricity in the United States, large and small companies, and individuals.

    In 2008, he represented a Vermont woman who sued a drug manufacturer after complications from an injection led to the amputation of her arm. Diana Levine claimed Wyeth Pharmaceuticals failed to include a warning label describing potential injuries from the manner in which she was injected with the drug. Wyeth argued that its warning label was approved by the Federal Drug Administration and preempted state standards of care and remedies.

    The dispute reached the high court. Frederick’s adversaries included former Solicitor General Seth Waxman (once his boss) and former Acting Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler (once his mentor). “I don’t think anybody predicted we were going to win,” Frederick says.

    The Supreme Court delivered a 6-3 verdict for Frederick. “It established a principle: Even if a brand name drug company has gotten its warning label approved by the FDA, if the label is inadequate and the inadequacy leads to injury, a patient can sue for damages,” Frederick explains. “That is probably the most famous case I have argued so far in the Supreme Court.”

    He is recognized for his legal genius and encyclopedic knowledge. Reporters from print and broadcast media solicit him for comment on Supreme Court issues. And why not? He once partnered with future Chief Justice John Roberts on a case, has written numerous articles and authored four books, including "Supreme Court and Appellate Advocacy," with a foreword by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

    The caseload can be crushing but Frederick finds escape in his wife Sophie and their children Aaron, Isabel, and James. For nine years he coached his sons' baseball teams. He also is an avid supporter of his favorite sports team, the San Antonio Spurs. He marks their games on his calendar and considers their television schedule when planning his business travel. After an arbitration in Chicago last year, Frederick thanked his lawyers and staff by taking them out to dinner.

    "But we went out early so that we could be finished in time for the Spurs-Lakers game, which was on ESPN that night," says Frederick, who is excited about the current season unfolding. “I would love to get down for a Spurs playoff game.”

    Watching the Spurs claim a fifth NBA championship would be sweet. Taking another case before the high court might be sweeter. After 16 years, yes, he still gets nervous before the Supremes. But every appearance is a pleasure, every presentation a rush. "It's a great day in my life," he says, "every time I get to do it."

  • Thu, February 23, 2012 10:00 PM | Deleted user

    Peter Michael Curry (Class of ‘34) once upset and upstaged director Steven Spielberg during a film shoot in San Antonio.

    In 1974, a young Spielberg (age 26) cast Curry to play himself -- a judge -- during a courtroom scene in,
    The Sugarland Express, which starred Goldie Hawn. When Curry complained about the script, Spielberg allowed him to rewrite a scene. When Curry complained about the actors’ performance, Spielberg told him to direct the scene himself and stormed off.

    According to the San Antonio Express-News, “Curry directed the scene. Months later, when the movie was released, the judge said he didn't care for it. It was ‘silly,’ he said. The best thing about the movie, he added, was the courtroom scene.”

    In his big screen debut, Spielberg yielded the director’s chair to a Jefferson alumnus with no film experience.

    That’s one snapshot of Jefferson’s influence on Hollywood. There are others, and they show alumni producing films with Oscar-nominated actors and sweeping up Emmy Awards for television movies and game shows.

    Roll the video:

    Marcia Nasatir (‘43) produced one film, The Big Chill (1983), which received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. She produced Ironweed (1987), which received Oscar nominations for Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. She produced other acclaimed gems such as Hamburger Hill (1987), which the New York Times called a “well made Vietnam War film. …”

    Today, almost 70 years after working for
    The Declaration at Jefferson, Nasatir has several scripts in development.

    She began her career as a literary agent. Nasatir represented Robert Towne, who won an Academy Award for best original screenplay for
    Chinatown, and sold the movie rights to The Exorcist and All The President’s Men.

    She later served as vice president at United Artists (the first woman in Hollywood to hold such a position), which produced Oscar-winning films
    Rocky, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Coming Home. In the early 80s, she became President of Johnny Carson Productions. In a career that spans more than 40s years, one film stands out.
    “I received the most satisfaction from
    The Big Chill,” Nasatir says, “because 26 years later, it continues to resonate with original and new audiences.”

    Glenn Jordan (‘54) made his mark as an A-list director of television movies, winning four Emmy Awards and receiving numerous Emmy nominations. A graduate of Yale Drama School, Jordan also directed three motion pictures, the most notable being Mass Appeal (1984).

    According to the Encyclopedia of Television Film Directors, Jordan won three Emmy Awards for outstanding production/drama/program and a fourth Emmy for outstanding director.

    The New York Times offers the following: “Jordan's shining hour was the 1991 Hallmark Hall of Fame offering
    Sarah Plain and Tall, a winner of nine Emmy Awards; earlier, Jordan had personally picked up two Emmies for producing and directing the memorable James Garner/James Woods TV movie Promise (1986). He has also won the Directors Guild of America award for his work on the late-1970s TV series Family, as well as several Peabody awards for other projects.”

    Allen Ludden attended Jefferson but graduated from Corpus Christi High School in 1934. He hosted many game shows, including the GE College Bowl, but is best known as the emcee of Password, which ran in various forms from 1961 until 1980. His work on Password earned Ludden a Daytime Emmy Award for outstanding game show host. Ludden met actress Betty White on Password and they married. The marriage lasted until Ludden succumbed to stomach cancer in 1981. He later was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame next to White. Twenty years after his death, TV Guide named Ludden the greatest game show host in history.

    Robert Easton Burke (‘48) possesses an extraordinary list of radio, television and film credits, dating to 1945 when he appeared on the popular radio show, Quiz Kids. He has appeared in numerous films, among them: Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea (1961), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), and The Beverly Hillbillies (1993). TV credits include Rawhide, Alias Smith and Jones, The Andy Griffith Show, The Lucy Show and a guest appearance on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson.

    In Hollywood, he carries the name “Robert Easton,” and is known as “The Man of A Thousand Voices” for his mastery of the English dialect. He has served as a dialogue and dialect coach on dozens of films, including
    Scarface, Good Will Hunting and God and Generals.

    From the New York Times: “... he has been acknowledged and celebrated as Hollywood's leading dialectician and vocal coach. Stars ranging from Gregory Peck to Sir Laurence Olivier have sought out Easton's services to instruct them in the intricacies of specific regional and ethnic dialects.”

    Michael Zinberg (‘61) may be best known as the executive producer of the Bob Newhart Show from 1972-78 on CBS. He directed dozens of episodes of such well-known TV shows as Everybody Loves Raymond, L.A. Law, Law & Order, Lou Grant, WKRP in Cincinnati, 9-5, Midnight Caller, The Practice, Caroline In The City, and The White Shadow. He also wrote for television series and produced two television movies, Accidental Meeting (1994) and For The Very First Time (1991).

    Truett Pratt (‘67) co-wrote the theme song to Happy Days, the iconic 1970s show that featured Ron Howard and Henry Winkler and a cast of characters enrolled at -- believe it or not -- fictional Jefferson High School. In 1976, the song, co-written by Jerry McClain, peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. “I was very proud to have received a first class, high quality, college bound education from a public high school,” Pratt said in 2009. The record sold millions of copies.

    Jefferson’s connection with the television and film industry began in 1940. Twentieth Century Fox came to campus that year to film
    High School, starring Jane Withers. The motion picture included members of the Lasso drill team. Decades later, parts of Johnny Be Good (1988) also were filmed at Jefferson.

    In the summer of 1974, young Hollywood royalty arrived on campus. A striking blonde with large sunglasses emerged from a shiny Cadillac convertible, parked on Club Drive, and crossed over  to the tennis courts. Accompanied by two men in their 20s, one with long, shaggy hair, the blonde approached a teenage couple, relaxing with a German Shepherd.

    The woman, dressed in a one-piece, yellow terrycloth outfit, petted the dog and smiled. “We’re looking for a doubles partner,” she began. “Wanna play?”

    Darrell Sanders (‘74) jumped. He had competed on the Jefferson tennis team and recognized the blonde immediately. “I’m Goldie Hawn,” the woman said, extending a hand. “And these are my partners, Michael and Steven.”

    A year or two later, Darrell saw
    Sugarland Express and recognized Michael as Hawn’s co-star, “Michael Sacks.” And Steven? The third guy in the doubles match, the one with the long, shaggy hair, did not appear in the film. He was off camera, directing.

    It wouldn’t be accurate to say Spielberg got his start at Jefferson, since no part of
    Sugarland Express was filmed on campus. But you could say he came under the school’s spell. The Oscar-winning director not only cast an alumnus in the film, he allowed the late Judge Curry to rewrite and direct. And then, while driving through the historic neighborhood, Spielberg just had to stop and see Jefferson for himself.

    About Ken Rodriguez: An Alamo City native and graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School, Ken Rodriguez is a former sports and Metro columnist at the San Antonio Express-News. In 1999, Ken was a member of a Miami Herald team that won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. In 2006, the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors awarded him first place in the state for general column writing. He has worked as a marketer at Our Lady of the Lake University since 2009. Ken also writes freelance stories for a number of magazines and Web sites.

    Join other alumni and friends as we help preserve Thomas Jefferson High School. Click Here to learn how you can support the TJHS Historical Preservation Society!
  • Thu, February 16, 2012 10:00 PM | Deleted user
    Eight Thomas Jefferson High School alums were honored as "Alumni of the Decade" on Thursday, February 16, 2012. The ceremony preceded the school's Open House.

    The following alumni were recognized for their achievements:
    • 1930's - Bernard Rapoport (entrepreneur, philanthropist)
    • 1940's - Robert "Bob" Polunsky (film critic)
    • 1950's - Boone Powell (architect)
    • 1960's - Alfred Valenzuela (retired United Stated Army Major General)
    • 1970's - Toni Thompson (educator)
    • 1980's - Ed Garza (politician and urban planner)
    • 1990's - Joaquin Castro (politician) and Julian Castro (politician)
    • 2000's - Laura Saldivar (educator)

    TJHS 80th Anniversary - Alumni of the Decade from TJHS Historical Preservation Soc on Vimeo.

    Join other alumni and friends as we help preserve Thomas Jefferson High School. Click Here to learn how you can support the TJHS Historical Preservation Society!
  • Tue, August 16, 2011 9:20 AM | Deleted user

    To measure the reach and impact of one Jefferson High School graduate, you must travel into space, to an orbiting sphere, 238,000 miles away. It is there, on crusty terrain, that the story of Aaron Cohen ('49) turns. In 1969, Cohen helped put the first man on the moon.

    Cohen left a distinct imprint on the Apollo 11 landing, a feat considered the greatest in human history. He directed the design and development of the Apollo Command and Service Module, the craft that reconnected with the lunar module and carried Neil Armstrong to the lunar surface.

    In 31 years at NASA, Cohen played critical roles in six lunar landings, developed the space shuttle, directed the Johnson Space Center and retired as a pioneer in human spaceflight. He died in 2010.

    While visiting his alma mater in 2007, he told students: "When I attended Jefferson in the late '40s, not this country, or any country, had the thoughts, ideas of sending humans to the moon. The courses I took at Jefferson … enabled me and gave me the confidence and the capability to be able to work on that project of sending men to the moon."

    In Cohen's day, students at Jefferson glowed with super nova-like promise. Emerging from one classroom was Franklin Spears ('48), a future State Representative, State Senator and Texas Supreme Court Justice. Brushing past Spears, Rose Spector ('50), a brilliant brunette who would become the first woman elected to the Texas Supreme Court.

    Stepping out of the auditorium, Robert Easton Burke ('48), a tall redhead who would succeed as a radio, TV and film actor, establish himself as the leading dialect coach in Hollywood and become known as "The Man of a Thousand Voices."

    Sauntering to the gym, Pat Knight ('48), a football and basketball star who would play for the New York Giants and officiate a Super Bowl. Strolling through the hallway, football players who led the Mustang to their only state championship in 1949. Moving among the giants was a bookish boy with a love for science, Robert Floyd Curl ('50).

    Curl did not date. He did not participate in sports. He conducted chemistry experiments on his mother's stove. "I think it's fairly accurate to say I was a nerd," he once told the San Antonio Express-News.

    As a professor at Rice University, Curl and two other researchers discovered a new cluster of soccer-shaped molecules that led to a new branch of chemistry. In 1996, Curl and his colleagues won the Nobel Prize.

    Curl and Cohen walked the same hallways, learned under the same teachers and blazed new trails in science and space. That pioneering spirit began with the school's first valedictorian, Gus Garcia ('32). A lawyer, Garcia won a landmark case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954, a ruling that prevented the exclusion of Hispanics from juries.

    Other pioneers:

    Henry B. Gonzalez ('35), the first Mexican-American from Texas elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

    Betty Jameson ('37), a founder of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), who won 13 tournaments and paved the way for women golfers to earn millions of dollars.

    Lillian Dunlap ('38), the first Texas woman promoted to Brigadier General in the U.S. Army.

    Marcia Nasatir ('43), the first female vice president of a Hollywood film studio, United Artists, and an acclaimed movie producer.

    Kyle Rote ('47), the founder of the NFL Players Association who became pro football's first renaissance man. Pianist. Composer. Poet. Author. Coach. Broadcaster. Artist.

    Tommy Nobis ('61), an All Pro linebacker who founded a training and development center in Atlanta that has helped more than 12,000 people find jobs.

    Today, Jefferson graduates shape the world of music (guitarist Chris Perez owns a Grammy Award), television (director Glenn Jordan owns two Emmy Awards) philanthropy (Bernard Rapoport has given away $54 million) and law (David Frederick has argued more than 20 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court). One alumnus shapes the White House. Jim Lehrer ('52) has moderated 11 presidential debates.

    Almost 80 years after it opened, Jefferson is now known for its alumni in public service: San Antonio mayor Julian Castro ('92); State Representative Joaquin Castro ('92); State Senator Leticia Van de Putte ('73); San Antonio Independent School District trustee Ed Garza ('86), who also served as mayor and City Councilman.

    In another era, Jefferson was known for its military heroes. The most celebrated soldier was Lt. Col. Robert Cole ('33), who earned the Medal of Honor for bravery during the D-Day invasion of France. The best war story, though, may belong to Blair Reeves ('42) and Weldon Odell Stautzenberger ('42), Marines who fought side by side in World War II.

    In Okinawa, Reeves took a bullet to the spine. Under heavy fire, Stautenzberger lifted and carried him to safety. Reeves was paralyzed. Stautzenberger suffered two wounds, kept fighting and wiped out Japanese machine gun cave emplacements. He earned a Bronze Star.

    From a wheelchair, Reeves rose to Chief Justice of the 4th Court of Appeals. But his greatest achievement came as Bexar County Judge. In the late 1960s, voters rejected a tax increase for the Bexar County Hospital District. In the face of strong opposition, Reeves cast the deciding vote to double the tax. That led to the creation of the University of Texas Health Science Center.

    The legacy of two Marines reaches from Okinawa to San Antonio. On the battlefield, in the chemistry lab, on the surface of the moon, the spirit of Jefferson shines on.

    About Ken Rodriguez: An Alamo City native and graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School, Ken Rodriguez is a former sports and Metro columnist at the San Antonio Express-News. In 1999, Ken was a member of a Miami Herald team that won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. In 2006, the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors awarded him first place in the state for general column writing. He has worked as a marketer at Our Lady of the Lake University since 2009. Ken also writes freelance stories for a number of magazines and Web sites.

    Join other alumni and friends as we help preserve Thomas Jefferson High School. Learn how you can support the TJHS Historical Preservation Society!
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