Paxon School for Advanced Studies – 1954
Originally Paxon Field Junior-Senior High School, the school was built in the Woodstock Park neighborhood to serve white students in Jacksonville’s growing Westside. As the name indicates, it was built on the former Paxon Field, which in the 1920s was likely Jacksonville’s earliest airport. The field is named for the Paxon family, major property owners in Woodstock Park. For years Paxon Field was owned by real estate scion Lily May Paxon, wife of businessman Edward H. Paxon and daughter of Samuel J. Melson, the president of the S. J. Melson real estate company. The field was sometimes also known as Melson Field.
In 1926, Bessie Coleman, the first African-American internationally licensed pilot, died testing a plane at Paxon Field. Use of the field decreased once the city built a new municipal airport, Imeson Field, in 1927. During World War II, the U.S. Navy used Paxon Field as an ancillary air facility, and after the war, the property was set aside for the construction of the school. It was was made a magnet in 1996.
Terry Parker High School – 1955
The school is named for H. Terry Parker, the primary developer of the Arlington region it serves. In the 1940s, Parker was a board member at the Gulf Life Insurance Company, and started assembling and developing land in Arlington, which was then sparsely populated. Especially after the Mathews Bridge connected Arlington to Downtown in 1953, it became the fastest growing part of Jacksonville through the 1950s and 60s. In 1955, Parker donated 30 acres of property to the school board for the creation of a new high school for white students, which was named in his honor.
Englewood High School – 1956
The school is named after its neighborhood. Englewood was first platted in 1926 by Lawrence and Edith B. Pearce. It saw substantial new development after World War II and became one of Jacksonville’s first car-centric neighborhoods. The school was built in 1956 to serve white students in this quickly growing part of town. “Englewood” is a common place name in the U.S., the earliest example being the historic town of Englewood, New Jersey. The name may be influenced by Inglewood Forest in Cumbria, England.
Jean Ribault High School – 1957
Founded to serve white students in Northwest Jacksonville, the school originally opened as Lake Forest Junior-Senior High School. In November 1957, the school district removed the junior grades and renamed the school after Jean Ribault, the French Huguenot leader who led the expedition that explored the First Coast and other parts of the Southeast in 1562. Ribault left behind a column on the south bank of the St. Johns River claiming Florida for France, and in 1565 he returned to the area to briefly serve as commander of the colony of Fort Caroline, founded by René Goulaine de Laudonnière the year before. More directly, the school is near the Ribault River, a tributary of the Trout River. The Duval County Commission named the section of this watercourse below the confluence of Sixmile Creek and Little Sixmile Creek after Jean Ribault in 1926. Although the commander’s name was pronounced “Ri-BOW”, most locals call the high school “REE-balt”, a source of agitation for linguistic prescriptivists since at least 1962. The school’s demographics have changed along with the neighborhood’s after desegregation in 1971; today the student body is primarily African-American.
Westside High School – 1959
Until taking its present name in 2014, this school had the single most controversial name of any school in Northeast Florida: Nathan B. Forrest High School. The name is a legacy of school segregation. Like other Southern school districts, Duval defied the Supreme Court’s 1955 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that segregation was unconstitutional, and continued expanding its segregated school district. With work underway on a new white school on the Westside, the United Daughters of the Confederacy campaigned to name it for a “distinguished Southern leader,” eventually choosing Nathan Bedford Forrest. This choice started a trend of white schools in Duval County being named for Confederate figures; by 1968 four more had opened, three of which were located within miles of Forrest High School in the suburban Westside.
The Forrest name proved particularly controversial due to the general’s history. A slave owner and trader, he commanded the Confederate corps at Fort Pillow where his men slaughtered surrendering African-American Union soldiers, and after the war he was a leader in the early Ku Klux Klan. After segregation ended in 1971, the school’s demographics changed; today, African-Americans now make up the majority of students. The name proved endlessly controversial for the next four decades, with locals making several campaigns to change it. In 2013, following a new campaign that drew national press, the school board finally agreed to change the name. The following year it was renamed Westside High School after the region of town it serves.
Samuel Wolfson School for Advanced Studies – 1965
Samuel W. Wolfson High School, as it was originally known, was established when the district decided to branch off the upper grades from Julia M. Landon and Alfred I. DuPont Junior-Senior High Schools to accommodate the growing Southside. The school was built in Skinner’s Pasture, former dairy farm land in the San Jose area. The Wolfson Foundation donated $50,000 for the construction.
Samuel W. Wolfson was a prominent businessman and philanthropist in Jacksonville, but is best remembered as the owner of the Jacksonville Braves and later the Jacksonville Suns, the predecessors to the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp baseball team. Wolfson Park, the team’s home until the current 121 Financial Park was built in 2003, was also named for him. Under Wolfson’s leadership, the Braves were one of the first two teams in the Southern League to integrate, bringing in three black players in 1953, including future superstar Hank Aaron. Wolfson was also involved in a number of local boards and charitable efforts. After he died in 1963, school board member Ned Searcy proposed naming the school for him due to the donation and because “he was such a good citizen of our community.”
William M. Raines High School – 1965
The school was founded when the school district branched the upper grades from Northwestern Junior-Senior High School. Using the same plans as the reconstructed Fletcher High School, it was built off Moncrief Road in Northwest Jacksonville. A school for black students, it was built less than a mile from the white Ribault High School. The school was originally known simply as School No. 165, but in June 1965 the school board voted to name it for William Marion Raines, a much respected Jacksonville educator. Raines came to Jacksonville in 1922 and served as principal of Matthew Gilbert High School (now Gilbert Middle School) from 1938 until his death in 1950.
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