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Shortridge High School

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Title: Shortridge High School  
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Subject: Hoosier, Kurt Vonnegut, Booth Tarkington, Richard Lugar, Raymond A. Spruance, Madelyn Pugh, Sigma Gamma Rho, North Central High School (Indianapolis), Eli Lilly (industrialist), Nancy Andrew
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Shortridge High School

Shortridge Magnet High School
Front of the school
Location 3401 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
Area 10.9 acres (4.4 ha)
Built 1927
Architect Kopf & Deery
Architectural style Classical Revival
Governing body Indianapolis Public Schools
Part of Shortridge-Meridian Street Apartments Historic District (#00000195)
NRHP Reference # 83000078[1]
Added to NRHP September 15, 1983

Shortridge Magnet High School is a public high school located in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States. Opened in 1864, it is the oldest free, public high school in the state of Indiana.

It has been announced that Shortridge will become the high school host for the International Baccalaureate program of the Indianapolis Public Schools in 2015-2016. It has served for several years as a high school with a concentration in the study of law and public policy.[2]

Shortridge is known for having an unusually large number of well-known and/or highly accomplished alumni/ae. Among them was author Kurt Vonnegut who once said of his alma mater:

[Shortridge is] my dream of an America with great public schools. I thought we should be the envy of the world with our public schools. And I went to such a public school. So I knew that such a school was possible. Shortridge High School in Indianapolis produced not only me, but the head writer on the I LOVE LUCY show (Madelyn Pugh). And, my God, we had a daily paper, we had a debating team, had a fencing team. We had a chorus, a jazz band, a serious orchestra. And all this with a Great Depression going on. And I wanted everybody to have such a school.[3]

The academic excellence and unique social ambience of the school in the 1950s were described in the novel Going All The Way by Shortridge alumnus Dan Wakefield (published in 1970 and adapted to film in 1997).


Shortridge has a long and interesting history. It was established as the Indianapolis High School in 1864 as the state’s first free high school. Abraham C. Shortridge was recruited to become school superintendent in 1863. Shortridge was a strict educator when it came to drilling students and faculty alike. However, he was innovative in many ways, including the hiring of female teachers and the admission of African-American students. By 1878, Shortridge High School served 502 students.[4]

The school was a lightning rod for civil rights almost from the beginning. At its inception it was primarily white. In 1903, in a football game with Wabash College, Wabash coach Tug Wilson substituted an African-American left tackle by the name of Samuel Gordon. The Shortridge team captain led his team off the field after a scene. Gordon kept his sense of humor, noting he was sorry the game was called on account of darkness.[5]

In 1927, a segregated all-black school, Crispus Attucks High School, was opened by the Indianapolis Public School system, in part to address the rising black population at Shortridge High. In the late 1920s, Shortridge High School ceased to be a neighborhood school. In 1928, the school moved from downtown Indianapolis into its current location at 34th and Meridian Streets on the north side of Indianapolis.

The Depression of the 1930s was not kind to the country, and this was seen at Shortridge as well. The PTA was active in raising money for both the school and its students. A radio production studio was established in the late 1940s, and WIAN-FM, licensed to the IPS board, went on the air in 1955. By the late 1950s, Shortridge was ranked among the best schools in the nation, according to Time Magazine. The American Field Study (AFS) foreign exchange program was established as the first of its kind in Indianapolis. This program continued until the school was initially closed in June 1981.

In the late 1950s, the school began to lose good academic students to other schools, notably the newly opened North Central High School on the far northside. An attempt to make Shortrdge an all-academic college preparatory school was adopted in the late 1960s, to try to restore racial balance. In 1968, the “Shortridge Incident” involving black students and local civil rights activists occurred.

The 1970s were spent defending the school from closure and scrapping the all-academic program. The school had largely returned to being a neighborhood school at the time it was closed in 1981.[4]

While minority students had attended Shortridge from the very beginning, it was chiefly a white school until 1927, when the Indiana state legislature passed its first desegregation laws. During that period, much of Indianapolis felt the effects of the Ku Klux Klan's presence in the city. While the high schools were segregated by custom, the construction of Crispus Attucks High School as an all-African-American school created segregation by rule. Prior to the passing of the Federal Fair Housing Laws in 1968, black high school students who lived in an area where they could attend either Crispus Attucks High School or Shortridge High School were able to choose which school they wanted to attend. Many of these students chose to attend Shortridge High School and contributed greatly to the school's academic and athletic life. Black students who lived within the Shortridge district were also free to attend the school, and they too contributed greatly to the school's academic and athletic life. During the 1950–1970 period, the racial demographics of the Shortridge district began to change rapidly (e.g., the Mapleton-Fall Creek neighborhood, a part of the Shortridge district, changed from 82% white to 20% white). During this time and until its initial closing in 1981, Shortridge changed from an almost-exclusively white school to a predominantly black school.

In 1957, a Time Magazine article named Shortridge as one of the top 38 high schools in the US. As early as 1959, some on the PTA supported gerrymandering the Shortridge district to find a better racial balance at Shortridge. By 1964, some felt that ‘the Shortridge problem’ had reached a crisis. That fall a protest march from the school to Indianapolis Public School (IPS) offices was supported by 200 students. By 1965, the Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners turned Shortridge into an all-academic high school, beginning in the 1966-67 school year. An entrance examination was required for enrollment. In the 1966-67 school year only 272 freshmen enrolled, 46% of whom were black. Though efforts were made in the next four years to increase enrollment, they were not effective in the long run. The 1966 elections saw the school board change, including the loss of Richard Lugar, a Shortridge graduate and academic plan supporter, who ran for Mayor of the City of Indianapolis. By 1967, a new school board voted 5-2 to abolish the short-lived ‘Shortridge Plan’.

In 1968, the United States Department of Justice filed a suit charging de jure segregation in Indianapolis. IPS responded with a desegregation plan which addressed only one of the three underlying charges. In 1971, US District Judge S. Hugh Dillin judged the Board of School Commissioners to be guilty of de jure segregation. The next 20 years would include an experimentation in busing followed by the eventual closure of Shortridge High School in 1981. The facility reopened a few years later as Shortridge Middle School. In 2009, it was converted back to high school status as a magnet program focusing on law and government studies.[6]

The Shortridge incident

In February 1969, a disagreement over what a student was allowed to wear grew into a major protest involving both students and local civil rights leaders at the school. Otto Breeding, a student, was arrested for ‘disorderly conduct’ after a disagreement over the unwritten dress code. He was asked to not wear a t-shirt advertising a radical black organization. Some students felt this was grossly unfair and attempted to disrupt the school, pulling fire alarms and chanting “black power” in the halls. The next day an ad hoc group of students confronted the assistant principal with four demands. The response to the petition did not satisfy the students.

The next day, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra was scheduled to play a concert in the school's historic auditorium, Caleb Mills Hall. Some 20 students rose and left as the orchestra played "The Star Spangled Banner." The students eventually congregated at a youth project run by Rev Luther Hicks. Rev. Hicks calmed the students and helped them plan a non-violent protest in front of the school. In front of the school, the students shouted “Say it loud! I’m black and I’m proud.” With the student body inside the school watching, police were called. The students and some adults were arrested and hauled away. Twenty-three minor students and seven adults were taken to the Marion County Jail in what one student called “ the most brutal thing I’ve witnessed in my life.” Most were charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. One civil rights leader, Griffin Bell, was charged with inciting a riot.

Marion County Prosecutor Noble Pearcy attempted to have the minor students declared incorrigible in his zeal to get tough with school unrest. This caused mixed reactions within the community. The police met with religious community leaders in an effort to get them to withdraw their support for the arrested students. The police even suggested that this demonstration was the sponsored by the Communist Party.

A Freedom school was set up to help the students keep up with their work, since they were all suspended at this point. The case eventually reached the Indiana Supreme Court trying to decide jurisdiction. Eventually all charges against the students were dismissed, and three civil rights leaders were given fines, with one receiving six months on the Indiana State Prison Farm.[6]

The Shortridge Daily Echo

In 1898, the school established a daily newspaper, The Shortridge Daily Echo. It was the first daily high-school newspaper in the entire country.[7] It continued its daily status until the 1970s, when it was converted to a weekly publication. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., and Donald Ring Mellett are two notable alumni who served as editors of the Echo.[4]

The paper won many awards over the years. In its final year, the necessarily-brief Echo was still able to win a second place overall award by the Columbia University Scholastic Press Association. Michael N. Selby and Edie Cassell were the last co-editors-in-chief, and Chris Keys was the last sports editor of the Shortridge Weekly Echo when it ceased publication with the school's closure in 1981. However, this was not the Echo '​s last call. When Shortridge was re-opened as a Magnet High School in 2009, students brought back the Echo as well, published weekly.


In a state where Basketball is king, Shortridge had its moment in the sun in the 1967-68 season. The Blue Devils won their way to the final game of the Indiana state championship, only to lose by eight points. However, over the years Shortridge won state championships in golf (five titles, three times runners-up), wrestling (twice), track and field (twice, and runners-up twice), and cross country (twice, and runners-up twice).[8] Late in the 1970s the Blue Devils began to emerge as baseball power in the city. The Blue Devils reached the sectional finals in 1979, despite fielding a team of mostly sophomores. Notably Eric Johnson, a sophomore transfer from southern California, set a school record in 1979 by posting 12 Runs batted in, in a single game against Arsenal Technical High School.

Marching Band

IHSAA boys' wrestling

IHSWCA Hall of Fame wrestlers

  • Frank Anderson, inducted 1990
  • Charles Blackwell, inducted 1995
  • James Hill, inducted 1976
  • Dr. John Hobbs, inducted 1988
  • David Jeter, inducted 1981
  • Drayton Praed, inducted 1977
  • Coach Paul Dill, inducted 1973
  • Coach Harold Grundy, inducted 2009
  • Indianapolis City championship (5) 1967-68 The 5 City Champions were, 98 lbs. George O'Neal

112 lbs.John Bush,138 lbs.Harold Grundy, 145 lbs.James Gardner, 185 lbs. William Coleman.

Team state wrestling championships

  • 1958–59, Coach Paul Dill
  • 1966–67, Coach George Bohlin

Individual state wrestling champions

  • 1951–52, James Bose (138 lbs.), Richard Anthony (175)
  • 1952–53, Drayton Praed (154), David Jeter (165)
  • 1953–54, Drayton Praed (154)
  • 1954–55, James Hill (112), Frank Anderson (133), David Jeter (165)
  • 1955–56, James Hill (112)
  • 1958–59, Melvin Jeter (165)
  • 1962–63, James Blackwell (145), William Beacham (154)
  • 1964–65, Earl Price (heavyweight)
  • 1965–66, Charles Blackwell (154)
  • 1966–67, James Gardner(145)
  • 1969–70, Desmond Smith(165)
  • 1970–71, John Hobbs(105)
  • 1971–72, John Hobbs(105)

IHSAA boys' track & field

Team state champion

  • 1903–04 Coach Parmalee
  • 1907–08 runner-up
  • 1908–09 runner-up
  • 1914–15 Coach S. Roach

Individual champions
High Jump

  • 1904–05 Murat DeWeese, McLaughlin (tie 5–4 ¾)
  • 1907–08 Harold Morrison 5–8 ¾
  • 1908–09 Harold Morrison 5–7 ½
  • 1958–59 Gerry Williams 6–6.0

Long jump

  • 1905–06 Murat DeWeese 20–6 ½
  • 1907–08 Hendrickson 20–2 ½
  • 1908–09 Harold Morrison 21–3 ¼

100-yard dash

  • 1903–04 Russell Joseph 1015
  • 1937–38 Alfred Piel 10.3

220-yard dash

  • 1903–04 Russell Joseph 2335
  • 1937–38 Alfred Piel 22.7

440-yard dash

  • 1907–08 R. Hendrickson 55.0
  • 1915–16 Butler 55.6

880-yard dash

  • 1904–05 Patton 2:1145
  • 1950–51 Bob Bruce 2:00.4


  • 1903–04 George Steep 12 5:04.0
  • 1927–28 Patterson 4:40.1

120-yard high hurdles

  • 1915–16 Moore 17.2

220-yard low hurdles

  • 1915–16 Wilson 27.2

880-yard relay

  • 1928–29 1:37.8
  • 1937–38 1:33.7

Mile relay

  • 1935–36 3:32.2

IHSAA boys' cross country

State team champions

  • 1953–54 Coach Tom Haynes
  • 1954–55 Coach Tom Haynes
  • 1959–60 Runner-up

IHSAA boys' golf

Golf team state champions (5 – second-most state championships in state history)

  • 1934–35 Coach Simon Roache
  • 1936–37 Coach Simon Roache
  • 1948–49 Coach Peterman
  • 1949–50 Coach Peterman
  • 1952–53 runner-up
  • 1953–54 runner-up
  • 1955–56 runner-up
  • 1956–57 state champion

Golf Individual medallists

  • 1934–35 Richard McCreary 73
  • 1948–49 Peter Burkholder 73
  • 1949–50 William Kerr 73
  • 1954–55 Don Essig 73
  • 1955–56 Dan Burton 73
  • 1956–57 Charles Griffith 71

IHSAA boys' basketball

IHSAA Basketball Hall of Fame coach George Theofanis (coached 1966–1969)

Basketball sectional championships (10)

  • 1924–25 Indianapolis
  • 1925–26 Indianapolis
  • 1930–31 Indianapolis
  • 1932–33 Indianapolis
  • 1935–36 Indianapolis
  • 1937–38 Indianapolis
  • 1939–40 Indianapolis
  • 1966–67 Indianapolis Coliseum
  • 1967–68 Indianapolis Coliseum
  • 1968–69 Indianapolis Coliseum

Basketball regional championships (4)

  • 1930–31 Anderson
  • 1932–33 Indianapolis
  • 1966–67 Indianapolis
  • 1967–68 Indianapolis

Basketball semi state championships (1)

  • 1967–68 Indianapolis

Basketball runner-up state championship (1)

  • 1967–68 Indianapolis

Notable alumni


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13. 
  2. ^ Absolute News Manager.NET V5.0 : Licensed to Butler University
  3. ^ Video of Vonnegut on NOW on PBS, October 7, 2005
  4. ^ a b c I4647 G38 1985, Laura S. Gaus, "Shortridge High School 1864–1981 In Retrospect" (1985)
  5. ^ "Feature: The Team That Tackled Old Jim Crow". 1903-09-24. Retrieved 2014-03-03. 
  6. ^ a b Scott D Seay, “The Shortridge Incident: Christian Theological Seminary as an agent of Reconciliation” CTS journal, Encounter, Spring 2007
  7. ^ Glenn Berggoetz (April 2, 1998). "Kurt Vonnegut's Biography". Archived from the original on 2009-10-26. Retrieved 2014-03-03. 
  8. ^ Indiana High School Athletic Association
  9. ^ Marcus, Frederick R., "Albert William Levi and the Moral Imagination" (Ph.D. diss, Emory University, 2003), p. 125.
  10. ^ Duberman, Martin (1993), Black Mountain: An Exploration in Community, p. 285. W.W. Norton. ISBN 978-0-8101-2594-0
  11. ^ a b c d Price, Nelson (2004). Indianapolis Then & Now. San Diego, California: Thunder Bay Press. p. 116. ISBN . 
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