In 1947, two years after World War II ended, Henry W. Grady High School opened its doors in Midtown to welcome students from its precursor schools, Boys High and Tech High, and became co-ed.
Grady will mark its 70th anniversary on Nov. 3 – 4. The festivities kick off Friday night at 8 p.m. with the Knights’ final home football game. On Saturday starting at 1 p.m., there will be an open house with exhibits, speakers, reunions and tours of the school. At 6 p.m., a cocktail reception will be held across the street at Park Tavern, featuring The Soundhaus Band with Grady Alumni from the ‘50s and ‘60s.
“This 70th anniversary is a chance for Grady to celebrate itself and it’s deep legacy of achievement and service to its graduates and the city of Atlanta,” said John Brandhorst, vice chair of the Grady High School Foundation. “This is a fresh opportunity to develop an active network among all constituents to better recognize our history and to support and celebrate our future.”
Elliott Levitas (Class of ’48) still remembers his transition from Boy’s High to attending Grady. Levitas, the first editor the school’s newspaper,The Southerner, and a Rhodes Scholar, went on to represent Georgia’s 4th District in U.S. House of Representatives where he helped create the Chattahoochee River National Park after serving 10 years in the Georgia House of Representatives, and continues practicing law today.
“In many of the activities, we created co-positions boy/girl. We felt like the founding parents of a new country, because everything was being done for the first time and decisions were being made about school colors, mascot, and nicknames. All of these decisions were group decisions,” Levitas said.
Levitas will be honored on Nov. 4 at the 3 p.m. inaugural presentation of the Grady High School Wall of Fame.
“I remember one very moving moment was when we were at the printers and the first edition of The Southerner newspaper came off the presses. After all those days and weeks of working on it with new people and the new idea for a school newspaper – there it was. We held it in our hands and looked at it. It was a very important event,” Levitas remembered.
His senior year taught him that “change is not a threat it can be an opportunity.”
That spirit of opportunity and achievement continued in the decades that followed. In 1961, Grady was the first high school in Georgia to racially integrate students and made national headlines for a peaceful transition.
Current students may discover they have more in common with past alumni than they thought. For instance, many generations have attended classes in portables.
“For several years after Grady opened, a lot of the classes were held in wooden buildings called portables adjacent to structure that’s there now, which had no central heating,” Levitas recalld. “The only heat was supplied by a potbelly stove in one corner of the room that was burning coal.”
And perhaps other alumni also met their future spouse or partner through Grady. That’s where Levitas got to know his wife Barbara better, who was a senior class officer several years after Levitas graduated.
To order cocktail reception tickets ($30 each, or 2 for $50), send a check payable to “Grady HS Foundation” to Grady HS Foundation, P.O. Box 487, 931 Monroe Drive, Suite 102, Atlanta, GA 30308, or click Paypal link on gradyhsfoundation.org.