After the founding of Sallisaw in 1888, a National School for the Cherokees was established. The other children had to attend private schools or did not go to school at all. The lack of a public school in Sallisaw soon became a major issue.
In June of 1900, a sizable group of people met to confront the problem. They selected a School Committee (later called a School Board) to secure a building and propose the levying of a school tax to raise money, members of this first committee were: W.H. McDonald, C.F. Ivey and R.W. Hines. Soon after, the town's founder, Argyle Quesenbury, donated property for the school. By 1900, a public school was in operation in a small two-room building with Mr. H.L. Nichols appointed the first Superintendent and teacher. Mrs. W.L. Curtis was hired to be his assistant teacher.
In 1902 to house the ever-growing number of students, a two-story wooden building was constructed just north of the first school building near the northwest corner of Locust and Seminole streets. The first Sallisaw High School was organized on the second floor of this building in 1904 and Mrs. J.D. Miller was approves as the first high school principal. Even with the construction of the second building, in less than six years, the two structures could no longer house the increasing number of students.
During 1908, work began on a three-story brick high school but it would not be completed in time for the graduation of Sallisaw's first seniors, the class of 1908. Their graduation was held in the old Methodist Church that once stood at the corner of Choctaw and Elm where the National Bank of Sallisaw now stands.
In 1912, a school for African-American children was established on the east side of Beech Street. It was named the Douglas School and was in operation until 1957. The last teacher was Mrs. Lola Brown. Now living in Van Buren, Mrs. Brown and former students of the Douglas School recall that one of the earliest teachers at Sallisaw's Douglas School was Mrs. Rebecca Dotson.
As the Sallisaw Elementary School grew, it was reorganized with each grade taught in separate rooms. The teaching staff was increased and Miss Maude Melnotte was made the first elementary principal. Unfortunately, the elementary school remained in the old wooden buildings until 1920 when a two-story brick building called Liberty Grade School was finally erected. No doubt, the new building was in part the efforts of the Sallisaw Chapter of the PTA, founded in September 1919.
In 1926, a Community Building was constructed on the site where the Sequoyah Memorial Hospital now stands. The schools used this building for a gymnasium and auditorium until 1938 when the WPA built a large stone auditorium near the corner of Creek and main streets. The first gymnasium was completed in 1950, and named the Sanders Moore Field House. This building is now the gymnasium for the Middle School. A football stadium was erected in 1952. Before this fans had to stand at football games.
Track was probably the first physical education program in the Sallisaw Schools. A boy's basketball team was organized in 1913 with Baker W. Wall as the first coach. Girl's basketball soon followed with Miss Helen Stout as the first coach. The school colors, Orange and Black, date back to at least the 1915-16 school year and the black diamond Mascot was first used in 1924 by the basketball team. While a Cheerleader in 1929, Irene (Bradley) Green wrote the lyrics for the Sallisaw School song. The first school newspaper, The Cherokee Chieftain was published in 1921 with Wheeler mayo as one of the student editors. The wearing of caps and gowns at graduation began with the Sallisaw High School Class of 1924.
In 1930, Bill Ford, drove the first school bus from Marble City to Sallisaw transporting rural students, especially high school students, to Sallisaw for their education. With the introduction of busing, the Sallisaw High School soon outgrew the beautiful old three-story brick building. Not only was it too small but also it had structural problems and it was deemed a firetrap. In 1939 it was razed and at the same site a new yellow brick, one-story building was completed in 1940 by WPA workers. Many architectural elements from the old building were reused in the new one. This building would serve as a high school until 1988. Vacant and in bad condition it was sold to the Old High School Association in 1995 who are now restoring it as a Museum and Cultural Center for Sallisaw.
Besides busing, the 1930's saw other changes in the Sallisaw School. In the early 1930's, the first Junior High School (now called the Middle School) was organized and named for Mrs. Tommie (Wofford) Spear, a teacher in the Sallisaw Schools for many years. The first Junior High principal was Mrs. C.E. Wiggins who at the death of her husband in 1932 replaced him to become the first and only woman to serve as Superintendent of Sallisaw Schools.
A hot lunch program started in the late 1930's with Mrs. Daisy Russell in charge, led to our modern school cafeterias. In 1936, the first Sallisaw School Band was assembled and directed by Mrs. Marshall Metze.
In 1940, Mrs. Lois (Goodwin) Dickey taught the first Art Class in the school but because of World War II, most additions to the Sallisaw Schools were put on hold for the duration. Following the war several former army barracks from Camp Gruber were moved to Sallisaw for temporary classrooms.
The Cold War, the space race, integration and the Baby Boom all had their effects on Sallisaw High Schools during the 1950's. Science and Math Classes were beefed up and increased. Negro History was added to the curriculum and a new grade school was built. In 1951, Sallisaw Schools became a member of the North Central Accrediting Association. After a Supreme Court ruling in 1955, Oklahoma Schools were integrated and the first black student to graduate from Sallisaw High School was Shirley Stokes in 1958. In 1955, Irene Phillips organized and taught the first handicapped and Special Education Class and in 1958 a new Liberty Grade School building was completed.
A social unrest in the 1960's brought change to the Sallisaw Schools. For the first time in the history of the school, a "Dress Code" had to be instituted. In 1960, Paul Post was selected to head the first Guidance and Counseling program in the school. Two years later, Hattie Moore became the first Junior High Counselor. It was decided in the early 1960's that two diplomas would be offered to Sallisaw High School students: the regular diploma or after additional work, a student could earn a College Preparatory Diploma. The old Liberty Grade School building was completely razed during the 1965-66 school year and was replaced by a new cafeteria, classrooms and office. That same year, Sequoyah Eastside Elementary was built for the fifth and sixth graders. In 1969 a Head Start program was organized.
The first Sallisaw Kindergarten classes began in 1970 with two teachers, Emma Harris and Mary Jo Trudeau, in charge. The Indian Capital Vo-Tech School was completed in 1972 making it possible for Sallisaw High School students to spend one-half of a day in training for occupational skills. In 1974, a disastrous fire destroyed the 1938 school auditorium and the next two years a new building was built on the same site. Back in 1950, Mrs. Louie (Burton) Cheek after 24 years out of school returned to school to complete her senior year and earned her High School Diploma. But it was not until the 1970's that an Adult Education Program became a permanent part of Sallisaw schools.
In 1982, computers were introduced to the Sallisaw Schools when Computer Science was added to the curriculum. Since then, computers have spread to all parts of the school magnifying the role of machines in education. The Student Council, in 1985, established the Sallisaw High School Hall of Fame and Mrs. Tommie Spear was the first inductee. In 1986, work began on a new high school on 105 acres donated by an anonymous donor. The architect for the new building was Dale Ragland, a 1955 Sallisaw High School graduate. The building was completed and occupied in 1987. Also in 1987, the Liberty Grade School moved to its present location on Dogwood Street. The old Liberty Grade School was razed in 1996 and Marvin's Food Store now occupies that site.
A new High School Gymnasium was completed and occupied on January 11, 1994. Several times during the 1990's, school officials tried to get a bond issue passed to build a much-needed High School Auditorium but all failed. A bond issue was passed to enlarge the Kindergarten, located on the same campus as Liberty and Eastside Elementary Schools.
In 1900, Sallisaw Public Schools began with 60 students in a building with two rooms taught by two teachers. It now has 2,169 students located in four school complexes with no less than twenty buildings taught by 167 teachers.
Superintendents of Sallisaw Schools
Hugh Lansford Nicholas 1900-1910
Alfred Livingston 1910-1913
William Baker Wall 1913-1914
Charles H. Murlin 1914-1917
Robert E. Downing 1917-1920
Wade Hampton Shumate 1920-1926
Charles Ernest Wiggins 1926-1932
Vada Wiggins 1932-1936
John L. Coffey 1936-1936 (Mid-Term)
Henry Lee Peck 1936-1939
Gurdie Raymond Hurd 1939-1958
Walter J. Leeper 1958-1965
Ralph E. Campbell 1965-1971
Richard Mosely 1971-1977
Tony Risinger 1977-1981
Dr. Doyle Monger 1981-1983
Bill Patton 1983-1991
Ron E. Wyrick 1991-2011
Scott M. Farmer 2011-Present
In the fall of 1967-68 school year Perry Floyd Lattimore and his wife Margaret Lattimore-Kenyon sketched the first official Black Diamond Running Man. This logo was proudly displayed on the football dressing room and on trash cans that were placed on Sallisaw School property. After forty-one years the logo can still be seen in various places.
Sallisaw’s School Fight Song
Oh, when the old Sallisaw High men fall in line, we’re gonna win this game another time.
And for the SHS we’ll yell and yell, and for the football team we’ll yell and yell and yell.
We’re goona fight, fight, fight for every yard; we’ll circle in and hit that line right hard;
we’re gonna put ole (opponet) on the side.
Oh my gosh!
Did you know. . .
In 1916 our Basketball team had a winning season. They honored the team in the home of the superintendent. The decorations were orange and black, with and orange and black basketball hanging above the refreshment table, after that, Sallisaw teams were referred to as the Orange and Black Team.
On October 28, 1923 the entire school assembled to elect a YELL LEADER. Edgar McLaughlin received the most votes. A pep meeting was scheduled for the next week.
In the School year 1924-1925 the school mascot was selected.
The basketball coach decided to select a mascot, so he took several proposals that included Diamond Backs (after the rattle snakes in the area) and Black Diamonds (after coal in the area).
Coach Floyd Tompkins selected Black Diamonds as the mascot with orange and black being school colors.
On January 30, 1925, the Sallisaw Sequoyah County Democrat Newspaper labled the basketball team the first "Sallisaw Black Diamonds"