Legendary Lindblom High School on Chicago’s South Side turns 100 years old next year.
Since 1919, the school, located at 6130 South Wolcott, has consistently turned out some of this city’s and this country’s most productive citizens.
One of 11 selective enrollment high schools in Chicago, Lindblom was a “magnet” school before the term even became popular in the 1970s for parents wanting their children to achieve a better life through advanced education.
Going on to college is an expectation for Lindblom students, not a mere wish, and more than $37 million in scholarships were offered to the school last year to facilitate that transition.
Lindblom is a US News & World Report Gold Medal School that ranks Number 11 among Illinois high schools and Number 395 nationwide. It has a 94 percent graduation rate, compared to 76 percent for Chicago public high schools as a whole, and a college-readiness rank of 62 percent compared to the 26 percent average for other Chicago schools.
With its Academic Center, Lindblom engages students from Grades 7-12. There are about 1,400 students total; 70 percent are African American; 25 percent Hispanic; and three percent White.
The History Project
The Lindblom 100-Year History & Fundraiser Project – comprised of dozens of former and present Lindblom students, faculty and administrators – has taken on the responsibility of researching and writing the complete, riveting history of this esteemed educational institution and hopefully producing it in time for the school’s Centennial Celebration next August.
A GoFundMe campaign was created two months ago to fund completion of the project, which began in 2007 and is only half-finished. No money from the project will come from Lindblom or the Chicago Public Schools, though individuals from those institutions are free to contribute on their own.
N’DIGO Editor David Smallwood, from Lindblom’s Class of 1972, has been tasked with completing the writing of the history and attempting to produce it as a book, hopefully in time for the Centennial activities in 2019. If additional funds can be raised along the way to cover printing and associated costs, proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to Lindblom, hence the “Fundraiser” part of the name.
(To help match a pledged donation by an anonymous Lindblom alumnus, please click here: Lindblom’s 100-Year History GoFundMe Campaign)
Lindblom’s Cream Of The Crop
Whatever the appellation it has worn through the years – Lindblom Technical, Lindblom College Prep, now Lindblom Math and Science Academy – Lindblom High School has historically attracted the cream of the crop of students in Chicago, especially from the South Side of the city.
From the outset, the success of its graduates has been a hallmark of Lindblom.
Just six years after the school opened, a young Albert Jenner graduated in 1925. Albert had a yearbook reputation for more likely being found in the dancehall than the classrooms, but he went on to become the Jenner in the law firm of Jenner & Block.
Albert was also an adviser to the Warren Commission that investigated the John Kennedy assassination, the government commission that investigated the assassination of Robert Kennedy, and the House Commission that investigated Watergate and impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon.
In 1930, Ethel Payne graduated from Lindblom. She was an award-winning journalist for the Chicago Defender, the first Black woman to be issued White House press credentials, and the first to serve as a commentator on a national television newscast. She is considered “The First Lady of the Black Press.” BTW: one of Ethel’s writing teachers at Lindblom, Margaret Dixon, also taught Ernest Hemingway at a different school in Oak Park!
When he was 18, South Sider Jerry Sanders recovered from a beating by a street gang that nearly killed him, but he graduated from Lindblom in 1953 and went on to form Advanced Micro Devices in 1969. That semiconductor company is now worth over $5 billion. Jerry was a founder of Silicon Valley.
Contemporary Lindblom Achievers
Lindblom graduates populate the middle- and upper-middle class. We are integrated into the very fabric of society. We make things go. Here’s a look (in alphabetical order) at what just a handful of Lindblom graduates have been up to – multiply their success by the thousands – along with some of their thoughts about the school that they shared with N’DIGO.
David Blackmon, Class of 1988
David has 30 years of professional food service experience in Chicago, including as the executive chef of Blu Restaurant, and has been the personal chef for a number of NBA players and their families.
David is a Chicago Public School education administrator. As the Director of Career Technical Education (CTE) since 2007, he managed Hospitality, Culinary Arts, and Agriculture Science Education programs. CTE students have received over $20 million in college scholarships and earned over 7,000 industry level certifications, and more than 850 of his student chefs from 21 schools participated in the Cooking Up Change program. He is now Facilities Quality Assurance Manager for the schools.
David, whose twin children are freshmen at Lindblom this year, says, “Lindblom prepared me to compete in the post-secondary world and I saw the difference when I attended college. For that I will forever be grateful to my alma mater.
“It was the 1980s and I, like many other students, was ‘finding myself’ and my purpose in life. I fell in love and had my heart broken for the first time in ‘The Alley.’
“In my senior year, I found out that I had a lifelong family of brothers and sisters. My classmates have been there for each other through tragedies and triumphs. I also learned that my Lindblom family extends farther than just my graduating class, through a network of alumni willing to help each other out.”
Cheryl Burton, Class of 1980
Everybody knows and loves news anchor Cheryl Burton, who has worked at ABC7 Chicago since 1992. The ever-ebullient Cheryl was a Lindblom cheerleader and a Honey Bear cheerleader for the Chicago Bears. Hers was truly a major local media voice that kept the plight of Lindblom in the spotlight when the school almost closed in 1995.
Cheryl says, “I had perfect attendance at Lindblom for all four years, which was a glowing testament to my eagerness to learn and strong desire to make the most out of my educational experience at such a prestigious and award-winning high school.
“I was the first alumna of the school to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. I feel so proud of that accomplishment! At Lindblom, working alongside some of the best and brightest students in Chicago, I learned the importance and value of academic rigor, commitment and collaboration.
“The brilliant and talented teachers at Lindblom nurtured students to dream big and guided us to realize our greatest potential. I am forever grateful and blessed for all of my experiences and opportunities at Lindblom and how they helped shape me into the person I am today.”
Siblings Karen (Class of 1984) & Keith Calloway (Class of 1981)
In May, Karen A. Calloway was promoted to Principal at Kenwood Academy High School after 17 years she spent there as Dean of Students and Assistant Principal.
Two weeks ago, her older brother Keith was promoted to Chief of Internal Affairs for the Chicago Police Department after serving many years as Deputy Chief in charge of the Education and Training Division and as a District Commander.
Karen says, “While attending Lindblom, I learned the importance of having a solid work ethic and how this would impact my path to success. I learned that being of service and helping others would enhance my leadership ability. The culture was rich and I was always excited to attend school; it was packed with opportunity and new experiences. I will forever say, ‘One time…Swoooooop!’ Only an Eagle will understand.”
Keith says, “As a Lindblom student, I knew that I was receiving a world-class education. Teachers cared and that made a difference. I remember getting to school during Zero Period to meet with teachers and they were always there to provide support. My high school experience was extremely valuable and it shaped me into the professional that I am today. For me, Lindblom was an excellent choice.”
Judge William Hooks, Class of 1971
Bill, an outspoken attorney with years of experience, has been a Cook County Circuit Court judge since 2008 and associated with a number of high profile cases.
He retired in 1995 as a Lt. Colonel in the Marine Corps after 20 years of service, and was called one of Chicago’s toughest lawyers by Chicago Magazine. Bill was the first Black president of Chicago’s Federal Bar Association and is a past president of the Cook County Bar Association, the nation’s oldest African-American bar group.
Bill says, “Lindblom is the gift that keeps on giving! It gave me and countless others the foundation we needed to move forward in life…even when you didn’t realize it. I remember taking Ms. Rutherford’s trigonometry class and thinking, ‘This is something I’ll never need.’
“Just a few years later, however, I was in the Marines working as an intelligence officer in cryptology and communications and what I learned in trig about radio waves and intercept signals, that stuff, put me far ahead of the rest of the group. It gave me a fundamental knowledge that let me dive right into the heart of the intelligence work, and that was impressive because I was one of the few Black officers involved.”
Andrea Jenkins, Class of 1979
Andrea is an internationally recognized writer, performance artist, poet, and transgender activist. As the Vice President of the Minneapolis City Council, she is the first African-American openly trans woman to be elected to office in the United States. She is a 2011 Bush Fellow to advance the work of transgender inclusion, and is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships.
Andrea says, “Lindblom was and still is a huge influence on my development as a human, a scholar, an advocate. One of my elementary school teachers was adamant that I not attend my neighborhood high school, but rather, take the test for Lindblom.
“I had never heard of the school, but the teacher picked me up and took me there on a Saturday morning. I remember wondering, will I get in? I heard from the school and they said my math scores really needed some work, but my reading and writing scores were so high that they would admit me with the understanding that I needed to work on math.
“Lindblom changed my life because I met so many people that were talking about going to college, and I honestly had no idea that there was school after high school. My classmates were going to Purdue, University of Chicago, Northwestern, Washington University, Notre Dame, etc. I didn’t want to be left out, so I applied to and was accepted at the University of Minnesota.
“People always talk about peer pressure as a bad or negative thing, but in my situation it was the most positive thing that could have happened for me. Lindblom in 100 years has educated some of the brightest minds in Chicago and trained them to become leaders in our communities, cities, and country.”
Denise L. Johnson Miller, Class of 1972
Denise, who graduated at the top of her Lindblom class, is Medical Director, Breast Surgery for Hackensack Meridian Health Centers in New Jersey.
She has been named numerous times as one of America’s Top Doctors, Top Breast Surgeons, Top Cancer Care Doctors, and Top Cancer Surgeons by the likes of US News & World Report, Newsweek Magazine, the Consumer Research Council of America, and other leading institutions and publications.
In addition to being widely published in medical journals, she is also developing clinical trials in support of oncology drug testing, and directs a genetic testing program for multi-disciplinary breast cancer risk screenings.
Denise says, “My family was offered a full tuition scholarship for me to attend University of Chicago’s Lab School. The family turned down the offer because they could not offer my much smarter brother a full scholarship the following year.
“I often contemplate how different my life would have been if the decision was made for me to attend a private school like the Lab School versus Lindblom. So very happy that Lindblom was the choice. So many memories, exposures and friendships – the clubs, the parties, our teachers, my first love…all in four years.”
Alvin Love, Class of 1972
Alvin has served as Pastor of Lilydale First Baptist Church of Chicago and Park Forest, Illinois for more than 35 years. He has led the Baptist churches of Chicago, served on the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago, and served six years as President of the Baptist Convention of the State of Illinois.
Internationally, he has met with the Pope in Vatican City and held briefings with the World Council of Churches in Switzerland, the All-Africa Conference of Churches in Kenya and Mozambique, the African Baptist Assembly of Malawi, the South African Conference of Churches in Johannesburg, and with the Vice President of South Africa in Pretoria.
Alvin says, “At Lindblom we were expected to succeed! The foundation that I received while a student there equipped me to serve in leadership capacities across the globe.
“Lindblom is a place where leaders are developed. It is the place where I found myself. The encouragement that I received from the teachers, staff and close-knit community of students brought what was a shy, timid young boy out of his shell, and made me realize that I could be more.
“I lived my early life in the segregated South. Coming from segregated schools in the state of Mississippi, I often felt inadequate. Lindblom gave me the skills and confidence to achieve.
“Perhaps the greatest of those achievements were the years I served as faith based advisor and counselor to the eventual 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, in his early days as a community organizer in Chicago.
“I am grateful for all that this school has done for me and am honored to be one of those shaped by its legacy. Lindblom provides fertile soil for little seeds to grow and it’s amazing what fruit those seeds yield.”
Berve Power, Class of 1992
Since 2009, Berve has served as the National Secretary of the Nation of Islam, which means he oversees all the financial assets of the Nation around the world. In addition, he is the managing attorney for Power & Dixon, the oldest Black-owned law firm in America.
Berve says, “Lindblom was a transformative experience for me. I came through at a time when students looked to faculty and teachers like aunts and uncles. It was such a nurturing and caring environment overall. Mrs. Lynn St. James and Mrs. Cheryl Rutherford stressed a high level of academic achievement coupled with a healthy dose of school spirit.
“My experience was extra special because my dad was a chemistry teacher there and I came into the school with an older sister two years ahead of me and I went out with a younger brother two years behind me. So everyday for me was an extension of home. In fact, during one awards program, my dad won ‘Teacher of the Year,’ I won ‘Junior of the Year’ and my brother won ‘Freshman of the Year.’
“Nevertheless, we still had to fight in the mid-‘90s to keep Lindblom open. That was time well spent. We are grateful that the school is still open and continuing to make its mark on the education of today’s teenagers.”
Horace Smith, Class of 1967
Horace is a dual threat – the Bishop of Apostolic Faith Church, which seats 3,000, and a medical doctor. He is an attending physician at Lurie Children’s Hospital, specializing in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
One of the first students to integrate Lindblom, Horace told the Chicago Sun-Times’ Maudlyne Ihejirika, “It was the middle of the Civil Rights Movement. There were few African-American students in a school of 3,000 – we weren’t very welcome. But I was a nerd. I loved school and graduated in the top 10 percent of my class. My family didn’t have the money to send me to college, so Lindblom’s principal found a scholarship for me to go to Chicago State University.”
The Lindblom History Project will recognize all these alumni and more that graduated from our hallowed halls, including: Ald. Shirley Coleman; Bishop Larry Trotter; NBA player Mickey Johnson; TV’s original Match Game host Gene Rayburn; house music pioneering DJ Steve “Silk” Hurley; Bronzeville Commission’s Raynard Hall; and journalist Toure Muhammad.
That’s among many others, including these two: Did you know that in 1979, Ali LeRoi formed a comedy sketch troupe at Lindblom along with classmate Lance Crouther? They both went on to write for The Chris Rock Show and Everybody Hates Chris. LeRoi has won a writing Emmy and Lance starred as Pootie Tang in Rock’s 2001 movie of the same name.
As the school’s current principal, Wayne Bevis, says, “Lindblom is a dynamic school that focuses on growing students so they can be the compassionate leaders of tomorrow that can understand, engage and impact the world.” Mr. Bevis may write the final chapter of the school’s history, centering on what the school will be like into its next 100 years.
“Where Our History Guides Our Future”
That’s Lindblom’s motto, and a guiding principle behind the Lindblom 100-Year History & Fundraiser Project – to make sure that the school’s rich story is fully understood in Chicago so that the tradition of Lindblom is sustained by another 100 years of productive graduates.
“We’re trying to make Lindblom the first Chicago public high school to record, and hopefully publish, its 100-year history,” explains Project founder Roy Pearson, Class of 1968.
Roy graduated from Northwestern Law School and had a long career as a lawyer for indigent D.C. residents with a federally funded legal services program. He served as a Hearing Examiner and Administrative Law Judge in D.C. and now contracts with law firms on litigation projects.
Roy never forgot the foothold he received at Lindblom and around 2007, conceived the idea of the history project as a way to give back through financial support and by capturing the school’s institutional memory in a single document.
He convened a number of volunteer support committees and went to work in earnest chronicling Lindblom’s history around 2010. He’s been at it as pretty much a one-man band ever since and has amassed a prodigious history of the school’s first half-century.
In June, Roy informed Project members that he could no longer continue his personal effort due to work and life obligations. He asked for volunteers to take over, but no one stepped up.
Estimating that it would take the committees until 2020 to complete the work on a volunteer basis, Roy formed a GoFundMe campaign to hire a professional to hopefully get the project completed in time for Lindblom’s 100th Anniversary.
N’DIGO’s David Smallwood is now director of the Lindblom History Project. A member of the Class of 1972, David has published four books, including the best-selling The Cool Gent: The Nine Lives of Radio Legend Herb Kent.
N’DIGO Legacy: Black Luxe – 110 African-American Icons of Contemporary History, which David co-authored with N’DIGO Publisher Hermene Hartman, who also taught at Lindblom, was released in October of last year and debuted at the Chicago Public Library’s Annual Carl Sandburg Literary Awards Dinner.
David graduated from the University of Illinois Chicago after earning a four-year National Achievement Scholarship at Lindblom and was a Chicago Sun-Times reporter and Jet Magazine editor before becoming a founding member of N’DIGO.
David notes, “As Roy originally intended, this will be a thorough history of the school, but not just a rah-rah listing of activities and fun times. There were some challenging things that happened at Lindblom, so the history will include the social, political and economic forces that engulfed the school at various times. …as well as lighter stuff like how we went from boom boom to swoop swoop!
“For instance, there’s a poignant, yet embarrassing article all the way in the New York Times in 1995 about how the Chicago Public Schools were set to close Lindblom despite its history of astounding success. We almost died at the age of 76, instead of now celebrating 100 years. And there are issues to be covered about racism at the school and in its surrounding environ.”
About 10 years ago, David says, a group of Lindblom students engaged in a year-long project that won an Outstanding Entry in African-American History Award at the National History Day Finals in Maryland for detailing how Lindblom was “forced” to integrate in the mid-1960s. This was despite the occasional Black students who attended the school as far back as the early 1920s.
“Their project discussed several race riots at the school and how in the space of about five years between 1968 and 1973, the West Englewood neighborhood Lindblom is located in became predominantly Black as whites fled the area in droves,” David explains.
“Lindblom is only three miles from Marquette Park, where Dr. Martin Luther King was hit by a brick while marching in 1966, around the time Lindblom was integrating, so you know that the new influx of Black students was not met with open arms.
“But, through good, bad, ups and downs, Lindblom has managed to make it for a century and not many Chicago public schools can claim that. This is a terrific project to work on and I’m proud to be part of it. But at the same time, we’re on the clock with a lot of work to do, so we need a lot of that Lindblom ingenuity and resilience to kick in to get this done. But, we’ll get there. As individuals, we are all obviously different people. But as Lindblom Eagles, we are united as one. Swoop Swoop! Boom Boom! Lindblom, baby!”
(If you feel The Lindblom 100-Year History Project is worth completing, please click here to donate: Lindblom 100-Year History Project GoFundMe Campaign)