Banks High School

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Aerial view of Banks High School in the 1960s

L. Frazier Banks High School was a high school in the Birmingham Public School System from 1957 until the 1980s, after which it was converted into a middle school until it was finally closed in 2007. It was named for former superintendent L. Frazier Banks and occupied six buildings in a residential area on 86th Street South in the South East Lake neighborhood. The capacity of the school was 1,192, but as of 2006 the school's enrollment was down to 447. The last principal was Jesse Daniel.

The school was opened as a high school in 1957 and, at first, accepted only freshmen. The first graduating class matriculated in 1961. The school's athletic teams in that 1960-61 season won the Birmingham city football, basketball and baseball championships. The football team, initially made up of those who didn't make the Woodlawn team as freshmen, was coached by Jimmy Tarrant. The basketball team was coached by Albert Morton.

In 1961, the Alabama Air National Guard loaned the school a U. S. Air Force F-86D "Sabre" [1] which was a relic of the Korean War. The plane was painted in the school colors of Columbia blue and scarlet and was installed as a mascot and landmark on the roof of the school.

In 1972 and 1973, Coach Shorty White led the Jets to consecutive 4A state football championships. The school was recognized nationally as a football power, even appearing in the pages of National Geographic. Future NFL quarterback Jeff Rutledge led the team into a 1974 showdown with Woodlawn High School and running back Tony Nathan at Legion Field. The crowd was estimated at 42,000.

Banks Middle School

In the 1980s Banks was transformed into a middle school under the direction of Superintendent Cleveland Hammonds. Students from Banks went on to Woodlawn High School after the 8th grade.

In December 2000 arson caused extensive damage to the auditorium, destroying approximately $30,000 worth of band instruments which, because of ever-tightening public school budgets, have been only partially replaced. In February 2006, the South East Lake Neighborhood Association voted to appropriate $5,000 of their neighborhood funds to go toward new band instruments.

In October 2006 the Facilities and Technology Committee of the Birmingham Board of Education heard a recommendation from new superintendent of schools Stan Mims to close Banks and transfer its students to the new Ossie Ware Mitchell Middle School which was built as an elementary school that would have replaced Robinson Elementary School. Students from Banks relocated to their new campus in South East Lake in January 2007.

After the school's closure, the state agreed to turn over the landmark jet to the Southern Museum of Flight, where it was restored to its military colors for display.

Banks' campus was among 14 properties put on the market in early 2008. In February 2009 Mayor Larry Langford proposed developing a pre-kindergarten program in the school in partnership with the Jefferson County Committee For Economic Opportunity.

In 2008 columnist John Archibald reported that student records were left in the school building after it closed and that after she was made aware, interim superintendent Barbara Allen made arrangements to remove them to a secure storage facility. In 2013 real estate agent and Birmingham City Council candidate Richard Rutledge announced that the records remained unsecured. Shortly afterwards school system employees removed them from the vacated building.

Banks High School alumni


  • Jordan, Phillip. (March 23, 2006) "Hitting the right note: Can neighborhood associations help fill the funding gap for city schools?" Birmingham Weekly.
  • Ingram, Ron (September 20, 2006) "Ex-Jets recall success." The Birmingham News
  • Hickerson, Patrick (October 3, 2006) "Banks Middle closing pondered." The Birmingham News
  • Archibald, John (October 5, 2006) "Sad, unsafe school once was mighty." The Birmingham News
  • Hickerson, Patrick (January 5, 2007) "Students, staff value Banks' replacement." The Birmingham News
  • Archibald, John (May 31, 2007) "Banks jet to be mighty once more." The Birmingham News
  • Archibald, John (June 29, 2008) "Oh no! It's all on my permanent record." The Birmingham News
  • McGinnis, Cory (June 21, 2013) "Unsecured documents found at Banks Middle School."

External links