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School History

African-American student enrollment was at such high levels at Birmingham's Parker and Ullman High Schools in the 1950s that the city's school board decided to build a third high school for African-Americans. It was named Western High School.


The doors of Western High School opened September 17, 1952 in Ensley under the leadership of its first principal, Dr Pierre Denson Jackson. At that time, the building was still under construction and there was only enough room to provide classes to ninth and tenth graders. There were 490 students and 22 faculty members. The eleventh and twelfth grades were added over the next two years. By September 1954, there were more than 1,060 students.


When the two-story, 22-room brick school first opened, it had a library, cafeteria and a detached building that was temporarily used as a place for physical education. A vocational building was added later.


Students used the school's tools and teachers to help them excel in band, the classroom and on the sports field. Students soon earned a reputation as being dedicated community servants with outstanding educational backgrounds.


The school's Western High Mustangs football team played its first game during the 1954-1955 school year. The team went on to win the city and Jefferson County football championships in 1955. The track team also set enviable records during 1955, winning first place among city high schools. During the 1955-56 school year, students received various awards in math, music and physics during the State Academic Meet. The school received state accreditation in 1954 and earned accreditation from the Southern Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges in 1957.


The school saw its first name change during the 1953-54 school year when the F.W. Olin Foundation gave a $600,000 grant for the construction of a vocational building at the high school. The school was soon re-named Western-Olin High School. The May, 1973 retirement of Dr. Jackson triggered the second name change for the school. In honor of him, the school was renamed P.D. Jackson-Olin High School. Six more principals would follow Dr. Jackson. Dr. Andrew L. Jones served from 1973-1977; Charles Townsend served from 1977-1992; Doris Willis served from 1992-1997; Linda Parson served from 1997-2008; and Anthony Gardner served from 2008-2011. Appointed in 2011, Janice S. Drake is the current principal.