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Samuel J. Tilden High School History

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We Have Been Asked!

Who Was Samuel J. Tilden?  (excerpted from Wikipedia and based upon articles in the Brooklyn Eagle)

  • “The United States presidential election of 1876 was one of the most disputed presidential elections in American history. Samuel J. Tilden of New York outpolled Ohio's Rutherford B. Hayes in the popular vote, and had 184 electoral votes to Hayes' 165, with 20 votes uncounted. These 20 electoral votes were in dispute: in 3 states (Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina); each party reported its candidate had won the state, while in Oregon one elector was declared illegal (as an ‘elected or appointed official’) and replaced. The 20 disputed electoral votes were ultimately awarded to Hayes after a bitter legal and political battle, giving him the victory. Many historians believe that an informal deal was struck to resolve the dispute: the Compromise of 1877. In return for Democrat acquiescence in Hayes' election, the Republicans agreed to withdraw federal troops from the South, thereby ending Reconstruction.
  • Samuel J. Tilden High School, Bayside High School, Abraham Lincoln High School, John Adams High School, and Grover Cleveland High School were all built during the Great Depression from one set of blueprints, in order to save money. The school was estimated to cost between $2,500,000 and $3,000,000 and would feature specialized facilities including a swimming pool, rifle range, an auditorium with 1300+ capacity, library, and science laboratories. Tilden High School opened on February 3, 1929. It cost $2,500,000 to construct and was built to serve 3,969 students.
  • In 1935, a field and stadium were designed and constructed with WPA labor and appropriations. Several years later, the WPA would make another addition to Samuel J. Tilden High School, this time in the form of a mural for the auditorium. The project took over 6 months as muralists Abraham Lishinsky, Irving A. Block, and Abraham Lerner designed and painted a 2,400 square foot mural depicting “Major Influences in Civilization” for the auditorium. Our own Harry Klaff, retired Tilden history teacher, adds: "I always took my history classes into the auditorium when we did the New Deal. I have the whole history of those murals, courtesy of Jerry Last (Tilden art teacher), who knew the artist, Alexander Lishinsky, who lived in East Flatbush. He studied mural art in Mexico and was influenced by Diego Rivera. He got the Tilden job by submitting a few drawings to the WPA. When he finished in 1938, the WPA came down to inspect. At that point, they accused him of being a Communist. To the left of the stage is a large mural showing people with sickles and there's a hammer that looks like it was traced off the Soviet flag. On the top, near the ceiling, is a star." (Ed. note: see photos herein)
  • By the 1940s, Tilden, initially criticized for its hard to reach location, was over crowded by students, at one point reaching 5,700. In order to limit the crowding, school administrators split the school day, offering one session from 7:50am to 1:04pm and another from 1:11pm to 5:45pm. (Ed. note: what freshman doesn’t remember going home in darkness during the winter months?!)
  • In 1942, Samuel J. Tilden HS was the first Brooklyn high school to hold a mass blood drive. During the war, new home economics curricula were introduced to better prepare girls for the war effort. Girls took cooking classes in school that taught them how to cook more with less, as everyday ingredients were rationed and shipped off to the soldiers. Other students supported the war by purchasing more than $15,000 in United States Savings Bonds and Stamps to help the government finance military operations during the war, leading the nation in money raised by students. Over 100 girls knit sweaters and scarves in conjunction with the British War Relief and American Red Cross. The Red Cross also agreed to send instructors to teach nursing and first aid methods, so that if the war lasted years, the girls would become nurses in aid of the soldiers.
  • The racial tensions that swept the nation during the 1960s and 1970s were felt at Samuel J. Tilden High School as well. The school’s African American population was growing, and the school’s demographics were changing and becoming more diverse. In 1962, of the 5,000 students that attended Tilden HS, 97.9% were “others”, the Board of Education’s term for non-blacks and non-Puerto Ricans. By 1971, of the 3,000 students at Tilden, 63.4% were others. Tensions came to a head during the rezoning hearings in March 1972, which aimed to ensure integrated education for three high schools in Brooklyn: Samuel J. Tilden HS, , Canarsie HS, and South Shore . Parents groups of each high school each had their own idea of a zoning plan that would preserve the racial and ethnic diversity of each school while maintaining a quality education for each student. In order to attract students, specialized honors programs were established at Tilden. Students from all over the city would be able to apply to the special programs. This marked a shift in New York City School Zoning, as a student’s school options were no longer only determined by geography. Tilden’s demographics continued to change into the 1980s as the surrounding neighborhood, East Flatbush, saw increased immigration from the Caribbean and West Indies.
  • When it opened in 1929, Principal John M. Loughran adopted the slogan, “athletics for all”.  Leading a school equipped with facilities, sports field, three gymnasiums, swimming pool, etc., Principal Loughran set to find the personnel and coaches that would establish Tilden High Blue and Greys as a sports great in New York City. In 1935, a new stadium was constructed and designed by the WPA.  Throughout the decades that followed, Tilden Blue and Grey won many PSAL titles in football, baseball, tennis, track, swimming, and fencing.
  • In 2006, the Department of Education declared Tilden to be a “failed school”. In 2007 it became the Tilden Educational Complex, home to several new small schools. These include the Cultural Academy for the Arts & Sciences (CAAS), the Kurt Hahn Expeditionary Learning School, and It Takes A Village Academy (ITAVA). The last regular graduating class will graduate in June 2010.
  • The movie, “Above The Rim”, was shot at Samuel J. Tilden, and the film, “Lords of Flatbush”, opens in front of Tilden’s main entrance.

Just a Few of Our Notable Alumni:

  • Mitchell Jay Feigenbaum - Mathematical Physicist and discoverer of the Feigenbaum Constants
  • Sid Gordon -- Major league baseball player (NY Giants) and 2-time all-star
  • Ossie Schectman -- NBA basketball player
  • Al Sharpton - Pentecostal minister, political activist, civil rights activist, and former candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in 2004.
  • Willie Randolph-World Series Champion Major Leaguer (New York Yankees) and former manager of the New York Mets
  • Neil Meron- Hollywood and Broadway producer
  • Sander Jacobs – Broadway producer
  • Amy Paulin - New York State Assemblywoman (D-88th District)
  • Owen Gill - NFL Indianapolis Colts
  • Ed Cota - Professional basketball player
  • Earl Ubell – Scientist, journalist, newscaster, science advisor to President Kennedy
  • Greg Murphy – NFL player, NY Jets
  • Devon Mitchell - NFL player, Detroit Lions
  • Dr. Paul Mark – renowned cardiologist
  • Rear Admiral Dr. Marion Balsam – US Navy Physician and NIH pediatric researcher
  • Dr. Melvyn Bert - Opthalmologist and co-founder of the Tibet Vision Project
  • Lillian (Shapiro) Fisher – Arizona Superior Court Justice

If you can add any names to the above list, please contact us with details.  Thanks so much.
Want to view Tilden yearbooks from days gone by?  Go to: