History of Amarillo High


Amarillo High School

Amarillo High School is a school located in the city of AmarilloTexas, United States and is one of four high schools in the Amarillo Independent School District and classified as a 5A school by the UIL. In 2015, the school was rated "Met Standard" by the Texas Education Agency.[2]

Amarillo High School

Amarillo High School in Amarillo Texas USA.jpg

Amarillo High School

4225 Danbury St.
AmarilloTX 79109-5199
United States
Type Public
Established 1889
School district Amarillo Independent School District
Principal Mark Webster
Grades 9-12
Enrollment 2144[1] (2016)
Color(s)           Black & Gold
Athletics UIL Class AAAAA
Athletics conference University Interscholastic League
Team name Sandies/Lady Sandies
Yearbook La Airosa
Website Amarillo High School






Founded in 1889, Amarillo High School began in a converted courthouse which was outgrown and abandoned that same year. Moving to a larger building on Polk street served the schools needs until 1906 and yet another building was utilized until 1910.

Construction of a permanent home was completed in 1910, also on Polk street near downtown. A much larger facility was completed nearby in 1922, and this facility served until a fire destroyed the entire school except for the gym in 1970.

Early in the morning of March 1, 1970, a Sunday, J.B. Putney, a custodian at First Baptist Church, traveled to work and saw the fire inside the school. He was the first person to report the blaze at 6:15 a.m. A fire raged through the building. It first began in a second story storeroom, caused by an overheated boiler below, and soon spread to damage nearly all of the structure and destroy most of the property inside. Several courageous students arrived on the scene first and began removing textbooks, trophies, class gifts, art pieces and other artifacts from the burning building. Fortunately, no one was injured in the fire. The damage was estimated at the time to be nearly 2 million dollars.

The approximately 1,700 Amarillo High School students spent the remainder of the year in makeshift classes set up in the facilities of the First Baptist Church and the Polk Street Methodist Church and the undamaged school gymnasiums and armory. The experience created a bond among the students, who were grateful not to be farmed out to another high schools in the area. Renovations in the burned out building accommodated students for the next three years until a new high school could be built.


General Aspects of the SchoolEdit




One of the musical groups of AHS during the 1950s was the "Sandie Swingsters" who played for pep rallies, dances and other special events at AHS. Currently, the AHS Band performs at pep rallies, games, and other events. (N.B.: The first 'swing' band at AHS was actually called the "Dukes of Sandieland". It was formed in 1958 under the direction of William O. Latson.)

Since then, the school has supported two string orchestras, two wind bands, a marching ensemble, and a combined orchestra.


Amarillo High School offers many diverse activities, in foreign languages, fine arts, community services, and athletics, including Drama Club, Student Council, Spanish Club, Latin Club, German Club, French Club, bandorchestrachoirKey Club, Ken Club, Junior Statesmen of AmericaNational Honor SocietyFCCLA, Math Club, Science Bowl, International Forum, Soccerfootballbaseballswimming, bowling, golfwrestling, Frisbee Club and other curricular and extracurricular activities.


The Amarillo Golden Sandstorm football program has one of the best early traditions in Texas. Beginning in 1922, Amarillo High has made 46 football playoff appearances (as of 2007), which is second only to 4A Dallas Highland Park.[3] Amarillo High emerged as a football powerhouse in the 1930s as young head coach Blair Cherry guided the Sandies to three consecutive Texas state championships in 1934-1936, as only the second school to ever do so (the Paul Tyson-guided Wacowon 1925-27). Cherry left Amarillo in 1937 to become offensive coordinator under Dana X. Bible at the University of Texas. His successor Howard Lynch struggled to handle the task of fulfilling the high expectations, although he won another state championship in 1940 and reach the championship game in 1948. The school chose not to renew Lynch's contract in 1951.[4]

Lynch's successor, Bill Defee, had previously coached at Panola College. Defee left in 1955, being replaced by Joe Kerbel, who had previously won two state championships at Breckenridge High. Kerbel, in three years, guided the Sandies to the playoffs 2 times. The 1957 team was ranked #1 in the state all year long until they lost in the quarterfinals to defending state champion, Abilene High School. That game drew over 22,000 fans, the largest ever to watch a football game in Amarillo Stadium, (Now Dick Bivins Stadium) as of 2007. Kerbel left to become an assistant coach at Texas Tech and later was the head coach at West Texas State University.

After that, there was a string of unsuccessful stints by a number of coaches. Amarillo High went 16 years, 1960–1975, without gaining the playoffs. Bum Phillips, who would later become the Houston Oilers head coach, coached Amarillo at the beginning of that drought, from 1959-61. In 1975, Larry Dippel arrived, turning the program around and guiding the Sandies to 222 wins until 2005.[5] Dippel took over an Amarillo High program in 1975 that was struggling. AHS had not been in the playoffs since 1959 but Dippel turned around the program and led AHS to 23 playoff appearances. After the 2005 season (31 seasons), Dippel retired. He finished his career with a record of 253-134-6, with 222 of the wins coming with the Sandies. His many honors include being named 2003 National Coach of the year, serving as president of the Texas High School Coaches Association in 1999 and being named state coach of the year (The Tom Landry Award) in 1993. Dippel also earned the Sportsmanship Award from Amarillo Football Officials four times. Dippel's tenure as a head coach at Amarillo High is the longest of any head coach in any sport in AISD history. He won 16 district titles at Hereford and AHS combined, and he led the Sandies to the Class 5A state semifinals in 1992. Dippel leaves having coached fathers and sons, uncles and nephews.

Amarillo ISD athletic director Tex Nolan selected Brad Thiessen to be Dippel's successor. Thiessen had previously coached at 1A Stratford High and 3A Levelland High. He guided Stratford to a 16-0 season and the 1A state championship in 2000.[6]The Stratford 2001 football team ran their unbeaten string to 30 games before losing in the semi-finals, ending a 17-1 season.

The Amarillo Sandies compete in these sports - [7]

Volleyball, Cross Country, Football, Basketball, Wrestling, Swimming, Soccer, Golf, Tennis, Track, Baseball & Softball

State TitlesEdit

  • Boys Basketball - [8]
    • 1986(5A)
  • Girls Basketball - [9]
    • 1993(5A), 1994(5A)
  • Girls Cross Country - [10]
    • 1976(1A), 1977(1A), 1998(5A)
  • Football - [11]
    • 1934(All), 1935(All), 1936(All), 1940(All)
  • Boys Golf - [12]
    • 1954(2A)
  • Volleyball - [13]
    • 1988(5A), 1994(5A), 1998(5A), 2001(5A), 2006(5A), 2007(5A), 2008(5A), 2009(5A), 2013(4A), 2016(5A)

State FinalistsEdit

  • Football - [14]
    • 1930(All), 1948(2A);
  • Volleyball - [15]
    • 1986(5A), 1997(5A)

Hell WeekEdit

Hell week, also referred to as "Spirit Week" is the week in which Amarillo High plays its annual football game against Tascosa High School, its traditional rival. During Hell Week, many vandalisms occur such as eggingspraypaintingtoilet paperingkeying, and other property defacing acts.[16][17] In 2006, vandalism ranged from simple chalking on sidewalks to bricks being thrown through windows. In 2007, fellow Senior Sandies of 08' spraypainted the black "T" in front of Tascosa gold. However, many steps are being taken to attempt to make Hell Week less violent, such as increased police presence. Both schools also discourage violence during announcements.[18] Amarillo High School has won many of the games, including 2010 for the district championship, but they had a notable loss in 2009, losing by a field goal. Amarillo High continued their tradition of winning until the 2016 matching, when Tascosa posted a 23-21 win over Amarillo High with a late 4th quarter touchdown with only 36 seconds left on the clock.[19]


Notable alumniEdit

Several famous individuals have either attended or graduated from Amarillo High School:



  1. ^ Texas Tribune
  2. ^ "2015 Accountability Rating System" (PDF). Texas Education Agency. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-09-10.
  3. ^ Amarillo.com: Texas High School Football Statistics August 30, 2007
  4. ^ Howard Lynch
  5. ^ An era ends at Amarillo High School
  6. ^ Lance Lahnert (August 29, 2006). "A new era at Amarillo High"Amarillo.com.
  7. ^ The Athletics Department
  8. ^ "UIL Centennial Webpage". Archived from the original on March 6, 2012. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
  9. ^ "UIL Centennial Webpage". Archived from the original on March 6, 2012. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
  10. ^ "UIL Centennial Webpage". Archived from the original on March 6, 2012. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
  11. ^ Lone Star Football Network Retrieved January 16, 2012
  12. ^ "UIL Centennial Webpage". Archived from the original on March 1, 2012. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
  13. ^ UIL Centennial Webpage[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ Lone Star Football Network
  15. ^ UIL Centennial Webpage[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ Brenda Bernet (October 17, 2007). "'Hell Week' begins".
  17. ^ "Editorial: 'Hell Week' puts city through heck". October 25, 2006.
  18. ^ Phillip Yates (October 11, 2006). "Amarilloans brace for week of rival mayhem".
  19. ^ Lahnert, Lance (September 9, 2016). "Heartstopper: Tascosa halts losing streak to Amarillo High with late TD".
  20. ^ "Heath Hearing UFC Bio". Retrieved July 20, 2014.


External linksEdit

Template:UIL District 2-6A High Schools




Posted July 21, 2016 04:23 am - Updated September 18, 2010 10:09 pm  


Beilue: Class of '70 reunites

Blaze leveled AHS year they graduated 


29 Share


Amarillo Globe-News File

Firefighters work to contain a blaze that destroyed Amarillo High School March 1, 1970.

Amarillo Globe-News File

A student rescues trophies from the burning Amarillo High School building on March 1, 1970.

Amarillo Globe-News File

AHS students Billy Miller, from left, Toya Lipscomb, Debby Reynolds, Tommy Johnson, Cheryl Robie and Connie McManus collect a few souvenir bricks on March 26, 1970.

Amarillo Globe-News File

Firefighters work to contain a blaze that destroyed Amarillo High School March 1, 1970.

Jon Mark Beilue

Stephen Spillman / Amarillo Globe-News

Members of the 1970 class of Amarillo High School, front row from left, Melissa Kalka, Mindy Jackson, Debbie Snyder, Camille Cargill, Jeri Farris and Stan Cosby; middle row from left, Wayne Williams, Robin Hill, James Quiggle and Gary Newman; and back row

Their high school class should not have been deemed anything out of the ordinary, nothing distinguishable. Other than being the first graduating class of that decade, there should have been nothing all that special about the Amarillo High Class of 1970.

Then a boiler exploded in the early hours of March 1, 1970, and everything changed. A high school was destroyed and a togetherness was forged, especially among those seniors - less than three months from graduation - that's held firm from almost the moment the fire engines arrived on Polk Street until now, more than 40 years later.

"Since that fire, we've been very close," said Robert Jordan, who lives in Odessa. "After the fire, I think a lot of us realized it was more of a bond than we ever thought, and it's still there. We had a special time, though a sad time."

This weekend, at Amarillo High's homecoming, will mark the 40-year reunion of the displaced Class of '70. It will be the fourth time they've gathered officially as a group since graduation.

More than 60 are expected at this morning's pep rally, and around 100 will attend a tailgate meal before tonight's football game with Midland Lee.




Many will listen Saturday to classmate Tommy Walter's inspirational story of overcoming a tragic accident to achieve business success, and around 150 will be at a dinner Saturday night at the Amarillo Club.

"My younger brother was in the first graduation class at the new campus (in 1974)," said reunion chairwoman Jeri Jackson Farris. "He said that our class gets more people at their reunion committee meetings than they get at their reunions."

That's what watching the physical end of a proud school will do to the last class that started its senior year in those grand, old downtown buildings. Their senior year wasn't supposed to end like that, going to classes in makeshift partitions at the old gyms or in classrooms at First Baptist Church and Polk Street Methodist Church.

Salvaging the historic remains of an old school and finishing their high school career in a church can link classmates, even those who didn't know each other that well, among the 540 graduates of the class.

Camille Brady Cargill, a reunion committee member, and Jordan believe they may have been among the last students to see the high school before the fire. Cargill was among a group that returned from an out-of-town convention to cars at the school around 2:30 a.m. that March 1.

Jordan had taken his date to her Rolling Hills home and decided to return along Polk to where he lived in Southlawn. He wanted to take a look at the shimmering school that night because his days there were dwindling. He didn't know, in a matter of hours, they would be gone.

Many remember the unbelievable early-morning phone calls that Sunday morning. Students took off for Amarillo High as the sun was coming up, some still in pajamas.

Students from all four high schools were gathering. Many were crying, and just as many were going inside to salvage Sandie history, to scurry out with trophies, expensive artwork from the library and other memorabilia that was more than brick and mortar.

"Anything and everything we tried to carry out," said Jordan, who along with wife Jackie produced a three-DVD set of that era as well as days at school for classmates. "Nowadays, they wouldn't let you near a fire like that. 'I just don't believe it' seemed to be the catchphrase that morning."

Cargill remembers students taking content from lockers, putting them in brown paper sacks and scrawling the locker number on the sacks for individual remnants.

The third floor was destroyed. Water and smoke damage took care of the rest. Seniors were fearful they would be split up to other schools, and they wanted to graduate as Sandies.

They did.

"We didn't want to lose the identity of being Sandies," Farris said.

Sometimes the rest of the school year was catch-as-catch-can, but somehow it worked. Candy and other items were occasionally thrown over partitions from the gym classrooms. Since there was no PA system, announcements were posted at First Baptist.

"I don't think we realized it was as bad as it was," Cargill said. "That's part of being a kid, I guess. I became a teacher, and I can't imagine today how hard that would have been. But the teachers just rolled with the punches like everybody else."

Study halls and P.E. classes were canceled, but everything else was as normal as could be. There was still Sadie Hawkins and the traditional Kid Day.

"Moving to the new campus, I think, changed the identity of the school," said Farris, who endured a rough year as her grandmother was killed a month later in a tornado at Howardwick. "A lot of River Road kids were at Amarillo High. We were so socioeconomically and racially blended back then."

And so those in their late 50s will be coming this weekend from here and yon. Kathy Maynard Swick, the Amarillo High queen that year, will be making her first reunion trip from Georgia. There are those coming from Oregon, California, Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Colorado, Washington and Wyoming.

That freakish Sunday fire destroyed their school, but the blaze never touched those unique memories, never snapped that tight school bond. And, obviously, it never will.

Jon Mark Beilue's column appears Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at ref="jon.beilue@amarillo.com or 806-345-3318. His blog appears on ref="http://amarillo.com.