KANSAS CITY, Mo. — From jazz to journalism and barbecue to baseball, big names from Lincoln College Preparatory Academy have made a big impact in Kansas City, Missouri.
“The students there today have a great legacy they should really be proud of,” said Dr. Derald Davis, Kansas City Public Schools’ assistant superintendent of equity, inclusion and innovation.
Before working at the district’s central office, Davis was an administrator at Lincoln. During his time there, he was surprised at how many students didn’t know about the school’s history and historical figures.
“We can’t have students spending four years at Lincoln College Prep and not know the history and legacy of the school. So we’re working with [administrators] to come up with an orientation for future students to get this as an on-boarding to Lincoln when they first come in,” he said.
Davis highlighted a few of the famous names to walk the halls of the Kansas City school.
- Charlie Parker, did not graduate: The musician who revolutionized Jazz spent most of his childhood in Kansas City, Missouri.
- Melvin B. Tolson, class of 1919: The poet claimed fame as the debate coach at Wiley College. Hollywood captured his story in the 2007 film The Great Debaters. Denzel Washington played Tolson. Davis said the movie left out this fact. “When he left Wiley College, he went on to Langston, Oklahoma, as a professor there and even went on to serve four terms as mayor of Langston, Oklahoma.”
- Lucile Bluford, class of 1928: A journalist who ran The Call newspaper in Kansas City for decades. In the 1980s, the Kansas City Public Library named its branch at East 31st Street and Prospect Avenue after her. “She was actually the class valedictorian, so she was an incredibly gifted and talented student,” Davis said.
- Ollie Gates, class of 1948: He is founder of Gates Bar-B-Que.
- The Keith brothers, Kenton in 1957 and Gerren in 1959: Kenton served as the U.S. Ambassador to Qatar. Gerren was a TV director who worked on shows like Different Strokes and Good Times.
- Frank White, class of 1968: White earned eight Gold Glove Awards with the Kansas City Royals. He is now serves as Jackson County Executive. “He gives hope to the students who are currently playing football and baseball, that they can map out their life in a way to impact their communities,” Davis said.