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Taylor High School Turns 40


November 27, 2019

By Natalie Cook Clark

Forty years ago, James E. Taylor High School, Katy's second high school, opened its doors to accommodate the growing district. As we give thanks this month, remember one of the town's schools that has shaped the minds of many Katy residents and continues to inspire students today.

As Disco Ran the Charts, Taylor HS Welcomed Students

Taylor High School, Katy ISD's second high school, opened its doors to students on November 26, 1979. The students began the school year at Katy High School until their new school was ready.

In 1979, disco queens topped the charts like Gloria Gaynor with "I Will Survive," and Donna Summer with her hits, "Hot Stuff" and "Bad Girls." Michael Jackson released "Off the Wall" and Jimmy Carter was the U.S. President. ESPN launched their cable channel and a gallon of gas cost 86 cents while a barrel of oil was raised to $24. Internationally Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister and Saddam Hussein became the President of Iraq.

From Big Rivalries to Traditions that Still Run Today

Through the years, Taylor HS students were busy making memories. Friday Night Lights, where the big rivalry with the Katy Tigers reigns, and choir traditions still rank high among alumni.

"I loved singing the National Anthem at football games," says Ramsay Zaki, Taylor graduate '00.

"Choir was my thing in high school and I loved being part of the Taylor Choir Madrigal Dinner each year," says Sarah Beth Beasley '02. "I also love that my husband went to Taylor as well, even if I didn’t meet him until my late 20s."

Taylor HS Choir performs in Norway 2002, directed by Gail Land. Photo curtesy of Robin Belsha.

A Family Tradition

For many, Taylor HS was part of their family. Siblings made memories there and now alumni find their own children attending the school. For years, there was a Belsha out on the field of Rhodes Stadium either playing football, dancing with the Pacesetters, or singing the National Anthem.

"I loved cheering on my big brothers (as a spectator or as a Pacesetter," says Rebecca Belsha Harris '02. "I have great memories from the Expressions trip to Norway, Sadie Hawkins, great teachers, and getting manis and pedis across the street."

Taylor Served Our Country

Taylor HS was named after James "Jimmy" Edgar Taylor, who served Katy ISD as superintendent for 31 years. Taylor was born on October 25, 1912, in North Zulch, Texas. He graduated from Madisonville High School and received his Master's degree in education from Texas A&M University. After spending several years in the U.S. Navy, Taylor served for four years in World War II, and retired with a rank of Lieutenant from the U.S. Coast Guard.

School Named after Historic Superintendent

After his service, Taylor returned home and taught school in North Zulch and was a high school principal in Junction. He moved to Katy in 1947 where he served as superintendent for 31 years, retiring in 1978. Even in retirement, Taylor frequently visited his namesake school. He was particularly proud of the school because he supported the addition of the second high school as he oversaw Katy ISD through its first big wave of growth. Taylor passed away in 1997.

The Compass Rose, Still Guiding Students Today

While the school has undergone additions (9th Grade Center and Performing Arts Center 2000-2002) and renovations (2012-2013) some parts from that 1979 opening year are now recognized as part of Taylor HS's history.

Wallace Hall, chief engineer for Spaw-Glass, spent two nights with a laser/transit locating True North and marking the Commons slab. To this day, students gather each day for lunch around the compass rose. Armando Ramon, master tile setter, laid out the work for the rose, mixed the colors and installed each color in the circle. White Portland cement, fine "French" sand, chemicals and coloring agents combined to form the matrix to which was added marble and onyx chips from quarries in Georgia, Tennessee, Mexico and Italy.

Harry Blethroad, a consulting architect on the building of Taylor HS said that James E. Taylor's time in the Navy inspired their decision and dedication on the compass rose.

"In the days of the sailing ships cartographers used to place directional arrows on their maps embellished with various nautical themes, both practical and decorative," says Belthroad in a statement released by Katy ISD. "The compass rose served as a point of reference offering orientation and direction to the sailors. It did not actually get them anywhere, this they had to do by their own efforts. Your compass rose still symbolizes direction to a goal, any sort of goal you wish... but you must get there under your own power, by your own efforts."

Look Out for the Colonel

Taylor HS is the home of the fighting Mustangs. In October 1980, the Athletic Booster Club presented the school with a mascot, a white mustang named "Colonel." The image of the towering white mustang raising its hooves proudly to the sky has been the inspiration for many school spirit t-shirts throughout the years. Originally, Colonel was located in the main entrance lobby. Now he stands in the Performing Arts Center lobby. Another mascot, "Major" is now located in the main entrance area.

"I Can’t believe I’m a Taylor alumni now," says Andriana Gregovic '17. "My favorite memories were playing in the band at the football games. Didn’t pay attention to the game at all, but had so many hilarious memories and loved doing all our chants!"

Watch a Video Produced by Taylor Students

Accomplishments and Titles

UIL Wrestling State Champions (women): 2006

UIL Swimming and Diving State Champions (men): 2001, 2003

UIL Tennis State Team Champions: 1997, 1998, 2002

UIL Tennis State Doubles Champions (women): 2008, 2011

UIL Soccer State Champions (women): 2006

UIL Tennis Singles Champions (men):1999, 2004, 2007 2011, 2013

"I enjoyed performing in Manhunt, the annual Taylor men talent show," says Kent Cook '05. "I also loved Coach Powel's Multi-media class and then running out on Rhodes Stadium with the football team."

Notable Alumni

Janeane Garofalo - actress, comedian, former radio show personality on Air America Radio

Mark Matejka - guitarist for Lynyrd Skynyrd

Renee O'Connor - actress, Gabrielle on "Xena: Warrior Princess"

Trevor Enders - former Major League Baseball pitcher

Eugene Espineli - former Major League Baseball pitcher

Jonathan Garcia - Olympic athlete

John Meloan - former Major League Baseball pitcher

Collin Mooney - NFL player

Phillip Supernaw - NFL player

Taylor Featherston - Major League Baseball infielder

Cullen Gillaspia- Major Football League for the Houston Texans.

"The Broadway Shows the Choir or Theater performed like 'Oklahoma' and 'Guys and Dolls,' " says Rachel Ofield Mais '01. "I also enjoyed Sadie Hawkins, Friday Football Games and getting to sing the National Anthem, Senior Girls and fun teachers that I’m still in contact with today!"

From all of us at Katy Magazine, Happy Birthday Taylor High School!

Writer's Note: Natalie Cook Clark is a proud Taylor High School alumni with the class of '02. During her time at Taylor she was an award-winning Pacesetter, officers in Student Council, Taylor Made Choices, and D.A.R.E. She represented T.H.S. on a student board with Katy ISD Police Department. She was a member of National Student Honor Society and earned many scholarships thanks to her Taylor accomplishments.


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