I am pleased to bring you this monthly column about those veterans of Woodrow Wilson High School, the cradle of Dallas leadership and the heart and soul of East Dallas and Lakewood. As vice president of the alumni association and a graduate of the disco-era class of 1976, I’ll try to relate the notable moves of the nearly 25,000 graduates of the 62-year-old institution.

To deviate from that mission, please let me indulge in a little boasting about our classes of the 1990s. Six seniors have been named National Merit Semi-Finalists by the National Merit Scholarship program.

“Four students have already been selected as National Merit Finalists, more than any school in Dallas County,” says principal Robert Giesler.

These students are helping our property values!

Duke and Dartmouth are two of the colleges chosen by these seniors; they will be joining Woodrow grads currently attending Yale, Princeton, M.I.T., University of Massachusetts and other prestigious universities.

The class of 1990 earned enough scholarship money that, when totaled, averages nearly $5,000 per student. They excelled in athletics as well, winning the Dallas Morning News All-Sports Award for having the best overall program in the district.

Whew! Do you think we alums can stay ahead of these youngsters?

We’re doing alright on alumni association membership, approaching 2,000 paid members. To join, send $10 to the Woodrow Wilson High School Alumni Association, P.O. Box 180008, Dallas 75218, and include your name, address, phone number, graduating class and current activities.

One of the association’s many projects is the Woodrow Alumni Scholarship Trust, headed by Bill “Bulldog” Cunningham, Class of ’49, Frank LaBarba ’50 and Dean Gerst ’49. The trust awarded nine scholarships to 1990 graduates.

After Al Haynes ’48 heroically piloted a crippled United Airlines flight to a crash landing, saving 186 lives, many other Woodrow air heroes have come to the attention of the alumni association. State Rep. Sam Johnson ’47 guided a private plane with engine trouble to a landing on the Dallas Parkway, saving six lives.

The Class of ’41 includes several World War II aviators. Arthur Brawner flew a B-25, which is the lone surviving such aircraft flown in combat. Frank Gillett was shot down in the South Pacific, and the plane was not found until years later on a remote island. His remains were returned for burial.

Finally, after the Challenger space shuttle disaster five years ago, the recovery search team working east of Florida happened upon the wreckage of a plane missing since the war. The plane had been piloted by Charlie Harrell, the only child of the legendary E.C. “Doc” Harrell, who served as a surrogate father to generations of Woodrow Wildcats at Harrell’s Drug Store and soda shop.

In 1926, Doc’s pharmacy was the first business opened in Lakewood Shopping Center. The pharmacy closed in the 1970s and is the site of Maine St. seafood restaurant.

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