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A beacon of learning and community nestled in the heart of historic South Los Angeles. With a legacy spanning generations, we pride ourselves on providing a nurturing environment where students thrive academically, socially, and personally.

Alumni Achievements Spotlight

Famous Demos

Famous Demos celebrates the illustrious alumni of Thomas Jefferson High School, showcasing the remarkable achievements and contributions of individuals who have walked our halls. From groundbreaking innovators to influential leaders across various fields, our page honors the legacy and impact of these distinguished graduates.

Artistry in Movement

Dancers & Entertainers

Silver Screen

Film Personalities

  • Woody Strode – (Actor, Football Player) Veteran of 30 films including "The Ten Commandments −1956", "Spartacus −1960", "Posse" −1993 (See Football)

  • Mablean Ephriam – Television Personality – "Judge Mablean"

  • Merry Clayton – Actress, Singer –  Eight Episode of "Cagney and Lacey", Acted in "Maid to Order" with Alley Sheedy (See Singer below)

  • Juanita Moore – Actress  – The 4th African American nominated for an Oscar. Participated in over 50 movies; best known for her role as the mother in the movie "Imitation of Life"

  • Matthew Beard (American actor) – Actor (Our gang Little Rascals Series)

Lights, Camera, Action

Film Production

  • Iwao Takamoto – Animator, Design the character image of the Hanna-Barbera Production cartoon Scooby-Doo.

  • John Meehan Known as "Francis"–Jefferson Plays,U.S.C Architecture,then Motion Picture Art Director. Won Academy Awards for Art Direction for the films: "The Heiress","Sunset Blvd","20,000 Leagues Under the Sea", Television Art Direction:Emmy Nomination-G.E.Theatre. Graduated Class of 1922.

Leadership Legacies Honored

Politicians/ Judicial

  • Ralph Bunche (1922) –  Educator, UN mediator on Palestine and Nobel Peace Prize Winner

  • Thelton Henderson –  Federal Judge in the Northern District of California.

  • Willard H. Murray, Jr. –  California State Assembly Member 1988–1996 (District 52); California Institute for the Preservation of Jazz. Current director of the Water Replenishment District 1. Father of Former State Senator Kevin Murray ref: Testimony of Buddy Collette & Marl Young

  • Augustus F. Hawkins –  U.S. House of Representatives from California's 21st and 29th district from 1963–1991; California assembly from 1935–1963

  • David W. Williams –  Judge for the United States District Court for the Central District of California; first African American Federal Judge from states west of the Mississippi.

  • William R Clay –  Appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to Superior Court judge in October 1976

  • Earl C. Gay (1902–75), Los Angeles City Council member, 1933–45

Reporting Trailblazers Recognized


  • Stanley Crouch – Syndicated Columnist and Novelist. Created nine Non-Fiction novel and 2 Fiction novels. He is a Controversial anti-rap critic; His novel "Ain't No Ambulances For No Nigguhs Tonight" was typical writings against the non-sophisticated black man.

Melodic Maestros Commemorated

Music Composers

  • Floyd Dixon – Songwriter, Singer –  Hit Songs "Telephone Blues", "Call Operator 210" and "Hey Bartender", the latter enjoying wide exposure by the release of 1980 hit "The Blues Brothers".

  • Roy Ayers – Jazz Composer and Vibraphone player –  Arranged Musical Score for 1973 movie "Coffy" and classic albums "Running Away 1976" and "Mystic Voyage 1975".

  • Richard Berry – Songwriter, Singer –  Wrote Classic Hit Song "Louie Louie" made popular by The Kingsmen.

  • Rickey Minor – Emmy-nominated music director, composer, and music producer; widely known for the title 'Music Director" for television series The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, American Idol and Don't Forget The Lyrics!

  • Barry White – Record Producer, Singer Song Writer; Five times Grammy Award Winner; attended Jefferson for sophomore and junior year.

  • Horace Tapscott – Jazz Piano player and composer Subject of UCLA Jazz Archive called the Horace Tapscott Collection. Creator of "The Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra (P.A.P.A.)".

  • Jesse Belvin – Songwriter, Singer –  Co-Wrote "Goodnight My Love" used to end Alan Freed Show; co-credited as one of writers of "Earth Angel" made popular by The Penguins.

  • Johnny "Guitar" Watson – American Blues and Funk guitarist/singer.

  • Young Jessie – Songwriter, Singer – Famous for the hit song "Mary Lou".

Vocal Virtuosos Remembered

Singer Musicians

  • Dexter Gordon – Jazz Saxophonist player known for his music and supporting role in the movie "Round Midnight"

  • Sonny Criss – Jazz Saxophone player – Transferred from Jordon to Jefferson

  • Addison Farmer – Jazz Bassist

  • Frank Morgan (musician) – Jazz Saxophone Player

  • Chico Hamilton – Jazz Drummer Player

  • Lee Young – Jazz Drummer player

  • Jack McVea – Jazz and dixieland saxophone player Created the musical riff for the song "Open the Door, Richard"

  • Art Farmer – Jazz Trumpet player

  • Bill Douglass – Jazz Drummer player (First black member of Benny Goodmans Band)

  • Ernie Royal – Jazz Trumpet Player

  • Marshal Royal – Jazz Saxophone Player

  • Lammar Wright, Jr. – Jazz Trumpet player

  • Vi Redd – Jazz Saxophone player

  • Jackie Kelson – Jazz saxophone player

  • Ginger Smock – Concert and Jazz Violinist

  • Don Cherry – Jazz Trumpet Player – Step Father to entertainer Neneh Cherry

  • Melba Liston – Jazz Trombone Player – Attended Jefferson, but transferred to Polytechnic.

  • Ed Thigpen – Jazz Drummer Player

  • Big Jay McNeely – Jazz Saxophone Player – Transferred from Jordan to Jefferson

  • Tony Maiden (1967) – Guitarist – In 1974, Maiden joined Rufus—which featured Chaka Kahn and was one of the biggest-selling bands of the 1970s. Source:

Harmonious Ensembles

Singer Groups

  • The Penguins – 3 group members – Curtis Williams, Bruce Tate, and Ray Brewster – The Group sang the Original Song "Earth Angel"

  • The Platters – 3 original group members – Gaynel Hodge, Alex Hodge, Cornell Gunter and 1 alumni, Ray Brewster

  • The Coasters – 1 group member – Cornell Gunter

  • The Cadillacs – 1 group member – Ray Brewster

  • The Hollywood Flames −1 group member- Ray Brewster

  • Mighty Clouds of Joy – 1 group member – Johnny Martin – Recorded over 25 albums and received two Grammy Award and a host of other awards

  • Etta James – Blues singer – Famous for hit song "At Last"

  • Ernie Andrews – Jazz Blues Singer

  • Merry Clayton – (Singer, Actress) Solo and Backup. Recorded "Gimme Shelter" duet with Mick Jagger. "Who can I count on" with Bobby Darin. (Also see Television/film)

  • O.C. Smith – Jazz Singer, Minister Performed with Count Basie Orchestra; he recorded the first version of the song "That Life" made famous by Frank Sinatra. He had numerous hit songs in his long career.

  • Mel Walker – Lead Singer with the Johnny Otis Orchestra " No 1 hits "Mistrustin' Blues" and "Cupid Boogie"

  • Cornell Gunter – Lead Singer – Original member of the The Platters and a member of The Coasters singing group. Transferred to Manual Arts his senior year.

  • Jennell Hawkins – Lead Singer – famous for her hit "Moments to Remember"

  • Ivie Anderson – Lead Singer – Performed with Duke Ellington orchestra between 1931 and 1942

  • Arthur Lee Maye – of Arthur Lee Maye and the Crowns, was lead singer of the pioneering groups of the Doo Wop genre in the early 1950s.

  • Richard Berry -Singer, songwriter, musician. Most famous for writing Louie Louie, Berry performed with numerous Los Angeles doo-wop groups including The Flairs.

Athletic Heroes


  • Emmett Ashford – First African American Umpire in Major League Baseball

  • Andy Bakjian – National Track and Field Hall of Fame Official was a longtime coach at Jefferson.

  • Don Bishop – NFL Football – (Cowboys, Steelers and Bears) Seven Year veteran, 1 Pro bowl

  • Milt Davis – NFL Football – Played four years for the Baltimore Colts from 1957 to 1961; including winning the 1958 NFL Championship games known as the "Greatest Game ever Played"

  • Charles Dumas – Olympic Track  – High Jump (Olympic and World Record Holder), the first person to clear seven feet (1956 Olympic trials); Attended Jefferson in his sophomore and Junior years; transferred to Centennial High School in Compton

  • Robert Garrett - 5 Time CIF LA CITY DIVISION ONE FOOTBALL COACH from Crenshaw High School (Los Angeles)

  • Joe Kelly (American football) – NFL Football – Drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals

  • Edgar Lacey (1945–2011), UCLA basketball, "Game of the Century"

  • Lee Maye – MLB Baseball – 13 years in baseball " played first 6 years with the Milwaukee braves with Hank Aaron. (See singer)

  • Glenn McDonald – NBA Basketball, Boston Celtics

  • Billy 'the Hill' McGill – NBA Basketball, - Played on the Chicago Zephyrs (now Washington Wizards), the New York Knicks, the St. Louis (now Atlanta) Hawks, and the Los Angeles Lakers.

  • Bernard Quarles – NFL Football – Rams 1987 – Quarterback NFL and CFL veteran

  • Woody Strode – NFL Football – Actor, Football Player - Played for the Rams in 1946; ending George Preston Marshall gentleman agreement to ban black players.

  • Mal Whitfield – Olympic Track –  gold medalist middle distance runner in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and father of current CNN news anchor Fredricka Whitfield

Jazz Maestros Celebrated

Jazz Music Teachers

  • William Grant Still –  Gave Music Clinics to Jefferson student in Samuel R Browne era.

  • Jimmie Lunceford – Gave Music Clinics in 1930's to Jefferson student

  • Caughey Roberts –  Jefferson band teacher in 1930's

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