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About Garfield CLC

Garfield CLC 9-12

History of Garfield CLC 9-12


The 1926 dedication of Akron’s Garfield High School provided a real history lesson for the children of Firestone Park.

The keynote address was delivered by none other than the son of the assassinated president for whom the school was named.

Cleveland attorney James R. Garfield, 61, the third eldest of Lucretia and James A. Garfield’s seven children, was the guest of honor at the Nov. 19 ceremony. The date would have been his father’s 95th birthday.

“It is not the schools and opportunities of today that will bring youth’s success but, as ever, the full understanding of life and its obligations,” Garfield told the overflow crowd in the auditorium.

“That great school has been dedicated to my father, and perhaps the manner in which he kept the confidence of his sons and those he taught as school teacher can best explain his views of building youth. He kept up his association with the youth he knew. For that reason, I believe, he was a great teacher.”

James A. Garfield (1831-81), a native of Orange Township in Cuyahoga County, was elected president in November 1880 and took office the following March. He was shot July 2, 1881, by Charles J. Guiteau, a disappointed office seeker, at a train station in Washington, D.C., and died Sept. 19, 1881, at age 49.

His son James was only 15 at the time. The younger Garfield (1865-1950) was born in Hiram, home of the small college where his father had taught and served as president. The Portage County native grew up to be an Ohio state senator and the U.S. secretary of the Interior Department under President Theodore Roosevelt.

He didn’t hesitate when Akron Public Schools invited him to attend the tribute to his father. Akron had built Garfield High School to ease congestion at South and West high schools in the rapidly expanding Rubber City.

The Clemmer & Johnson Construction Co. won the contract for $243,155 (about $3.4 million today). The three-story brick structure included an education wing, auditorium and gymnasium.

“Here is a building that is the last word in modern school construction,” the Beacon Journal editorialized in November 1926. “Only last spring, the site where it stands was a forest. … Today, landscape engineering has converted that part of the forest not occupied by the new building into an athletic field for school children, a remarkable evidence of what transformation may be wrought by modern skill and implements.”

About 900 junior high school students and 500 senior high school students attended Garfield when it opened that fall.

Engraved in marble over the school’s front entrance was a motto: “Enter to Learn.” Over the exit: “Leave to Serve.”

--published 11/12/17 Beacon Journal, writer Mark Price