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|David Mackenzie High School|
|9275 Wyoming Avenue|
Detroit, Michigan 48204
|School type||Public high school|
|Status||Closed 2007; demolished 2012|
|School district||Detroit Public Schools|
|Color(s)||Royal blue and Gray|
|This article is written like a personal reflection or opinion essay that states the Wikipedia editor's particular feelings about a topic, rather than the opinions of experts. (October 2013)|
|David Mackenzie High School|
|9275 Wyoming Avenue|
Detroit, Michigan 48204
|School type||Public high school|
|Status||Closed 2007; demolished 2012|
|School district||Detroit Public Schools|
|Color(s)||Royal blue and Gray|
Located on Detroit's west side, David Mackenzie High School was named to honor the innovative educator who had served as principal of Central High School, and as first dean of the city college that would become Wayne State University. A native of Detroit, David Mackenzie was born in 1860; he died in 1926.
Mackenzie High School was among the first schools constructed on land acquired through Detroit's westernmost annexation efforts in Greenfield Township; by 1926 the township had ceased to exist. Adorned in blue and yellow tile from the Pewabic Pottery Works, the three-story facility opened in September 1928. In an effort to make efficient use of available classrooms, the school's early history featured a full range of grade levels – elementary through secondary.
In addition to a rigorous academic regimen, Mackenzie students enjoyed a diverse offering of extracurricular activities that included speech and debate, Reserve Officer Training Corps, swimming and diving, indoor track and field, archery, badminton, speed skating and ice hockey. An amusing article appeared in the January 1930 edition of The DIAL (Mackenzie's monthly news and entertainment magazine); the author admonished a few of the lower-elementary boys for throwing rocks into the school's outdoor ice rink.
In 1941, Mackenzie and Albion High School squared-off in the finals of the twenty-fourth annual Michigan High School Forensic Association Debate Championships; an audience of over 4500 (including 1100 Mackenzie fans) were in attendance at the University of Michigan to witness Mackenzie's triumph. Over the next quarter century, throughout the Great Depression and a booming World War II-era economy to follow, Mackenzie High School grew in-step with a thriving and vital Detroit. By the mid-1940s, Detroit's population exceeded 1.6 million; and in September 1944, Mackenzie had become the city's largest school - with an enrollment of 4307.
Nearly five thousand students attended Mackenzie in 1950, making it one of the largest public schools in the state of Michigan. Inevitably, the post-war economy cooled; Detroit's automobile production slowed, and relatively inexpensive suburban housing developments became abundant. In a densely populated city of 1.8 million, Detroiters would once again look for greener pastures; by the early 1950s, Detroit's population was in decline. The 1950s and 60s also marked a time of enormous social change. Thanks in-part to favorable Supreme Court decisions and subsequent federal fair housing legislation, Detroit's black citizenry was no longer restricted to the lower east side and near west end. Urban renewal and freeway construction resulted in the demolition of Detroit's black ghettos; formerly all-white neighborhoods, including those surrounding Mackenzie, entered a period of rapid integration. An aura of cautious hope was tempered by resistance, antipathy and outright lawlessness.
In the years that followed Detroit's deadly 1943 race riot, neighborhood associations had organized for the purpose of challenging home ownership rights of black families; while Board of Education policies provided discriminatory options for white students. Furthermore, a sense of mistrust and uneasiness had taken root following the January 1954 post-game stabbing of a Mackenzie basketball player at Central High. Nationwide publicity of the near-fatal attack led to an immediate Board of Education ban on nighttime athletic events for Detroit public schools.
Yet, during the early 1960s, there was positive change taking place in Detroit. Mayor, Jerome P. Cavanagh encouraged citizens to embrace a bold new era; the national media referred to Detroit as a "model city" of intercultural harmony. America's love affair with the muscle car resulted in an auto industry upswing, and the city was accorded global recognition for its "Motown" musical influence. In June 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and 125,000 Detroiters - of all colors - embarked on a Walk to Freedom down Woodward Avenue. Despite the upbeat mood, a steady decline in Detroit's population had gained noticeable momentum by the mid-1960s; currents of social change had also grown increasingly turbulent. By the late 1960s, much of the United States was rife with social and political unrest; emotionally charged issues and incidents sparked civil disturbances in dozens of communities nationwide. In Detroit, downscaled production and subsequent layoffs in the automotive industry only made matters worse.
In July 1967, a police raid at an illegal drinking establishment escalated to five nights of deadly rioting on Detroit's lower west side; less than nine months later, smoldering anger reignited. On April 5, 1968 - the day that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. - random violence gripped several Detroit schools. Beyond 1968 and into the early 1970s, increasingly chaotic disturbances became commonplace. At Mackenzie, Mumford and Cooley High School, sit-ins, walkouts and physical assaults spilled from classrooms to hallways, and onto the streets. Carloads of youthful agitators were also observed at Cody, Redford, Henry Ford, and suburban Oak Park High School; teachers, administrators and Board officials were overwhelmed.
By 1970, an accelerated outflow of white students was evident at Mackenzie, Cooley and Mumford; hundreds had transferred to Cody, Redford, Henry Ford, Lutheran-West/Rosary, Catholic Central, and Cass Technical High School. On a larger scale, thousands of families relocated to neighborhoods further west; thousands more left Detroit altogether for the northwestern Wayne County communities of Livonia, Westland and Redford Township. A similar outward migration of white families had taken place throughout the eastside neighborhoods of Detroit. In 1972, a Federal District Court-ordered (and subsequently delayed) program of public school busing evoked further resentment, while hastening the erosion of Detroit's multicultural fabric and tax base.
As Detroit's population declined, the public schools suffered successive rounds of budget cuts and staff reductions; nevertheless, thanks largely to athletic accomplishments, Mackenzie High School experienced a renaissance in school pride. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, Mackenzie student-athletes captured numerous state titles in the sport of track and field. Those noteworthy individual accomplishments were followed by a 1978 Michigan High School Athletic Association team championship in girls' track and field, and a 1979 MHSAA title in boys' basketball. Between 1970 and 2006, Mackenzie's football program earned national sports media attention by producing eight individuals who progressed to the National Football League; three of those athletes - Pepper Johnson, Gilbert Brown and Jerome Bettis - earned Super Bowl championship rings.
Yet, by 1980, Mackenzie High School's enrollment had fallen below 2600 students; a 50% decline from 1952. Meanwhile, between 1950 and 1980, Detroit's population fell from 1.85 to 1.2 million; representing a 35% loss in citizenry. By 2007, fewer than 1100 students attended Mackenzie on a regular basis. During an April 2007 meeting, the Detroit Board of Education announced that -due to budget constraints and declining enrollment- David Mackenzie High School would not open its doors for the 2007–2008 school year.
David Mackenzie High School was demolished during the summer of 2012.
Side-Note: In December 2014, the Detroit Free Press estimated Detroit's official public school student count at 47,450; the 2009 figure was approximately 84,000. Since 1999, in what continues as the nation's worst enrollment crisis, Detroit has lost nearly 140,000 public school students.
Few professional educators have matched the record of Mr. A. Rex Carletti; the guidance counselor, baseball coach and National Honor Society sponsor who served Mackenzie students from 1932 until 1974. Eight US Presidents, eleven Michigan Governors and ten Mayors of Detroit would come and go during Mr. Carletti's forty-two year career.
Critically acclaimed professional actor, and 1951 graduate, Tom Skerritt speaks fondly of the time spent crafting his skills at Mackenzie. Skerritt made his network television debut in 1959, appearing in the CBS series Gunsmoke; Tom also appeared in the 1960s ABC television series Combat!. Skerritt's cinematic credits include M*A*S*H (1970); Harold and Maude (1971); Ice Castles (1978); Alien (1979); SpaceCamp (1986); Top Gun (1986); Steel Magnolias (1989), A River Runs Through It (1992); Contact (1997), and Bonneville (2006). Tom also starred in the 1990s CBS television series, Picket Fences.
Stanley Mouse (Miller) attended Mackenzie for two years before a mischievous prank resulted in his expulsion. Mouse Miller is a noteworthy artist, best known for creating the late 1950s "monster hot rod" art form (subsequently popularized by Ed Roth and his commercially successful line of Rat Fink merchandise). Mouse also designed psychedelic rock concert posters and album cover art. During the mid-1960s, through his Mouse Studios, Miller and associates were commissioned by music promoter Bill Graham to create many of the classic posters for the Avalon Ballroom and Fillmore Auditorium. In 1971, along with artist Alton Kelley, Stanley Miller incorporated Mouse Studios with the Monster Company—first to create T-shirts using four-color process printing. Mouse Studios also produced album cover art for rock bands Journey and Grateful Dead.
As a member of the Funk Brothers studio band, 1959 Mackenzie graduate Dennis Coffey played on dozens of recordings for Motown Records. Coffey introduced the wah-wah guitar sound to Motown producer Norman Whitfield's recordings; the most notable of which is Cloud Nine by The Temptations. Coffey also played on Edwin Starr's "S.O.S.", The Isley Brothers' "It's Your Thing", and Freda Payne's "Band of Gold". In 1971, Coffey recorded "Scorpio", a million-selling instrumental single that peaked at #6 on the Billboard pop chart. “Scorpio” earned Coffey and the Funk Brothers a golden disc from the Recording Industry Association of America.
In 1971, basketball coach Carl Andrews led the Stags to their first Michigan High School Athletic Association regional championship title. That same season, Mackenzie advanced to the Public School League finals and The Detroit News named Andrews as Public School League Coach of the Year.
Ernie Charboneau, longtime physical education instructor and athletic coach at Mackenzie, was a competitive boxer for Michigan State University; Charboneau won the 1948 National Collegiate Athletic Association flyweight (112-pound) championship.
Bob Dozier was a renowned educator and football coach at Mackenzie High School; his 33-year career spanned five decades (1969–2002). Six of Coach Dozier's athletes would eventually perform in the NFL; three of them played on Super Bowl championship teams. In his early years of coaching at Mackenzie, Dozier teamed with Wayne State University Hall of Fame fullback Elbert Richmond. Prior to Dozier's arrival, during the teacher strike-shortened 1967 season, Richmond's Mackenzie football team went 5-0; the Stag defensive squad did not yield a single point. From 1969 to 1978, the coaching tandem of Elbert Richmond and Bob Dozier compiled an impressive record of 63–20 (.759), including an undefeated season in 1969. One of Richmond's defensive backs, Richard Byas Jr., went on to a rewarding career with the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League. Elbert Richmond also enjoyed a long and successful career as the baseball and varsity basketball coach at Mackenzie; his 1978-79 squad won the MHSAA basketball title. In 1998, Richmond was honored with induction to the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan Hall of Fame.
For 30 years (1931–1961), Detroit public high schools did not participate in Michigan High School Athletic Association tournament events. The Detroit Board of Education insisted that emphasis be placed upon winning city championships; as a consequence, many of Michigan's finest prep athletes - including several from Mackenzie - never had an opportunity to compete for a state title.
In terms of athletic laurels, by virtue of his 1930 MHSAA high jump title, Arnold Deneau was Mackenzie's first major champion. The school's golf squad was first to win a city championship, claiming top honors for Mackenzie in 1932 and 1933. Toward decade's end, Stag MVP Roy Bradley led Mackenzie's tennis team to a city league title in 1938.
At a time when the Detroit Metropolitan League and MHSAA did not sponsor championship events for female athletes, the 1939 Mackenzie field hockey team finished their season undefeated and untied. Seniors Betty Yakel, Jeanne Chambers, Betty Wine, Mary Lou Palmer, team captain Ella Heatlie and goalie Helen Geoffrion paced the Stagettes to a perfect 6-0 record.
Mackenzie's basketball team completed the 1943-44 season with an unblemished record of 20–0. Playing to a capacity crowd at Central High School, Coach Herb Spathelf and his Stags defeated Northwestern High School to claim the City League championship trophy. Seniors Dick Hall, Ted Krzeminski and Tino Sabuco were honored with selection to the All-Metropolitan Squad by the Detroit News.
1944 was a very special year at Mackenzie High School; in addition to earning top basketball honors, Coach Richard Frankowski and All-Metropolitan offensive back Tino Sabuco led the Stag football team to a perfect 9-0 record. As Metropolitan League champions, Mackenzie capped its storybook '44 season with a 3-0 Goodfellows Game victory over Catholic League champion, Holy Redeemer High School. Fittingly, Michigan sportswriters rewarded Mackenzie High School with the title of consensus State Champions. Tino Sabuco would go on to play collegiate football at Wayne State University and the University of San Francisco; Sabuco also performed as a professional, with the San Francisco 49ers.
Throughout 1946, Mackenzie's Alex Foley was the best high jumper and pole vaulter in Michigan; Foley won city championships in both events.
Following the 1948 basketball season, Arnold Domke was named to the Detroit Free Press All-City and All-State team; earlier that year, Domke set a city league single-game record with 43 points in a February 3 contest versus Central - Domke's record remained on the books for six seasons.
In 1951, halfback Ed Spala and center Tom Fraser were named to the All-Metropolitan Football Team.
In the spring of 1952, senior track captain John Mackenzie won the city league 880-yard title in 1:59.0; his time was the best by a Michigan schoolboy in 1952, and it was five seconds better than the MHSAA champion. For his efforts, John was named Michigan High School Track and Field Athlete of the Year. Mackenzie would later run cross-country and track at Western Michigan University; in 1969, he coached Redford Union High School to the MHSAA track and field team title. The Stag track and field team was once again in the spotlight during the 1954 season, when the varsity four-mile relay squad set an American interscholastic record of 18:56.8 During October 1956, the Mackenzie community was honored with a visit from former track and field world record holder, Glenn Cunningham. The 1936 Olympic silver medalist spoke before a capacity crowd in the auditorium; extolling the virtues of athletics, while warning students on the harmful effects of alcohol.
For Mackenzie's swimming and diving program, 1956 was a memorable year. In February, Richard Boka, Howard Scarborough, John C. Smith and Tony Tashnick led the Stags to a city championship - sealing victory during the final event. Because the Detroit public school league had not yet returned to MHSAA competition, Scarborough, Smith and Tashnick never swam for a state title; however, in the summer of 1956, all three competed at the United States Olympic Trials. 1956 also marked the first time that an athlete from Mackenzie would perform in the Olympic Games. Diver Barbara Sue Gilders, the Olympic Trials silver medalist, placed fourth in the three-meter final at the Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia.
Beyond their years at Mackenzie, Howard Scarborough and John C. Smith were noteworthy collegiate swimmers. In 1958, Scarborough won two Mid-American Conference titles for Bowling Green State University. John C. Smith placed fourth in the 100-meter backstroke at the 1956 Olympic Trials, earning him alternate status as a member of the US Olympic Team. John was All-American (1958, 1959) at the University of Michigan; he swam leadoff (backstroke) on the 1959 NCAA champion 400-yard medley relay team, and was appointed team captain in 1960. Meanwhile, Barb Gilders won a bronze medal at the 1959 Pan American Games; she also won three consecutive US Open indoor championships (1958–60).
By the late-1950s, Tony Tashnick had established himself as one of the best all-around swimmers in the United States; setting US Open records in the 100 and 200-yard butterfly, and 200-yard individual medley. Swimming for the University of Michigan, Tony won NCAA titles in the 100 and 200-yard butterfly; Tashnick also swam the 200-meter butterfly at the 1959 Pan American Games and 1960 US Olympic Trials. Tony finished third at the Trials, narrowly missing a trip to the Olympic Games in Rome, Italy.
Rightfully on this list of nationally recognized swimmers is 1958 Mackenzie graduate Gary LaPrise. Representing Bowling Green State University, Gary was a three-time (1960–62) Mid-American Conference champion in the 50 and 100-yard freestyle; he was also named to the NCAA All-America team in 1960 and 1962. LaPrise was honored with induction to the BGSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1970. 
With Detroit's return to MHSAA competition in 1961, it didn't take long for the Stags to make their presence known. In March 1963, junior Ron Boyd became Mackenzie's first -and only- male athlete to compete in the state swimming and diving championships; Boyd took part in the 50 and 100-yard freestyle. In June 1963, Dennis Lugar, Cotrell Poole, Duane Varner, and Charles Poindexter took top honors in the one-mile relay. In 1967, Charles Robinson was state champion in both the 100 and 220-yard dash. Two years later, at the 1969 MHSAA Finals, the team of Carlos Woods, John Ware, Darryl Arnold and, 100-yard state champion, Ken James struck gold for Mackenzie in the 880-yard relay.
Led by All-City guard Lovelle Rivers, and John Ross, the 1971 basketball team advanced to its first city league final in 27 seasons. After coming up short in the PSL championship game, (vs. Kettering High) the Stags battled through successive rounds of MHSAA competition - all the way to the quarterfinals. Mackenzie once again faced Kettering, losing a hard-fought contest by the score of 60-57.
In the spring of 1971, versatile John Ross set a MHSAA Finals record on his way to winning the long jump title; Ross became the school's first field event state champion in forty-one years. Then, in 1972, the 880-yard relay team of Andre Payne, Ron Duncan, Ed Glass, and Gary Quick won what would turn out to be the last state championship in a men's track and field event for Mackenzie High School.
In June 1975, Mike Brown, Carlos Armstrong, Jeff Moore, Wayne Robinson and Coach Ron Thompson led the Stag baseball team to a City League title, with a victory over Western High School at Butzel Field.
In 1978 (Mackenzie High's 50th anniversary), Alfreda Bronson, Lela Fitten, Myra Jones, Melanie Tillman, and Kimberly Watts joined Carman Rivers, Delisa Walton and Coach Barb Halinski to win the MHSAA Girls' Track and Field team championship; Mackenzie's first state title in any sport.
Side note: Delisa Walton enjoyed an impressive athletic career at the University of Tennessee; for several years to follow (as Delisa Walton-Floyd) she was one of America's best runners at 800 meters. In 1988, Delisa Walton-Floyd became Mackenzie's second Olympian; placing fifth in the 800 at the 1988 Summer Olympics.
In March 1979, at the MHSAA Basketball Finals, Steve Caldwell led all scorers with 28 points during Mackenzie's 72–64 victory over Pontiac Central. In less than a year, Mackenzie High School had earned two state championship trophies.
At the 1979 MHSAA Swimming and Diving Championships, sisters Allison and Kathy Merriweather made history; becoming the first female athletes from the public school league to compete in a state meet final. Allison placed eighth in both the 200 and 500-yard freestyle; Kathy, a sophomore, finished sixth in the 100-yard butterfly. To this day, Mackenzie's Merriweather sisters are the only DPSSAL swimmers to earn a lane in the finals at the girls' state championships.
Five years following Mackenzie's state championship season, another chapter was added to Stag basketball history; when Duane Marcellis, Derrick Richmond, Mario Person, and Doug Blanchard paced Mackenzie to the 1984 DPSSAL basketball crown; the school's first since the 1944 season.
In June 1984, pitcher Larry Simmons led Mackenzie to the DPSSAL championship baseball game versus Northwestern High; in that game, Simmons threw a 5–0 shutout, defeating Northwestern to become the 1984 PSL Champions. The Stags then went on to play Catholic League champions Dearborn-Divine Child, in the Operation Friendship Game at Tiger Stadium.
During the 2000-01 season, senior Ricky Willis led the men's basketball team to a record of 21–3; ultimately, Mackenzie High School reached the semi-final round of the 2001 MHSAA tournament. Record books reveal that, between 1971 and 2001, the Mackenzie Stags won seven MHSAA regional basketball titles; advancing to the state quarter-finals on each occasion.
Although the school's football program produced several players who enjoyed rewarding careers in the NFL, Mackenzie's win-loss record dipped during much of the 1980s and 90s. A shift occurred between 2002 and 2006, when the football team posted an overall record of 33–19. In 2003, Mackenzie went 9–3 during a campaign that ended with a one-point loss to Novi High School, in the third-round of MHSAA tournament play.
As postscript on the 79-year interscholastic athletics history of David Mackenzie High School; following the school's June 2007 closure, several student-athletes transferred to Martin Luther King High School. Mackenzie football standouts Nick Perry, Mario Steward and Edgar Pouncey became part of a King Crusaders team that would post a 14-0 record on its way to winning the 2007 Michigan High School Athletic Association title. Thanks in large measure to the talents of Perry, Steward, and Pouncey, King High had become the first Detroit public school to take home a MHSAA Division-1 football championship trophy.