Northwestern High School is a public high school in Detroit, Michigan. The most recent enrollment figures for Northwestern indicate a student population of approximately 2,000. Northwestern High School features numerous extracurricular activities; including: Debate, US Army JROTC, interscholastic and intramural athletics. NHS also offers several advanced placement (AP) courses. In 2012 Southwestern High School closed; many former Southwestern students were rezoned to Northwestern.
For more than one-hundred years, Northwestern High School has produced a multitude of outstanding student athletes who excelled at the collegiate level and beyond; Colt alumni achievements range from National Collegiate Athletic Association championships to Olympic gold medals - and everything in between.
In addition to the world of sports, a partial list of distinguished Northwestern graduates includes highly respected names from the political and entertainment arena.
John Widman, won the javelin and ran on the 1st-place 880-yard relay team at the 1925 MHSAA Track Championships
Albert B. Cleage Jr., was an eloquent Christian minister. During the mid-twentieth century, Cleage was nationally recognized as a leading advocate of the civil rights movement. Albert Cleage's book The Black Messiah was published in 1968.
From the earliest days, in a wide variety of sporting endeavors, Detroit-Northwestern High School has enjoyed a long and storied tradition.
In 2008, Northwestern High won the Detroit Public Secondary Schools Athletic League Championship in men's basketball. Since 1919, Northwestern basketball teams have claimed a total of sixteen DPSSAL titles. Northwestern also won the 1928 Michigan High School Athletic Association basketball championship.
Coach Bert Maris led the Northwestern swimming and diving program to three consecutive MHSAA team titles (1925 through 1927). In 1930, the Colt swimming team, coached by Leo Maas, won another MHSAA championship trophy; Maas also guided the school to five consecutive DPSSAL titles (1933 through 1937).
To this day, Northwestern remains the only Detroit public high school to win a state team championship in the sport of swimming and diving.
The Northwestern Colts also boast an impressive record in track and field. During the same year Bert Maris coached Northwestern to a state championship in swimming, he and Coach Warren Hoyt led Northwestern to the 1925 MHSAA title in track. Toward decade's end, Coach Malcom Weaver and the Colts won the state track championship in 1927, 1929 and 1930. The Michigan high school sports archives also document Northwestern's MHSAA championship titles in tennis (1927), and cross country (1929).
Willis Ward (1931), won the high jump at 1929 MHSAA championships; won both the 120 and 220-yard hurdle events at 1930 MHSAA finals. Ward set a national high school mark (1.98 meters) in the high jump while winning a third consecutive DPSSAL title in 1931. Willis Ward became just the second African-American to letter in football at the University of Michigan; in track, Ward was a three-time All-American and eight-time Big-Ten champion. Ward later served many years as a Wayne County probate judge.
During the early 1930s, William Prew was a city champion swimmer for Northwestern; by 1942, Prew was a two-time U.S. national AAU titlist (100 yard freestyle and 150-yard medley relay). That same year, Prew set the U.S. national record in the 100-yard freestyle; he also won a NCAA championship in that event. Following a very successful athletic and coaching career (for the Detroit Athletic Club) William Prew was inducted to the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Forest Evashevski graduated (at the age of sixteen) in 1935; two years later he received an academic scholarship to the University of Michigan. As a Wolverine (1938–40), Evashevski won three letters each in football and baseball; he was Michigan's quarterback, pulling double-duty as blocking-back for 1940 Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon. In 1941, during his first year out of school, Evashevski was head coach at Hamilton College; he would then serve in the US Navy (1942–45). From 1946-49, Evashevski was an assistant coach at Syracuse and Michigan State University. Evashevski was head coach at Washington State University before accepting the top spot at the University of Iowa. With Evashevski at the helm, Iowa became a national power; winning Big-10 championships in 1956, 1958, and 1960. Evashevski had seven winning seasons in nine years, and his 1958 Iowa Hawkeyes were named national champions by the Football Writers Association. Forest Evashevski was a 2000 inductee to the NFFCollege Football Hall of Fame.
David M. Nelson (1938) as a 5-7/155-pound University of Michigan halfback, Nelson played on the same team with (fellow NHS graduate) Forest Evashevski, and Californian Tom Harmon. In 1941, Nelson led the Wolverines in rushing, averaging 6.3 yards per carry. Nelson would gain widespread recognition as an innovative football coach. Among several contributions to the game, Nelson developed the Wing T formation. Nelson was the head football coach at the University of Delaware from 1951–1965; he also served as the school's athletic director from 1951-1984. David M. Nelson is a member of the NFF College Football Hall of Fame
As a Northwestern HS junior, Fletcher Gilders was 1948 MHSAA Track and Field Athlete of the Year; in 1949, Gilders established a national interscholastic record in the pole vault (13' 3"). Gilders was also one of the best springboard divers in the United States; he competed at the 1948 and 1956 US Olympic Trials. Following four years of military service, Gilders became a two-time NCAA diving champion; he is also the only four-sport letter winner in modern-day Ohio State University history. In later years, Fletcher Gilders became a Hall of Fame swimming and diving coach at Ohio University and Kenyon College
Northwestern's Fred Hatcher (1960) was undefeated in the shot-put during his senior season. Fred's winning effort of 17.88 meters, at the city league finals, ranked third in the state for 1960. Fifty years later, Hatcher's mark is still the DPSSAL record.
Ron A. Johnson (1965) was an All-City football player for the Colts; he played collegiate football at the University of Michigan. Among Johnson's many accolades was his (1968) NCAA single-game rushing record of 347 yards, versus the University of Wisconsin. Although Ron's mark was surpassed in 1971; it stands to this day as a Michigan Wolverine varsity record. Johnson was selected to the 1968 All-America Team; then in 1969, Ron was chosen in the first round of the NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns. Prior to the 1970 season, Ron Johnson was traded to the New York Giants; he played six seasons in a New York uniform.
As a Northwestern sophomore, Leona Mathis (1971) won the 100 (11.1) and 220-yard dash (25.6) at the 1969 Michigan AAU Championships; later that summer, she ran 25.2 for 200-meters at the Canadian All-Star Invitational. For her efforts, Leona was voted 1969 Michigan High School Track and Field Athlete of the Year
Yet another in a long line of NWHS gridiron greats, came another Ron Johnson (1974). Ron played collegiately for Eastern Michigan University. In 1978, Johnson was selected in the first-round of the NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Patrolling the defensive backfield as a cornerback and safety, Johnson performed for seven seasons as a Steeler.
Terry Tyler (1974), selected to Sunkist All-American Team; played 11 seasons of professional basketball with three NBA teams