Alumni historian writes school history book
Historian and Hillsborough alumnus Lewis Rex Gordon has recently published a book recounting the history of our prestigious school.
Gordon, who graduated in the Class of 1984, titled his book History of Hillsborough High School. Gordon discussed the work and research that went into publishing his book.
RB: How long did it take you to write the book?
G: It took me about two years to write the book. I did a lot of it on my days off and even some on my vacations. Most of the research came from The Red & Black newspapers and Hilsboreans. Hillsborough High School has strong primary sources.
RB: What surprises did you encounter while researching Hillsborough’s history?
G: There were a lot of surprises I found when I was writing the book. One was that there used to be Commencement Issues [that] eventually evolved into the Hillsborean yearbook. Another was that there was a Cadet Corps at Hillsborough High School during World War I. In the early 20th century the clearly defined role of boys and girls also surprised me some. The way that the students overall dealt maturely with integration in the early 1970s was also refreshing. However one thing that surprised me was how different Hillsborough High School today is in many ways. Security, technology and the many different venues for education from IB to traditional to vocational.
RB: Which misconceptions about Hillsborough were resolved?
G: The big misconception is “Hillsborough High School began in a livery stable on Franklin Street in 1885.” That is so ingrained in our history that it is hard to debunk. The 1885 date is based on an 1886 diploma which would push the beginning of that senior year back to the fall of 1885. Right away you can see the problem. Where did the Class of 1886 go in their junior, sophomore and freshmen year? The part about Franklin Street is right but it wasn’t in a livery stable, it was in a schoolhouse that contained grades 1-12. The livery stable shows up in 1897 and is actually on Florida Avenue just down the street from the old school building. Over time the many facets of the story got mutated together. It wasn’t intentional; it was like playing the children’s game of telephone over the course of a century. The original story was just retold and retold and somewhat lost over time.
RB: What was your goal in writing your book?
G: My goal in writing this book was to have a primary source fact-based history for the greatest high school ever! I won an auction on eBay for the 1913 yearbook from Hillsborough High School called Coloco. It still had flowers pressed into it! The young lady that had owned it clearly loved her time at the Big Red! The class was so different and yet so similar to all others. They dreamed and joked and loved sports and faced challenging exams. What really struck home is that if it was important enough for these students to put it in writing, it was important enough for it to be retold accurately.
RB: Where is the History of Hillsborough High School available?
G: The book is $20 and all proceeds benefit the Hillsborough High School Alumni Association, which is dedicated to supporting Hillsborough High School.
It can be purchased from their website at hhsalumiassoc.com or you can email public relations specialist Darlene Fabelo at
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