Curtis Junior High opened in September of 1953. According to “A History of Wichita Public School Buildings,” two shop rooms were added in 1954. In 1955, 12 additional classrooms were added. In 1961, 23 classrooms, a second office, another gymnasium, and a dining room were added. The old library was converted to classrooms and a new library added. Curtis was near Southeast High school and Caldwell, allowing students to complete 13 years of school within walking distance.
Curtis Junior High School was named for Charles Curtis who was Vice President of the United States.
Charles Curtis was born on January 25, 1860. A member of the Kaw Nation, he was born in the Kansas Territory, in what is now Topeka. This was almost a year before Kansas became a state
Curtis learned to speak French and Kansa from his mother, Ellen Papin. Sadly, Papin died in 1863, when Charles was just 3 years old. He spent most of his young life with his maternal grandparents on the Kaw reservation. His father, Orren Curtis married two more times. The third marriage produced a daughter, Theresa Permelia “Dolly” Curtis.
In 1881 Curtis began practicing law in Topeka.
On November 27, 1884, Curtis married Annie Elizabeth Baird. They had three children.
Curtis served in the House and Senate for nearly 30 years.
In 1923, Curtis proposed the first version of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment did not pass.
Annie died in 1924.
Curtis ran on the Hoover ticket and they won the 1928 presidential election in a landslide by receiving 444 out of the 531 Electoral College votes and 58.2% of the popular vote. A Native American jazz band performed at the inauguration.
Curtis’s election was historic for several reasons. He was the only native Kansan, the only Native American, and the first person of color to hold the office. He was also the oldest incoming VP at the time. He was 69.
Interesting side note: Curtis is the last unmarried vice president. Harry Truman’s V.P. Alben W. Barkley entered office as a widower but remarried while in office.
Curtis’ sister, Dolly Curtis Gann, acted as his official hostess for social events. In 1929 she demanded the title of “second woman” in government social functions. The diplomatic corps changed State Department protocol to appease her.
After an unsuccessful run in 1932, during the Great Depression, Hoover and Curtis lost to Franklin D. Roosevelt and John Nance Garner. Curtis’s term as vice president ended on March 4, 1933.
Curtis passed away on February 8, 1936, at the age of 76.
He is interred with his beloved wife in Topeka at the Topeka Cemetery.
Back to the school building, in 1961 the enrollment was 12-hundred students with 55 teachers.
In the fall of 1989, Curtis Junior High became Curtis Middle School.
In 2004, Curtis received a new addition with four science labs and an expanded library.
Check out Wichita’s other schools.