Black Alumni in HPHS History
Throughout much of Hartford Public High School’s history, several notable African-Americans have walked its hallways. The following is a short list of notable alumni dating back to 1861. They include a Tuskegee Airman, two actors, three journalists, a former mayor of Hartford, and a former treasurer for the State of Connecticut. The list was compiled by R. J. Luke Williams, Archivist-Curator at the HPHS Museum and Archive.
Benajah H. Plato, Class of 1861. Harvard, Massachusetts Medical Society List, 1866-1867.
James Webster Smith, Class of 1870. Attended West Point Military Academy. Educator.
Laura Wheeler Waring, Class of 1906. Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Artist and Educator.
Known for her portraits of notable African Americans and her murals and landscapes.
Hilda Basse Boyd, Class of 1913. Class essayist. On “Color Committee.” According to The Chronicle, June 13, 1913, “will go to Maryland College.”
Harold B. Hill, Class of 1914. Harvard Law School.
Elsie Taylor DuTrieuille, Class of 1915. Virginia State College. Teacher, writer, poet, member YWCA National Board. Wrote lyrics to HPHS Song Triumphant, 1938.
Arneita Taylor, Class of 1918. Howard University. Hartford Public Schools social worker.
Howard L. Waring, Class of 1921A, practiced medicine in Hartford for 47 years.
Lemuel C. Custis, Class of 1930B. Howard University. One of the five original Tuskegee Airmen.
Gwendolyn B. Clarke, Class of 1933A, aka Gwen Reed, actress, storyteller and teacher. In 1937, she had a small role in Trilogy in Black, a production of the Connecticut Federal Theatre Project’s Negro Unit. Later she was in productions of The Emperor Jones, The World We Live In, Mississippi Rainbow, and One Third of a Nation. She performed in or directed over 25 theatrical productions in the Greater Hartford area. She often appeared on the “Ranger Station,” a children’s program on Channel 3. From 1946 to 1964 she toured the country portraying “Aunt Jemima” for the Quaker Oats Company.
Christopher Allen Johnson, Class of 1940. While at HPHS, he was in many activities: HPHS Debating Club, Academia Latina, National Honor Society, and received many prizes, the Alumni Association Second Scholarship, and was a Fox Scholar. He was salutatorian of his class. Christopher Allen graduated from Howard University with an M.D. degree in 1947. He was a dedicated doctor and spent many years in New York City.
Thomas W. Johnson, Class of 1942. Thomas Walter was an excellent student during his years at HPHS. He was inducted into the National Honor Society and was a Fox Scholar. He attended Howard University from 1942 to 1948 and received his B.S. in Zoology. From 1948 to 1950 he was at the University of Illinois where he completed his M.S. in Bacteriology, and his M.D. degree. Hehad a career as a professor and director of Dermatology. He died in Nashville, TN.
Chuck (Charles S.) Stone, Class of 1942. Journalist, White House Correspondent, editor of theWashington African American.
Carrie Saxon Perry, Class of 1949. Howard University Law School. An American politician, she was notable as the first African American woman to be elected mayor of a major New England city – Hartford, Connecticut – in 1987. She served three terms before being defeated in 1993.
Les Payne, Class of 1958. University of Connecticut. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, New York Editor, Newsday, a founder of The National Association of Black Journalists.
Denise Nappier, Class of 1969. Virginia State University.Treasurer of the State of Connecticut, 1999-2019.
Lew (William) Brown, Class of 1960. Long-time reporter on TV Channel 30, reporter at The Hartford Courant.
Tony (Anthony T.) Todd, Class of 1972. Actor and producer of more than 100 screen and television films.