Chicago Corpus Christi High School “Spartans”

Corpus Christi High School
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courtesy of Samuel Hall

                     The History of Chicago Corpus Christi High School

Chicago (population 2.8 million) is located in northeastern Illinois in eastern Cook County. Lake Michigan, along with the Chicago & Des Plaines Rivers, are the main waterways to and from town. Interstates 55, 57, 90, and 94 all lead you to the “Windy City.” From what started as a small village in the early 1800’s, Chicago has grown to the nation’s third largest city and one of the most famous places in the world.

As Chicago expanded from its original location at Lake Michigan and the Chicago River, so did the need for creating schools to educate its young people. The Catholic Archdiocese also saw for this need and created schools for the children of Catholic families as neighborhood populations grew.

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Corpus Christi High School was opened in September of 1945 at 4620 South Parkway (now known as Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive) in the former Sinai Temple, at a cost of $165,000. The school was established exclusively for African-American youths whose parents had moved to Chicago from the South in order to gain better opportunities to raise their families.

The school admitted one class at a time, starting with freshmen in 1945-46, and built up until there were four classes in the fall of 1949. The first class graduated in 1950, under the direction of the Franciscan Fathers of Providence from St. Louis, and the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Family, By having both orders on the faculty, it ensured that single-gender classes were taught unless the classes were very small.

Some of Corpus Christi’s students came from Holy Angels, St. James, Holy Name of Mary, St. Anselm, and St. Elizabeth grade schools. In the spring of 1962, Corpus Christi graduated its final co-ed class when it was decided to accept only boys for enrollment.

Those female students that did transfer were probably accepted at St. ElizabethMercy, and Loretto Academy, or at a public high school near their home. Corpus Christi changed its name to Hales Franciscan, which still remains in operation as an all-boys’ institution.


Year opened:                  1945

First graduating class:  1950

Last graduated class:   1962 (28 members)

Open today as:                Hales Franciscan High School

CCHS colors:                  Maroon & Gold

CCHS nickname:            the “Spartans”

School song:                   unknown


According to 1962 alum Tyrone A. Brown, the Spartans were charter members of the old Catholic Parish League that included St. Gregory, Saint MichaelsSt. DominickCathedral HighSt. MalachyMercy MissionAngel GuardianLittle FlowerSt. Willibrord and Saint Benedict’s. The league ran roughly from
1953 to 1964.

Basketball and track were definitely offered at Corpus Christi High School.


Corpus Christi High School won the conference varsity basketball championships in 1956, 1958, 1960, and 1962 under coach Joe Buckhalter.

1949-54                                                                            Coach Lawrence Bingley

1954-55                                                                            Coach Joe Buckhalter

1955-56      Catholic Parish League Champions    Coach Joe Buckhalter

1957-58      Catholic Parish League Champions    Coach Joe Buckhalter

1959-60      Catholic Parish League Champions    Coach Joe Buckhalter

1961-62      Catholic Parish League Champions    Coach Joe Buckhalter

**Notable all-city basketball greats from Corpus Christi include:

Jesse Green

Ronald Gamble

Mac Williams

Fernando DeVries

Donald Perkins

Raymond Nelson


The Spartans won ten straight varsity conference track titles from 1950 to 1960 under Coach Joe Buckhalter. They also won that title in 1962.

1950-51      Catholic Parish League Champions    Coach Lawrence Bingley

1951-52      Catholic Parish League Champions    Coach Lawrence Bingley

1952-53      Catholic Parish League Champions    Coach Lawrence Bingley

1953-54      Catholic Parish League Champions    Coach Lawrence Bingley

1954-55      Catholic Parish League Champions    Coach Joe Buckhalter

1955-56      Catholic Parish League Champions    Coach Joe Buckhalter

1956-57      Catholic Parish League Champions    Coach Joe Buckhalter

1957-58      Catholic Parish League Champions    Coach Joe Buckhalter

1958-59      Catholic Parish League Champions    Coach Joe Buckhalter

1959-60      Catholic Parish League Champions    Coach Joe Buckhalter

                     TEN CONSECUTIVE TITLES!!

1961-62      Catholic Parish League Champions    Coach Joe Buckhalter


Warner Saunders (Class of 1953) – Chicago television news/sports icon –

Memories from Mr. Saunders regarding his coach, Lawrence Bingley, and Coach Bingley’s successor, Joe Buckhalter:

“My basketball and track coach at Corpus Christi was Lawrence Bingley. He died in my sophomore year (1954) in college. Bingley was part of the Xavier basketball players out of Chicago during the 30’s. They had great teams at XU. Most of the players returned to Chicago and coached at CCHS and/or St. Elizabeth. I was greatly influenced by Coach BingleyJoe Buckhalter, also a wonderful man and great coach, came along after Bingley’s death.”

(from Yolande Robbins) “Yes indeed!  That was Corpus Christi High School the years I attended there, ’54 through ’57. It was wonderful! The move to make it single-gender (boys only) had begun before 1957 as I recall because the girls in my class had to transfer before we graduated in 1958. Several of us transferred to St. Thomas The Apostle in Hyde Park for our senior year.

Corpus Christi Parish on 49th and South Parkway was pastored then by Fr. Maurice, and still happily exists. It was also the site and origin of the “Living Stations Of The Cross,” begun, I think, by Fr. Joseph Eckelcamp (sp). And this was the parent church of Corpus Christi High School.

Some of the wonderful teachers that I remember include Fr. Fabian Merz, our principal; Brother Paul, who was school secretary and later ordained a priest; Fr. Roy Hassett; Fr. John Bosco Haas; twins Fr. Michael and Fr. Raphael; Fr. Eric; Fr. Odo, Fr. Daniel, and Fr. Theophane. Sister Auxilia was our librarian and English teacher, too, I think. She was the most patient and generous soul on earth.

I remember Coach Bingley too. He died suddenly my freshman year.

Some of my classmates were Juanita Towns who may be a Carmelite nun now, but was our Prom Queen sophomore or junior year; Jackie Jackson; Liz Miles; and Diane Samuels. I remember Juanita reading “A Right To Be Merry” and “The Seven Story Mountain” in Fr. Roy’s geometry class sophomore year.

We had yearbooks. We published a school newspaper; We had Mass in the chapel everyday, around noon, I think. Our teachers walked every morning from their rectory and convent residences to our school; then back to their residences at night.

The building to the south in your photo was our actual school site. The building to its immediate north was something like an auditorium where movies were shown each month to the grammar school students from three blocks away who trekked their way there for this treat, and where end-of-the-year honors assemblies took place. It had been a Jewish synogogue I think.

Our cafeteria, with some very good food, was in the basement of the school building, cater-corner from Fr. Odo’s small laboratory.

Our students came from as far south as Altgeld Gardens. But most of us lived in and around 47th and 43rd Streets, Oakwood Blvd., and Pershing Road. I lived with my grandparents in Ida B. Wells. “South Center” and the “Regal Theater” were just a little to the south of us; the Metropolitan Theater, next door. Elevated lines ran just to our west, and the buses, up and down the Parkway.

Even before Central High in Little Rock, Fr. Daniel had us actively involved with the Catholic Interracial Council of Chicago, an organization barely ten years old when we first heard of it. We hosted interracial meetings of Catholic youth from elsewhere in the city. We had a debate team and routinely took part in student tournaments throughout the city. We were good too and we won a lot.

Somewhere here at home, in Mississippi, I have a copy of our ’54-’55 yearbook. It was dedicated to Coach Bingley. I know it’s here, but I’m going to have to look for it. And when I find it, I’ll share it with you.

Thank you for all your effort. This truly was a place and a time worth remembering!”

From Hamilton Cook, Jr. (student from 1960-62)

“I am Hamilton Cook Jr., I attended Corpus Christi High. from 1960 to 1962, then my parents moved from 708 E 45th St to 7240 So. Peoria and I transferred to Calumet High (8132 So May St,.Chicago, Il).  I sold Worlds Finest Chocolate to help raise funds for Hales Franciscan High but never attended after Corpus Christi closed.

“I have very fond memories of the Spartans and am still proud of our Faculty and Basketball Team.  Ron Gamble was the leading scorer in the now defunct Parish League. South Parkway is now Martin Luther King Drive and the old Metropolitan Theater where my parents took me as a child is gone. Also attended Holy Angels Grammar School on Oakwood Blvd.

“I am now retired from the Air Force Accounting and Finance Centeranc and Headquarters Strategic Air Command. My wife Paulette is also a Chicagoan and we visit often. I either drive as Omaha is only 450 miles from Chicago or we fly into Midway Airport. We now attend St. Columbkille Catholic Church in Papillion, NE where we currently reside.”


….about the history of Corpus Christi High School. If you or someone else who has some information about the school and its’ short history, please contact us by email at or thru the mail at the address below. We want to be able to pass the word about Corpus Christi and its impact on students on Chicago’s South Side during the 1950’s and early-1960’s. Please contact us at:

Illinois High School Glory Days

6439 North Neva

Chicago, IL  60631

Corpus Christi High School
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courtesy of Samuel Hall

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