Sumner High School “Arabs”

Sumner High School 1947 – 1973
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Photo Provided by Leona Smith

The History of Sumner High School

Sumner (population 1,022) is located in southeastern Illinois on Il. Route 250 just south of Il. Route 50. This places Sumner in northern Lawrence County about nine miles west of Lawrenceville.  The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad runs some tracks through the center of town.  The Muddy Creek and Shirley Creek also flow through town.

The following history of Sumner and its school was provided by Leona Smith:

“It would be very hard to write a history of Sumner School without including a slight history of Sumner itself, as the city and the school are so intertwined it is hard to separate into two segments.

The germ of the city of Sumner was planted on October 25, 1817, when Benjamin Sumner bought land for one dollar and fifty cents per acre and settled upon it. The city was surveyed and platted by Peter Smith, at the time the county surveyor, on January 27, 1854.  Several additions have been laid out and added from time to time.

Sumner’s First Brick School Building
A house with trees in the front

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Photo Courtesy of Leona Smith

The children attended a school a mile west of town.  This continued for four years, but in the fall of 1858 a small frame building was erected on West locust Street.  In 1867 a two-story brick building was erected in place of the “Little Brown Jug” as the first building was commonly known.  However the “Little Brown Jug” was used for several years afterward as the primary department.

The records of the school prior to 1862 appear to have been lost, however, the school continued to grow rapidly in attendance and in the year 1867-68, it was necessary to employ four teachers.  The new brick building served the community for fifteen years, and then increasing enrollment forced another enlargement.

This building as completed, was made in the anticipation of further expansion.  It was placed under one roof with a belfrey in the center and as completed, was a two-story structure containing six rooms, an office, cloak rooms, ect.

A two-year high school was established by the school board, and the first commencement exercises were held in the sprinhg of 1888 under the direction of Superintendent J.M. Hamilton.  The members of the first class were Maggie Burnes, Gracie Corrie, Della Judy, Mayme Robinson, Isis Kilgore, and Bert Emerick.

  A third-year was added to the curriculum in 1897 and a fourth year was added in 1819.”

Sumner high School 1920-41
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Courtesy of Leona Smith

Sumner’s second school building was built in 1920.  It was a brick structure that housed grades 1 through 12.  This building served the town for 21 years until tragedy struck. The building caught fire in the afternoon of June 16, 1941.  The building was destroyed and unrepairable.

Sumner School Building 1941-47
A large house with trees in front of it

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Photo Courtesy of Leona Smith

Construction of a new building was underway almost immediately. However the children needed a building in which to attend school while the newer building was built.  This was accomplished in the building pictured to your left. This three story structure served as Sumner High School from 1941 until 1947.  In 1947 the new building, pictured at the top of this page, was completed and served as Sumner High School until the high school was consolidated with Bridgeport in 1973.

It was in the early 1970s that the towns of Bridgeport and Sumner engaged in consolidation talks.  This became a reality with the creation of the Red Hill School District in 1973.  Red Hill High School is located in Bridgeport.  There is a school located in Sumner where classes are offered to the Red Hill students.  This is known as the Sumner Attendance Center for children in grades K – 4.  The former Sumner High School building also holds classes for the Red Hill 7th and 8th graders.  The Red Hill Junior High Salukis now play their basketball and volleyball games in the original Sumner High gymnasium which was built in 1956.

SCHOOL SPIRIT IS STILL ALIVE FOR SUMNER HIGH!  Every two years an All-School Reunion for alumni and classmates is held the 1st Sunday after Labor Day.

Sumner High School Quick Facts

Year opened:              1888

Year closed:               1973

Consolidated to:          Red Hill High School (Bridgeport)

Yearbook names:        The Pyramid, The Telescope, The Tatler, The Ketch-All, The Sumarian

School nickname:       the “Arabs” (horse and rider)

School colors:            Red & Black

School Fight Song:     “On For Sumner”

                                            “On Wisconsin” fight song tune

                                 On for Sumner, On for Sumner,

                                 March right down that line,

                                 Put the ball into the basket,

                                 Score one every time!

                                 Rah! Rah! Rah!

                                 On for Sumner, On for Sumner,

                                 March right down that line.

                                 Fight fellows, fight,

                                 And win our game tonite!

                                 Rah!   Rah!

The Arab Mascot
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Sumner High School was located in one of  the “hotbeds” of Illinois High School basketball.  Bridgeport and Lawrenceville have long and storied histories.  The Sumner kids always competed hard and faired well.  Though boys basketball is the only sport listed with IHSA success, track and baseball were also offered.

Sumner HS competed in the Midland Trail Conference.  Cisne, Louisville, Noble, Farina of La Grove, Clay City were also members.

The following history of the Sumner High School Arabs was sent to us by Leona Smith from the school’s 1962 yearbook, “The Sumarian”:

                                                       “The History of the Arabs”


Sumner HS First Basketball Team 1909-10
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“In 1910 Sumner had just a three-year high school. That year saw the initiation of Sumner’s first basketball team. The school was in no conference at the time, but roamed around Southern Illinois and Indiana.  Because this part of Illinios was called “Little Egypt”, and the team roamed “Little Egypt” to play other teams, they became known as the “Arabs” because of the similarity of our “nomadic” team to the tribes that roamed the deserts of Egypt.

Just how the colors became red and black is not known, but in the 1910-11 yearbook, “The Tattler”, the red and black of the Sumner team is mentioned.

In 1911 the Arabs were the undisputed champions of Southeastern Illinois, winning 17 ballgames, the one loss being to St. Francisville in one of the four games with the Saints that year.  They (the Arabs) also played eight games that year in Indiana – winning dtwo of them.  THis was very good considering this weas Sumner’s first try at basketball and there was only six boys on the teamand eleven in the entire high school.

The next memorable Arab team was the Arabs of “27”.  The team that year won the District and kept winning until they were defeated by a tough East St. Louis team in the game in which the winner would advance on to Champaign.

The next team to be remembered is the team of 1948-49 which posted a fine record and turned out one of the finest players in Sumner’s history, Jack Piper.  Jack set a scoring record of 443 points, a record that held until 1959-60.

In the season of “59-60” the Arabs won their first conference title in history with a 12 – 2 Conference record and and a 20 – 8 record overall.  This team also produced two fine ball players in Jerry Atkins and Gary EveretteEverette and Atkins both eclipsed Piper’s scoring mark of 443 by scoring 508 and 495 points respectively.

The team of “61-62″ could not brag of a season equal to the above teams but was one of the finest in school history.  The 12 – 16 reecord was not impressive to look at but the Arabs were District Champions for th first time in thirty-five years and advanced to the Regional before being eliminated by a tough Olney team.”

Regarding Red Hill High School’s chosen nickname of the Salukis:

The new mascot of Red Hill High School became the Saluki, which was a dog that originated in the Middle East. This was to be a combination of the Bridgeport Bulldog and the Sumner Arab (which was pronounced AAA-rab by most of the


If you have any further knowledge of the Sumner athletic program please e-mail us at

Boys Basketball

The Sumner High School Arabs boys basketball team brought home three District titles during the schools existence.  We are in need of the coach’s names and team records.  We are also looking for the records of the other great teams that played at Sumner.  Please write to us if you have any of this information.

1924-25             District Champions     Coach Forest Harper

1926-27             District Champions     Coach Forest Harper

The Arabls of 1927-28
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1959-60  20 – 8   Conference Champs            

1961-62  12 – 16  District Champions    Coach Bob Pinkstaff

The District Champs of 1961-62
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Need Your Help

School fight song, athletics and other extra curricular activities offered, each of these things are being sought.  Please help us share with others the great history and accomplishments of Sumner High School.  The hard work of the alumni and townspeople who supported this school system should not be forgotten. We are always looking for a photo of the old high school building and great teams and characters of the past.  You can e-mail these items to us at or write to us at:

Illinois HS Glory Days

6439 N. Neva St.

Chicago, Il.  60631

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