Denver’s South High sends Johnny Reb packing, picks new mascot

Students at Denver South High School got school district approval Thursday night to replace a Confederate soldier with the mythical griffin as the school’s mascot. “The times have changed and so must the mascot,” Junior Class President Donavan Hilton told the Denver Public Schools board, the Rocky Mountain News reports.

Former South High mascot (Image/DPS)
Former South High mascot (Image/DPS)

Hilton was among students who staged a walk-out to protest the Johnny Reb mascot a year ago — a regular occurrence, said South Principal Bill Kohut, who has been at the school 22 years. Students sponsored a contest for a new logo, which yielded the griffin, based on a protective gargoyle that looms over the 84-year-old school in Denver’s Washington Park neighborhood.

“I grew up on the Mason-Dixon Line,” DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg said, according to The Denver Post. “I understand the power and the meaning of these symbols.”

South teams will still be called the Rebels after some alumni raised concern over changing the name, Kohut said. But the school’s 1,400 students — nearly 70 percent minority — will no longer have to walk across an image of a Confederate soldier inlaid in the school’s entryway.

The Denver Post reports:

The shift will require changing insignias posted in every DPS high school gymnasium, painting the new logo on South’s walls, producing two nylon flags with the new image and using carpets with the new insignia to cover up the old mascot that is ingrained in the floor.

Kohut estimated the cost to the district to be about $15,000.

“Do it,” said Kevin Patterson, school board member.

All in all, a smoother change to a Colorado school’s image than one proposed last week by a Boulder High School student group that wanted to change the school’s name to Barack Obama High School. Howls of protest greeted the news, leading proponents to withdraw their suggestion the next day.

Bonus South High trivia: Notable alums include evangelist Marilyn Hickey; experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage; and U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, the dean of the Colorado congressional delegation.

And the griffin? The Rocky Mountain News has images of the new South High logo here. And the Medieval Bestiary describes the creature thus:

The griffin is a winged, four-footed animal. It has the body of a lion, but the wings and head of an eagle. It is born in the Hyperborean mountains, or perhaps in Ethiopia; some say it lives in the Indian desert, which it leaves only to find food. Griffins are the enemy of the horse. A griffin will tear a man to pieces or carry him to its nest to feed its young. Griffins are strong enough to carry away an entire live ox. They are also known for digging gold from mines.