A Brief History
by C. Robert Ullrich, 1965
In 1941 Louisville Archbishop John A. Floersh initiated a capital campaign for the construction of new Catholic schools, including a boys’ high school in the West End. The next year, the James Whallen home at 44th and River Park Drive was purchased to house Flaget Memorial High School, named for Benedict Joseph Flaget, the first Catholic bishop of Kentucky. Flaget was to be staffed by Xaverian Brothers who also taught at St. Xavier High School. Flaget High School was opened on October 21, 1942, to classes of seventy freshmen and fifty sophomores. The school’s first faculty was composed of Brother Clarence Herlihy, C.F.X., its first principal from 1942-46, and three other brothers. Brother Clarence encouraged the formation of the first Flaget Parent-Teacher Association in March 1943. Flaget organized its first varsity sports teams in the 1944-45 school year, and the Flageteers, a sports booster organization, were formed to help support athletics. The nickname “Braves” was chosen for the school. Flaget’s colors, originally maroon and gold, were changed when the school received a gift of blue and white basketball uniforms. Flaget won its first-ever championship, a city championship in golf, in 1945. Flaget’s first graduating class, composed of thirty boys, received its diplomas on June 6, 1945.
In 1944 work began on a new school building which was first occupied during the 1946-47 school year. The Whallen home was razed in late 1947 to add an east wing to the new building which included brothers’ quarters and a chapel. The new school building was formally dedicated by Archbishop Floersh on October 31, 1949. A gymnasium was included in the original plans of the school, but was not built until 1964.
Flaget hired Paulie Miller as its first full-time coach in November 1945. Miller, who coached at Flaget through 1963, initially was in charge of the football, basketball, and baseball teams, but eventually gained fame as a football coach. His 1946 football team was the first to play archrival St. Xavier, a game won by Flaget 13-12. The football team won the school’s first state championship in 1949. By the 1949-50 school year, Flaget’s enrollment had reached 1,012, making it one of the largest Catholic boys’ high schools in Kentucky. Of the thirty-six faculty members, thirteen were brothers.Flaget’s sports teams were highly competitive throughout the 1950s and 1960s, especially in football, in which the Braves won state championships in 1952, 1958, 1961, and 1967. Flaget won state championships in basketball in 1960, and track in 1961, and its 1963 cross-country team won the Southern Interscholastic Championship. Flaget produced numerous state champions and All-State players in all sports.Perhaps the best-known are former University of Louisville football coach Howard Schnellenberger and 1956 Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung.
In the 1970s Flaget experienced financial difficulties as enrollment declined to several hundred students. The school won its last state championship in any sport, a tie for the football title, in 1971. In its last year of existence, 1973-74, Flaget admitted female students from Loretto High School, which had closed the previous year. The 1974 graduating class included sixty-five students, of whom eighteen were females. Flaget’s last principal was Brother Kirby Boone, C.F.X., who served from 1968 to 1974. In all, more than 4,200 students graduated from Flaget High School in its thirty-two-year existence. The most significant contribution of Flaget to the West End of Louisville was that it afforded the opportunity of a structured college-preparatory high school education to boys who, for the most part, were sons of blue-collar families. Many graduates of Flaget were the first in their families to attend college. The success of Flaget is measured by its graduates, among which are scores of physicians, dentists, attorneys, engineers, businessmen, and educators at all levels. Some notable graduates of Flaget include Rohm and Haas president Daniel Ash, singer-songwriter Mickey Clark, businessman and former University of Louisville trustees chairman George Fischer, former WHAS radio executive Robert Sherer, and former Citizens Fidelity Bank (modern-day PNC Bank) president Daniel Ulmer. The old Flaget school building was converted to an apartment complex for the elderly in 1982. Flaget Field, the former athletic practice field at 45th and Greenwood Avenue, is managed as a recreation center by the Metropolitan Parks and Recreation Department.
Reference: David N. Aspy and Paulie Miller, Burning Desire: A History of Flaget High School, 1942-1974, Louisville, Kentucky, 1991.
Old School — The James Whallen home at 44th and River Park Drive was purchased to house Flaget Memorial High School, named for Benedict Joseph Flaget, the first Catholic bishop of Kentucky.
New School — In 1944 work began on a new school building which was first occupied during the 1946-47 school year. The Whallen home was razed in late 1947 to add an east wing to the new building which included brothers’ quarters and a chapel.