Please note that the early history of the Philothespic Society, Debate and Elocution were entwined. You may wish to visit the history of the Philothespic Society to grasp the full picture of this busy and important activity.
The December 14, 1949, debate topic was Resolved: That the President of the United States Should Be Elected by the Direct Vote of the People. ”The debate was a seesaw battle all the way. . . . The rebuttals were the most entertaining ever presented.” While the judges retired to the library downstairs to determine the victor, “Johnny Stacer invited the audience to ask the debaters any questions they wished.” The year’s moderator was Fr. Douville, S. J. (R)
The subject for the 1950 – 1951 Gold Medal Debate was Resolved: That the American People Should Reject the Welfare State. The debate chairman was Johnny Keehan, and the affirmative team of Joe Pangle and Bill Williams.
The 1951 – 1952 Last Roundup reports that in this year the school “saw the rise of a new organization—the Debate Society of Jesuit. Fr. J. L. Weber, S. J., moderator, did a wonderful job getting the group going from the infant stage and persuading the other Catholic high schools of the city to participate in the newly formed Inter-Catholic Debate League—the purpose of which is to foster the art of speaking for Christ.” The national debate topic was Resolved: That All American Citizens should be subject to conscription for essential service in time of war.
The yearbook continues, “One of the first activities of the year was the intramural debates. Although the [Phil] had no official connection with these debates, it is interesting to note that all finalists (classes 1A and 4B won their divisions) were members of the debate society.”
For the 1952 debate Walton Bondies acted as chairman. The negative for Resolved: That the United States should take the initiative in forming a Federal Union of all nations won the debate. Milam Joseph was chosen as the best speaker.
The 1953 Last Roundup wrote: “Although a very young organization, the Debate Society has shown definite signs of a very energetic disposition even in its infancy.”
The March 1953 Minister’s Diary noted that Shreveport had 9 boys attending the debate. They were housed on the third floor for Friday and Saturday nights.
In 1953 – 1954 the Society created an honorary society, The Order of the Silver Masque and The Order of the Golden Masque, to reward outstanding members. Gene Ingram from two years before, Jimmie Davis, last year’s President, and Jerry Fagin, this year’s President were the first members. On March 24, 1954, the school held its Gold Medal Debate. Father Weber, S. J. continued as moderator, but he gained Mr. Drez, S. J. as an assistant. Drez had been a prize debater at Jesuit High School when he was a student.
Later, on April 23, 1954, the debaters won First Place in the Inter-State Debating Tournament held at St. Thomas University in Houston and were named the outstanding team debaters. In addition, Tommy Fuechtmann won a two year scholarship and Jerry Fagin a one year scholarship to St. Thomas.
The Central Council meeting of the Dallas Catholic Debate League met on September 21, 1954, to establish bi-weekly debates with other schools. The first debate of this kind was held at Our Lady of Good Counsel. Jesuit won over L. G. C. and won the following debate against Ursuline. However, later in the year they lost in a second debate against L. G. C. During this semester Jesuit hosted a debate between St. Edward’s and St. Peter’s.
The April 25, 1955, Dallas Morning News reported that “two debate teams from Jesuit High School took first and second places in a debate tournament among Texas and Louisiana Catholic High Schools in Houston during the weekend. The winning team was William Hodges and Claiborne Johnson. The second place team was Jerry Fagin and Forrest Ingram.
Johnson also was judged the best speaker and won a $600 scholarship to the University. Hodges, second place speaker, won a $300 scholarship to the University. Eleven schools sent teams to the tournament including some 25 students from Dallas participated, representing Ursuline and Our Lady of Good Counsel Academies and St. Edward’s and Jesuit.”
In a local newspaper from Saturday, August 18, 1956, Joseph A. Tetlow, S. J. writes about the various clubs at Jesuit. He indicates that on any day after school the debaters meet in a “little yellow box of a room” on the third floor, pouring over Time and Newsweek preparing for the next tournament. He recognizes the sacrifice and commitment of this group and others.
1957 was an especially good year for the Debate Team. On March 26, 1957, the debate team met at Christ the King auditorium with four hundred in attendance. On April 12 and 13 of 1957, the team participated in the Tournament for Catholic high schools of Dallas and Ft. Worth in Arlington, Texas. A banquet for participants was held in the cafeteria.
In May 1957 Fr. Jacques L. Weber, S. J. and Mr. Joseph A. Tetlow, S. J. took the team to the tournament at St. Thomas College in Houston where they won highest honors. Again on October 26, 1957, the team won first place in both individual speaking and in debate team work at the Debate Tournament at the University of Dallas in competition with some 44 schools.
Again on November 2 the debate and speech teams beat “the famous Lanari High School of Houston.” They won highest honors. And again, on November 23, the freshman team won the two trophies for the freshman debate tournament for the area.
1958 continued a successful trajectory. On February 22 the debate and speech teams won top honors at S.M.U. The Gold Medal Debate was held on March 4 at Christ the King Auditorium with a “large crowd” (Minister’s Diary)