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History of McCallie

McCallie School was founded in 1905 by brothers Park and Spencer McCallie. Both McCallie brothers had experience in education. Park taught for two years at Culver Academic after receiving a doctorate from The University of Virginia. Spencer taught science at Chattanooga High School and served for two years as the superintendent of public schools in Cleveland, Tennessee before he pursued graduate work at the University of Chicago. In 1906, the school’s Honor System was adopted; it was based on the Honor System at The University of Virginia.

The McCallie brothers began McCallie School with 40 acres of farmland located on the western slope of Missionary Ridge, 2 houses, and a $2000 grant from their father, Presbyterian minister T. H. McCallie. They hired eight teachers and admitted 48 students. Legend has it that they opened the school from conception to operation in only 100 days.

Since its inception, McCallie has served day and boarding students. Also since its inception, McCallie has focused on college-preparatory academics as well as boys’ character and spiritual development. Spencer and Park McCallie eschewed an exclusively academic model for education. They believed that moral and physical education should accompany academics. With the help of their faculty and students, they laid the foundation for a 30- by 60-foot gymnasium with their own hands. By the end of their first term, enrollment had grown from 42 students to 58. Tuition was $50 a semester. Teachers and the headmaster earned $50 a month. By the school’s 15th anniversary in 1919, the student body had grown to 280 students.

McCallie remained under the management of the McCallie family until a Board of Trustees assumed management of the school in 1937.

In the wake of World War 1, McCallie became a military school; students wore military-style uniforms and participated in military drills. The school dropped its military program in 1970 as a result of admission challenges during the Vietnam era. While the school's Board of Trustees voted to admit African-American boys beginning with day students in 1969 and boarding students in 1970, the school did not admit its first African-American student – David Chatman – until 1972

McCallie has a close relationship with Girls Preparatory School (GPS). One of the co-founders of GPS was Grace McCallie, sister to Spencer and Park. McCallie has maintained a formal coordinate program with Girls Preparatory School in Chattanooga since 1985. Students at the two schools participate in a variety of organized social events and coordinate some academic programming, particularly in music and theater. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the two schools have been investigating ways to increase the offering of their coordinate program.

Educational experts consider McCallie School one of the finest secondary schools in the South. McCallie serves boys in grades 6-12 with a campus of more than 160 acres, an endowment in excess of $140 million and an enrollment of close to 1000 students.McCallie, has produced some of Tennessee’s and the nation’s top leaders, including cable television mogul Ted Turner ‘56, former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker Jr. ‘43, former president of MIT James Rhyne Killian, Jr. ‘22, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jon Meacham ‘87, former governor of South Carolina Carroll A. Campbell, Jr. ‘58, and former Senator and Ambassador William Brock ‘49.