“The Only Colored Boy Ever Graduated From the High School”: Lee O . Frame

by Kristine Schmucker, Archivist/Curator

Note on language:

Unfortunately, in 1905, and for too long after, Black people were referred to as “colored” and “boy.” Today, we find this offensive. For this article, I only used the words when they were in a direct quote. It helps us get an accurate picture of the time period, how different people groups were viewed and how harmful it was.

My hope with this article is to highlight the accomplishments of one man as the first Black man to graduate from Newton High School and what he did later in life. His life gives us a view into the Black community at a time that is hard to get a picture of because so much space is given to white people.  I hope by telling his story we get a glimpse of life in Harvey County that we do not often see. It is not my intention to trigger anyone or be offensive. I am open to dialog about how to use historical language in modern day articles. Reach me at curator@hchm.org. -Kris

The NHS Graduating Class of 1905

In the May 22, 1905 issue of the Evening Kansan Republican, the Newton High graduating class of 1905 was introduced. Among the twenty-one graduates was “Lee Frame, a colored boy, the only colored boy ever graduated from the high school, his studious habits having enabled him to rank well in his scholarship.”  (Evening Kansan Republican, 22 May 1905)

Evening Kansan Republican, 22 May 1905

First Black Male to Graduate from NHS

From this article, it would seem that Lee Ora Frame was the first Black male to graduate from Newton High School. The first Black woman to graduate was Mabel Hillman in 1900.

Lee O. Frame was a life long resident of Harvey County. Born March 26, 1884 to Silas and Tennessee Anderson Frame.  His father Silas Frame, “was a well respected colored citizen,” who ran a dairy for a number of years. The family owned land in Highland Township, Harvey County and in Sedgwick County. In addition to Lee, they had five other children – John, Ida, Nellie, Bessie and Jeff.

“The Swellest Event”

Lee graduated from Newton High in 1905 and worked for a time for the Postal Office. In 1909, the I.R.A. Club held “the swellest event that ever occurred in Newton among the colored people.”  There were sixty-four members present for the banquet held at 505 1/2 Main. Among those involved in the program was Mr. L.O. Frame performing a vocal solo.

“Hosts Most Successfully”

The January 1, 1908 issue of the Evening Kansan Republican listed a number of “Open Houses” on New Years’ Day. Those hosting an open house included Messres S. Frame and L. Frame at their home on E 12th. The point of the event seemed to be that the men acted as host and the women were the ones entertained. The article ended with “the gentlemen had many of the gentler sex to entertain, but did the part of hosts most successfully.  All the names listed were members of the Black community in Harvey County.

“His Preferred Occupation, Farming”

On May 4, 1911, Lee Frame married Eva C. Beckham at the home of his parents. Eva was described as “an orphan … a lady of refinement and culture.” She had previous been living in Wichita with relatives. After marriage, Lee undertook “his preferred occupation, farming.” The newlyweds lived on E 11th Street in Newton.

Marriage License, Lee O. Frame & Eva Beckham, May 4, 1911.

Frame was active in the community as a member of the Newton Negro Business League and member of the Rising Sun Masonic Lodge, Newton, Ks. In 1912, Frame gave a speech at the Negro Business League, “Results of a Good Business.” Throughout his life he worked as a farmer, real estate broker and bondsman.

Frame had six children. Kathyrn J. Price Frame was his second wife. He married a third time April 2, 1932, to Nannie Anderson. His WW2 Draft Registration Card, 1942, gives details of Frame’s physical appearance. He was 6’3″, weighed 246 pounds, black skin and eyes.

Lee Ora Frame died January 2, 1964 at the age of 75 in his home at 301 E. 12th, Newton. He was survived by his wife, Nannie, three sons and two daughters and one step-daughter. He had 18 grandchildren and 14 step grandchildren.


  • Evening Kansan Republican: 22 May 1905, 3 January 1908, 21 May 1909, 5 May 1911, 1912.
  • Marriage License, Lee O. Frame & Eva Beckham, May 4, 1911, Marriage License Collection, Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives, Newton, Ks.
  • U.S WW II Draft Cards, 1942, Lee Ira Frame, Family Search.org.
  • Lee O. Frame, Find A Grave, includes Obituary.
  • U.S. Census: 1910, 1920, 1930.
  • Kansas Census: 1895.
  • Newton City Directories: 1911 – 1960.