Kenney High School "Hornets"

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Kenney High School Building - Side Angle View
Submitted by Dennis Downey

Kenney School Rear View 2014
Photo by Gerry Halpin

First Kenney High School building 1906-1921
Courtesy of Kev Varney (now a pipe organ factory)

The History of Kenney High School
Kenney (population 374) is located on IL Route 54 about eight miles southwest of its neighbor, Clinton. This places Kenney in southwestern DeWitt County about 35 miles west of Champaign. An interesting fact concerning Kenney (founded in 1871 by John Kenney) is that two lines of the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad intersect in town.
Kenney High School existed as a four-year school from 1921 through 1955. It was started as a three-year school in 1906 with classes held in the Kenney Opera House. When the "new" high school building was built in 1921 designed by architect A.L. Pillsbury, Kenney High School became a four-year high school. Kenney High School served the town of Kenney for 34 years when the class of 1955 was the last senior class that graduated from KHS. Kenney was then annexed into the Clinton School District.
The Kenney High School building served as a junior high and grade school for the Clinton school system through 1972. It was then vacated as a school and purchased by a private citizen. The building has sadly fallen into a sorry state of disrepair. It is said to be a still-proud building with a majestic look to it. Jon Wheat, who took the photos shown at the bottom of this page said he could see this once great buidling as far as two miles away before he reached the town of Kenney.
However, the Kenney Opera House (the original home of the high school) still remains in operation today as a pipe organ factory. Kenney alums still gather once a year in late March for a reunion and there is some memorablia of the high school located at the Kenney Community Center in the downtown district.
Kenney High School Quick Facts
Year opened:               1906 (as a three-year school)
Became a 4-yr school:  1921
Year closed:                1955
Last graduating class:  18 students
School nickname:         "Hornets"
School colors:              Blue & White (1920's to mid-1930's)
                                   Green & White (mid-1930's to 1955)
Name of Yearbook:       The "K" Echo
Name of paper:             The "Pupils' Pantagraph"
School Fight Song:       Hornet Cheer Song
               To Kenney High, the school we love
               Let's sing a song of praise
               Tell of her many victories won
               And high her banners raise.
               To glorify our dead old school
               And work for her with zest
               To show all the world around
               Our Kenney High's the best
               So let's join in a cheer
               While we're all gathered here
               Cheer for old Kenney High
               We're ready to fight
               For the Green (Blue) and White
               For dear old Kenney High (rah-rah-rah!)
               For her honor and fame
               And her glorious name
               We shall stand in a royal band
               So let's cheer, cheer
               The gang's all here
               All out for Kenney High!!!                              

KHS Letterman's sweater and basketball uniform
On display at the Kenney Community Center

Kenney High School definitely offered boys' basketball, as evidenced by the District and Regional titles the team earned in 1939. Kenney High School participated in the Logan-DeWitt County Conference. The school also offered baseball and track.
The Hornets had many great seasons during their existence. Though only one District and one Regional title were won in 1939 and placed the school within one game of the state tournament at Champaign, it is known that Kenney had several years of hardwood success. Those successful seasons are listed below.
1936-37    15-3                                                   Coach John Miller
1937-38    27-6   DeWitt Co. Tourney Champs   Coach John MIller
1938-39    28-3   Logan-DeWitt Conf. Champs   Coach John Miller
                         Wapella District Champions   
                         Clinton Regional Champions
                         Taylorville Sectional Runner-ups
                         Beat Springfield in Semifinals in OT, 29-27
                         Lost to Taylorville in Championship game. 27-21
1940-41             2nd in DeWitt Co. Tournament   Coach John Miller
1951-52  13-12                                                  Coach Dick Irvin
1953-54  24-  3  (excellent record!!)                  Coach Dick Irvin
1954-55  16-11  (last year of school)                    Coach Dick Irvin

Dean Padgett
Prolific scorer at Kenney between 1950-54 (courtesy of Don Raycraft)

One of the top players of the early 1950's in Central Illinois hailed from Kenney. Dean Padgett played four years for the Hornets, amassing 1,782 points in his career. In his senior season alone (1953-54), Padgett averaged 31.0 points per game on 838 points. He later went on to star at Illinois Wesleyan, then came back to teach and coach at the high school level at Beason.
Kenney was competitive on the diamond, coming home with many wins to show for their effort during the spring seasons, especially in the late 1930's and early-mid 1950's.
1937    5-1                                  Coach John Miller
1938    6-1                                  Coach John Miller
1939    4-1                                  Coach John Miller
1947    4-2                                  Coach (?) Rose
1952    6-3                                  Coach Dick Irvin
1953    5-2                                  Coach Dick Irvin
1954    4-2                                  Coach Dick Irvin
1955            Last season             Coach Dick Irvin
The Hornets did field a team from time to time for the cinder track, and did come home with a respectable honor at the 1923 DeWitt County Tournament.
1923        3rd place at DeWitt County Meet   Coach Silas Crocker              
From Atlanta HS alum Kent Young:
"Kenney High School was a member of the Logan County Conference. They had great basket ball players in the early 50's. Some of the names were Eldon Johnson, Dick Travis, and probably the best was Dean Padgett, who went on to star at Illinois Wesleyan and coach in Decatur."

Kenney High School
courtesy of Kenney Community Center

goes out to Virginia Abshire, who helped us obtain further information about the schools' history at the Kenney Community Center. The center has a room set aside for showing the history of the school as well as the community, with numerous photos, trophies, monogram letters, uniforms, and pictures of several graduating classes from Kenney HS.
If You Can Assist Us... any manner regarding the history of Kenney High School, please complete a Guest Commentary Form. You can email us at or write to us at:
Illinois HS Glory Days
6439 N. Neva St.
Chicago, Il.  60631

Kenney School Gym & Stage 2014
Photo by Gerry Halpin (Left click on photo for larger view.)

Kenney School Gym 2014
Photo by Gerry Halpin (Left click on photo for larger view.)

Entrance to Kenney High School 2006

Kenney High School--early 2006
courtesy of Jon Wheat