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The school is named after James Madison, fourth President of the United States.

On September 8, 1965, James Madison Junior-Senior High School was formally opened for 2003 students, 793 of whom were Senior high School students. By the end of 1967, Madison Junior-Senior High had reached an enrollment peak of 2700. In January of 1968 the local Junior High School and what was at that time James Madison became James Madison Senior High School. In the fall of 1981 the school population of Madison was extended to include the ninth grade; the enrollment during that year reached a peak of 2236.

In the fall of 1965 the faculty and students of Madison were welcomed to their beautiful new school by the Principal, Mr. Arthur D. Herring, the Assistant Principal, Dr. Dale H. Perkins, and the Dean, Mrs. Rosamund Glosup. These original administrators, teachers, and students—along with members of the community—determined the policies for the new school and decided upon such matters as the selection of the Marlin as the school mascot and the school colors of blue and white with red.

Mrs. Carrie R. McAfee assumed the Principal ship in 1974 after Mr. Herring's retirement from HISD. Her appointment as the first black female principal of a senior high school set an important precedent for the Houston independent School District. Mrs. McAfee remained at Madison until 1989.Mrs. Ada Cooper was assigned as principal in 1989. In July 1992, she became HISD's Director of grant writing.Mr. Warner D. Ervin, former principal of Ryan Middle School, assumed the Principalship at Madison in July 1992. Madison became a magnet school for Meteorology and Space Science in 1995 with a partnership with Channel 2. In 1997 Madison received a grant from our business partner, General Electric for $250,000 for a College Bound Program.

Ms. Gloria J. Legington became the principal of Madison in July 2000 when Mr. Ervin was promoted to the position of Superintendent of the South District. Ms. Legington had served as the Dean of Instruction at Madison, and prior to that served as the Chairperson for the Career and Technology Department. During her reigning tenure, Madison High School has earned the status as a NASA Explorer School, was re-funded for the GE Grant, and has begun the process to develop into smaller learning communities, among various other honors and awards.

Dr. Aubrey Todd came to Madison in August 2008 after the retirement of Gloria Legington. With 16 years of experience as a high school administrator, Dr. Todd brings to Madison his vision to invoke a culture of education as "serious business". After 3 years Dr. Todd relocated to St. Louis, Mo.Mrs. Sonja C. Williams became principal of Madison High School in July 2010. She has held previous campus leadership roles in Brazos ISD, Angleton ISD, and Alief ISD. During her first year of leadership, Madison was recognized by the Board of Education for having 100 percent of the 2010-2011 senior class apply to a 2-year or 4-year college. Mrs. Williams deems Madison as "The Heart and Future of the Community" and works with her team and community to promote college readiness for all students and maintain Madison as an important pillar for the entire community. Mr. Orlando Reyna is the current principal and has brought the graduation rate for 2015 to 92% and was instrumental in getting Madison out of Improvement Required status during that time. Prior to coming to Madison, Mr. Reyna was the principal of Deady Middle School where he successfully improved the school removing it from the Improvement Required list, and earning 5/7 distinctions in his first year. Mr. Reyna has served as an assistant principal at Thomas Middle School for two years. Before that, he taught chemistry, biology, and integrated physics and chemistry at the high school level and also served as an instructional coordinator and an assistant principal. At Sam Houston Math, Science, and Technology Center, he helped increase students’ exit-level science scores 48% and also increased parental involvement rates at the nearby Ninth Grade College Preparatory Academy. Reyna received his bachelor’s degree in science from Prairie View A&M University. Mr. Reyna deems Madison as” A community of caring where values are taught and lived.”

Madison has also had various alums who have achieved notoriety. Notable alumni include:

Kirk Baptiste - 1984 Olympics silver medalist.

Peter Brett Cullen - Actor (Dark Knight)

Mark Goldberg - Houston City Council member for District C.

Greg Kite - Former basketball player for the Boston Celtics, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Sacramento Kings, the Orlando Magic, the New York Knicks and the Indiana Pacers.

Moran Norris -Fullback for the Houston Texans.

Broderick Thomas - Former American football player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Detroit Lions, the Minnesota Vikings, and the Dallas Cowboys.

Hylon Williams - Professional boxer and former two-time Golden Gloves champion.

Vince Young - NFL Quarterback

Mark Romero - Athletic Trainer

Joe Rivera - Artist / inker. Eisner Award winner and Harvey Award winner 2012

Larry Green - Houston City Council member

Reshonda Tate-Billingsley - Award-winning and best-selling author

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