Yeatman Liddell College Preparatory Middle School has a rich history steeped in educational equity, social justice and community. Named in honor of Mr. James Yeatman and Mr. Craton Liddell, the school opened its doors in 1967 to provide excellent middle school instruction to scholars focused on post-secondary goals.
James Yeatman moved from Bedford County, Tennessee in 1842 to St. Louis, Missouri. He was an industrialist and founder of the Merchants’ Bank. However, it was his contributions to the community that are his most lasting legacy. He founded the Mercantile Library in 1846, and helped establish it in the original building at Fourth and Locust streets. He served as the Library’s first president.
In the 1850’s Yeatman was inspired by a teacher of the blind named Eli W. Whelan to found the Missouri Institute for the Education of the Blind. In 1853, along with Dr. William Greenleaf Eliot, he founded Washington University in St. Louis. A patron of art and music, Yeatman founded and became president in 1859 of the St. Louis Philharmonic Society. He then founded a Provident Association to integrate the city’s charities. Over the years, he became known as a charitable man, one always ready to give his time and money to public causes.
Craton Liddell's life became a legacy as a result of a lawsuit filed in his name by his mother, Mrs. Minnie Liddell. Mrs. Liddell filed the suit because she wanted he son to have the right to attend his neighborhood school – Yeatman Elementary School.
The 1972 lawsuit, Liddell versus Board of Education of St. Louis, paved the way for implementing one of the largest school choice programs in the nation and achieved the goal of integrating education for students in the Saint Louis Public Schools.
Due to the lawsuit filed in his name, Mr. Liddell was often thrust into the spotlight. His mother explained, “As a child, he didn’t like the attention, but as he grew into an adult, he realized the importance of it. He wanted to see great improvement in the city’s education system.”
Craton Liddell passed away on December 6, 2002. Yeatman-Liddell Middle School was renamed in his honor a short time thereafter.