James A. Allison was born in Ohio in 1838 and grew up on a farm. In 1855, Allison wanted to go away to school, but his father offered him a 160-acre farm to get him to stay. Allison refused, saying, "Father, all I want is to get an education. I prefer it to a farm." He succeeded in going away to school, attending a boarding school and later Ohio Wesleyan University.
In 1860, due to financial problems, he took a job as a high school teacher and superintendent of schools in Fredericktown, Ohio. He continued teaching until 1865, but had to resign due to his poor health. "Teaching was my chosen profession and it was like taking my life to give it up."
Allison then went into the lumber business, but moved to Wichita in 1886 to teach. This lasted only a couple of years, when he engaged in the real estate and loan business, located in the Sedgwick Building. He later became director of the Hydraulic Stone and Brick Company. He invested heavily in the west side of Wichita. He bought many pieces of property, as he had great confidence and faith in West Wichita.
In addition to his local achievements, Allison served six months as the U.S. Representative from Kansas to the Paris Exposition of 1900, having been appointed to the position by his first cousin, President William F. McKinley.
Allison's interest in civic affairs included serving as the second vice-president of the Chamber of Commerce and an officer in the West Side Commercial Club (1901). He was vice president of the Board of Education from 1891 to 1893, and represented the Fifth Ward of the Wichita City Council. Allison was one of the chief promoters of the project to provide Wichita with an adequate auditorium for large public gatherings (The Forum was opened January 25, 1911). Allison also helped establish a college for West Wichita, making Friends University a reality in August 1911. "I want to see the day when young men and women shall be measured physically, intellectually, and morally and to be put in the hands of expert trainers who shall make of every one of them the very best men and women that they can possibly be made."
Construction of Allison Middle School was completed in December 1920 at a cost of $205,984, with an initial enrollment of 460 students. It was originally named Mark Twain Intermediate, but residents of West Wichita held James A. Allison in such high regard that they petitioned the Board of Education to change the name to Allison Intermediate.
The first building has had three additions to the original structure. The first addition consisted of three classrooms on the north side in 1928. Four classrooms and a cafeteria were added in 1930. In 1950, a gymnasium, band room and two art classrooms were added. Renovation of offices, corridors and cafeteria was completed in 1976. The block of ground west of the present site was first used in 1927 as an athletic field. Dodge Street was closed a few years later. In the fall of 1988, all ninth graders were moved to high schools leaving seventh and eighth graders. In the fall of 1989, all junior high schools became middle schools (6-8). At the April 8, 1996 meeting, the Board of Education approved to dissolve the Allison attendance area at the end of the 1995- 96 school year, with students sent to Hadley and Hamilton, and to create a traditional middle school magnet beginning with the 1996-97 school year.
Thanks to the 2000 Bond Issue Project, Allison received 1 new classroom, 2 new science labs, a new library, a new auditorium, general renovations, a new commons area and student support (office), new restrooms, the library was converted to 2 science labs, remodeled existing science labs, and built new parking lots.
In 2012, Allison was again under construction, with the addition of a new 7,200 square foot music suite designed as a FEMA shelter, with both new band and vocal music classrooms, practice rooms, and storage/office spaces. The gym was remodeled with new bleachers, and the FACS classrooms were upgraded. Allison also received new clocks, and a new bell and intercom system.