(August 24, 1910-May 2, 1999)
Iowa State alumna, first African-American woman to earn a master's degree in Home Economics at Iowa State; established Department of Home Economics at Texas College in Tyler, Texas; first African-American woman appointed as a consultant with the Texas Education Agency; helped lead movement from segregation to integration in Texas for administrators, teachers, and students in home economics.
Willie Lee Campbell was born on August 24, 1910 at Nacogdoches, Texas, the only child of Edward John Campbell and Mary Gertrude Kennedy Campbell. Both of her parents were educators, and her father was principal of the segregated black high school in Nacogdoches, which was eventually named for him. Willie Lee grew up in Nacogdoches and graduated valedictorian from E. J. Campbell High School in 1927. She was not allowed to enter Stephen F. Austin University because of her race, so she attended Prairie View A & M College in Prairie View, Texas. Ironically, years later she became a director at Stephen F. Austin University. She majored in Home Economics at Prairie View and graduated with honors in 1931 with a BS degree. Prairie View had no graduate program in Home Economics, so Willie Lee came to Iowa State College (now University). Although Iowa State had a long history of admitting African-American students, she had to live off campus, so for the next two years she lived at 1204 3rd Street in Ames, a house where many African-American students lived at that time. She felt lonely at Iowa State and wrote home to her parents, “The clouds are white; the ground is white; and all the people are white. Can I come home?” However, at her mother's urging, Willie Lee stayed until she finished her advanced degree at Iowa State. Another irony in her life was that in 1997 she received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Iowa State University Alumni Association. Her thesis is entitled, Training, Experience and Salary of Negro Home Economics Teachers in Secondary Schools in Texas, and she received her MS in Home Economics Education with honors in 1933.
Immediately after graduation, Willie Lee obtained a position at Virginia State College as head of the Department of Food and Nutrition and was named as acting head of the department in 1934. In 1935, due to illness, she returned to Nacogdoches. Recovering quickly, she taught briefly at Nacogdoches High School.
About the time she finished at Iowa State, Willie Lee met Dr. Dominion Robert Glass, president of Texas College in Tyler, Texas. Following a three year romance, they were married on August 10, 1936, which was heralded in Tyler as the “wedding of the year.” They had no children.
Mrs. Glass's outgoing personality fitted her well as the wife of a college president in which she enthusiastically worked with students, raised funds, and improved facilities. She also established a Department of Home Economics and served as head of the department from 1936 to 1950. She was described as, “an architect in building self-esteem. She saw every student as a developing work of art with immeasurable potential and she made sure they knew that.”
In 1950, Glass was appointed as a consultant to the Texas Education Agency for home economics, the first black person to serve. In this position, she maintained continual contact with school superintendents throughout the state, and when integration of schools began, she was instrumental in implementing it smoothly. She considered her greatest contribution to education was when she developed and implemented techniques and methods at colleges and universities in Texas to prepare teachers to work with different ethnic cultures during integration in the 1960s. She experienced outstanding success during her years at the Texas Education Agency which brought her many other activities and honors. She published Mental Fashions of the Mind, a book that described how to put away negative behaviors of hate and envy and currying positive behaviors of love, faith, charity, and hope. She also established a chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority on the Texas College campus.
Glass served as an adviser, director, or on the board of directors for 18 institutions including the East Texas Medical Center, the University of Texas Medical Center, the University of East Texas at Tyler Foundation, Texas College Board of Trustees, the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, the East Texas Lighthouse for the Blind Board, Top Teens of America, the American Red Cross, and the North Tyler Neighborhood Improvement Association. She co-founded a national organization called Top Ladies of Distinction, Inc., to recognize women who had gained distinction in culture, education, business, finance, or community service. President Eisenhower chose her to serve on a formal travel program, the People-to-People delegation to Scandinavia, Poland, and the Soviet Union. In 1969, she was invited to attend the White House Conference on Children and Youth, and five presidents selected her to serve on the White House Conference on Aging. In 1981 Gov. Bill Clements appointed her to the Texas Board on Aging. She also worked actively in fundraising for the United Negro College Fund.
Mrs. Glass received many honors over they years. She was inducted into the Texas Woman's Hall of Fame in 1985, received the T.B. Butler Award as Tyler's Most Outstanding Citizen, was awarded an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters by Texas College in 1988, and received Prairie View A & M University's Distinguished Alumni Award. A new home economics building on the Texas College campus was named the “Willie Lee Glass Building.” She was also inducted into the Nacogdoches Woman's Hall of Fame and the Dallas Negro Hall of Fame. Many other honors also came to her.
Dr. Willie Lee Dorothy Campbell Glass died on May 2, 1999 at Tyler, Texas and was interred in Cleaver Cemetery there. She was recognized in resolutions of both the Texas State Senate and House of Representatives and also in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Texas Senate Resolution read in part, “A woman of integrity, strength, and generosity, she gave unselfishly of her time to others, and her wisdom, warmth, and valued counsel will not be forgotten by those who knew her...”.
Several general sources on the life and career of Dr. Willie Lee Dorothy Campbell Glass include Laura Brownlee, “Willie Lee Glass: An East-T-Plex Living Legend,” Bold Pioneer, Volume 9, November, 1996, p. 9; and Rebecca W. Greer and Janie O. Kenner, “Willie Lee Glass: A Lady of Remarkable Influence,” Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal, Volume 37, Number 2, December, 2008, pp. 140-148.
Newspaper articles on Dr. Glass include “Tylerite Thankful for Blessings,” Tyler Courier-Times, November 15, 1985, and Sarah Zimmerman, “Willie Lee Glass: Her Individuality Is Composite of Many People's Influences,” Tyler Courier-Times-Telegraph, November 24, 1985, p. 1. A larger collection of articles, essays, and memorials can be found at www.cityoftyler.org/showdocument?id=2798.
A copy of her master's thesis at Iowa State can be found in the Special Collections Department, Iowa State University (call number C O 1933 Campbell.) Determination of her residence while studying at Iowa State was found in Iowa State College Student Directories from 1931-1933, also in Special Collections.
All other items were found online, including websites for the Iowa State University Alumni Association, the Texas Women's Hall of Fame, the Texas State Senate Journal (No. 890), and the Congressional Record (1999), p. E1447. Family information from Public Member Family Trees, the 1930 and 1940 U. S. Censuses, and a marriage certificate were found at ancestryinstitution.com. Interment information was found at findagrave.com.