BY DONNIE L. NERO, SR.
THE OKLAHOMA ASSOCIATION OF NEGRO TEACHERS
The Oklahoma Association of Negro Teachers (OANT), established December, 1907, provided professional development, training, coordination and structure for African American educators during a time when segregation was the law of the land. It was the brain trust of the African American community with a mission to provide the best education for African American students in Oklahoma. From its midst came many leaders, yet its history is virtually unknown. This organization’s membership is a “Who’s Who”of Oklahoma African American history and should be central in identifying past contributors to the development of public education in Oklahoma.
HISTORY IS VIRTUALLY UNKNOWN....
For fifteen years I served as Dean and Provost of the Southeast Campus of Tulsa Community College prior to being named the first African American President of a predominately white college in the State of Oklahoma, Connors State College in 2000–2011. It became evident to me that those who taught me and many others were departing this life without the honor and recognition of mentoring so many influential citizens throughout the country. I discussed with my wife Shirley the necessity to create an entity to memorialize the contributions of these great individuals. She agreed, and in 2010, the idea of the Oklahoma African American Educators Hall of Fame, Inc.(OAAEHOF) became a process. Bruce Fisher, who served as Administrative Programs Officer for the Oklahoma Historical Society, Shirley Nero, and I met with Dr. Bob Blackburn, Executive Director of the Oklahoma HistoricalSociety to discuss the ways and means of setting up a hall of fame. We discussed the importance of collecting, preserving, and sharing the significant histories of AfricanAmerican educators, specifically those who taught in the segregated schools and those who made significant contributions in the
integration of the Oklahoma public schools. With Dr. Blackburn’s insight, assistance, support, and encouragement, the Oklahoma African Educators Hall of Fame,Inc. (OAAEHOF) secured avenue to hold its events, museum assistance and a tax exempt status with the Friends of History SocietyArchives until the vision was established. Immediately, I formed a team of historians, Professor Jimmie White of Connors State College and retired history teacher Shirley Nero and myself to create a Proposal to the establishment of The Oklahoma African American Educators Hall of Fame and the background as why there was a need to establish such a hall of fame. This proposal would include: purpose for establishment, who would be recognized, institutions of learning, nomination criteria, samples of inductee pages for websites, and additional topical information. We developed a fifteen page document of historical content detailing a convincing profile of a hall of fame which ultimately garnered a 13 member board with additional committee members within the year’s time of conception.In addition, the team worked on a constitution and by-laws.
DR. BETTY G. MASON
EDUCATOR & ADMINISTRATOR
Born Betty Gwendolyn Hopkins to Stacy and Carrie Hopkins on March 3, 1928 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Upon graduating from Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, she went on to attain a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Bishop College in Marshall, Texas. In 1949, she began her teaching career in the Kansas City School District in Kansas. She earned a MA degree at the University of California, Hayward. She introduced ROTC to Oklahoma City Public Schools. In 1983, she earned her Doctorate of Education at the University of Oklahoma. In 1992, she took the position as Superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools, she retired in 1995. She also served as the Superintendent of the private Christian school, St. John Christian Heritage Academy for 17 years from 1996-2013. Dr. Mason amassed a total of 59 years in education. Dr. Mason had a passion for education and children.
MRS. VALARIE INEZ CAROLINA
Valerie Inez (Parker) Carolina was born in Spiro, Oklahoma on May 19, 1917 to Thedford and Myrtle Parker. She graduated from Lincoln High School in Fort Smith, Arkansas and received her B.S. in Education from Langston University in 1939 and M.S.in education from the University of Oklahoma in 1967. She devoted 38 years to the teaching profession, the last 18 of which were in the Wewoka Public School System before retiring in 1982. She was selected as Teacher of the Year in Wewoka in early April 1973. She was chosen Oklahoma Teacher of the Year and subsequently nominated for National Teacher of the Year in 1974. She was the first African-American woman chosen as Teacher of the Year in Oklahoma’s history and is to date, the only of Wewoka’s many outstanding educators to be so honored. Her greatest gift, however, is the legacy of love, patience and understanding she gave to students.
DR. ERNEST L. HOLLOWAY, SR.
LEGENDARY ROLE MODEL
Ernest L. Holloway, Sr. was born on September 12, 1930 in Boley, OK to Jerry and Addie Holloway. He graduated from Boley High School in 1948 and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Vocational Agriculture Education in 1952 from Langston University. In 1955, he earned his Masters of Science in Education degree from OklahomaState University. He completed his Doctorate in Higher Education Administration at the University of Oklahoma in 1970 and would later complete additional studies at Ohio State University, Kansas State Teachers College and the University of California at Berkeley. In 1952, he began teaching at Boley High and later served as the high school Principal. In 1963, he accepted the job at Langston University (LU). His “love affair” with LU never wavered from that point forward. In 1979, Dr. Holloway was elected the 14th President of Langston University; a position he would retain for twenty-five years.
Donnie L. Nero Sr. is the president of the Oklahoma African American Educators Hall of Fame Inc.