A Tale of Two Professors at Prairie View
By Lindsay Boknight
Myrtle E. Garrett receiving an award for her outstanding service in the 1960s.
In my first few weeks working on the Digital PV Panther Project, I had the opportunity to process the manuscript collections of several former professors in the PVAMU Archives. The Texas State Library & Archives Commission (TSLAC) awarded Ms. Earles and Dr. Moore almost $20,000 for their TexTreasures grant proposal, and it gave me the opportunity to learn more about the amazing careers of Myrtle E. Garrett and Oscar John Thomas. After working countless hours to build the reputation of PVAMU, the two former professors donated their research, lesson plans, and other artifacts to the university in the 1970s, but the archives never had a chance to fully process the collections, create finding aids, and make their papers available to researchers until the fall of 2022. This blog post examines the lives and legacies of two former professors and encourages researchers to visit the archives to examine the collections for themselves!
Myrtle Elwyn Garrett
Myrtle Elwyn Garrett, the fifth of thirteen children of Jack and Cora Teel Garrett, was born April 9, 1912 in Longview, Gregg County, Texas.
She received her early education at Rollins Elementary School and was valedictorian of her graduating class at Longview Colored High School. She earned the bachelor and master of science degrees in home economics at Prairie View A&M University and pursued further studies at George Washington and Texas Tech Universities.
She taught at Rollins Elementary School for approximately 13 years, She then joined the Extension Service as county home demonstration agent in Falls County with headquarters in Marlin, where she served for three years. She was then promoted to district agent with headquarters at Prairie View A&M University where she supervised the work of home demonstration agents in 21 counties. She later transferred to Texas A&M University, where she served as program specialist until her retirement. She provided training for working with low-income homemakers and served as the head the 4-H Club for all of Texas. She was most proud of the Leadership Laboratory, which promoted leadership among youth.
Myrtle Garrett created lesson plans for education and training programs in the Cooperative Extension & Home Demonstration Service.
Oscar John Thomas
Born July 10, 1896, the second son and the fourth child of nine children born to the late Isaac and Emma Thomas of Trawick, Nacogdoches County, Texas, He spent his childhood days in the rural community in which he was born. His early training was received in the neighborhood school which was located one mile from his residence. After completing the ninth grade he passed a state examination and at the age of 17, taught a one teacher school one year.
Realizing that his education had only begun he entered Prairie View State College the following year and enrolled in the sophomore normal class. He graduated from the normal department in the spring of 1920 and completed his college work in 1927, receiving the Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture. His first years of experience were in one teacher schools of Nacogdoches and Shelby Counties, where he taught alternate years while attending Prairie View State Normal. In August 1920, he began work at Texas College in Tyler, Texas as teacher of General Agriculture and the Farm Manager.
On July 13, 1938, Thomas accepted the position of State Itinerant Teacher Trainer in Vocational Agriculture at Prairie View State College. In addition to his regular duties as Teacher Trainer, he worked as the state adviser to the Texas Association of New Farmers of America. His professional activities included service as the President of the Teachers State Association, Regional Vice President of the American Teachers Association, and First Vice President of the American Teachers Association. He also served as President of the Prairie View Alumni Association for a period of six years and as Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Texas Interscholastic League of Colored Schools.
In 1944, while studying at Prairie View State College, he conducted a study of successful practices and procedures used in the best cooperative teaching program, which evolved into his master’s thesis in Agricultural Education. His research was later published as a monograph titled Suggested Principles and Practices for Cooperative Teaching with Special Reference to Vocational Agriculture.