FULSHEAR, Texas (KTRK) — A new Lamar CISD elementary school scheduled to open in fall of 2024 will be named after the first and only African American woman to serve as the mayor of Fulshear.
Viola Gilmore Randle died in September of 2020 at the age of 96, but her legacy will live on after much advocacy from family and community members.
The construction of the new school came after residents voted last week to pass Proposition A, which provides $1.3 million in funding for land sites and construction of five new schools. Superintendent Dr. Roosevelt Nivens said Lamar CISD is one of the fastest growing school districts in Texas.
Currently, they have about 42,000 students, but projections from an explosion in home developments estimate the district will rise to 78,000 students in the next nine years. They plan to add 17 elementary schools in that time in order to properly accommodate that growth.
Alex Hunt, who serves as the president for Lamar CISD’s Board of Trustees, said during the school naming process that Randle’s name was consistently nominated by community members, family members, students, and educators. After a ranking process and vote, the board chose to name one of their new schools after the late mayor.
SEE RELATED STORY: High schools across the country launch first AP African American studies course
“I hope the students who will go to Viola Gilmore Randle Elementary will remember who she was. She was a community and public servant. She was a pioneer. She was a Fulshear icon. She was a mainstay up until she passed,” Hunt said.
READ RELATED STORY: ‘We’re at a tipping point right now’: Lamar CISD seeks $1.7 billion bond
Randle was born on July 26, 1924 to a family of sharecroppers and spent much of her childhood picking cotton and growing vegetables. She grew up in Fulshear and eventually became a business owner, activist, and community leader.
“That was a big thing, especially being an African American woman. It was a lot to overcome, because in those days, a lot of women weren’t respected in their roles,” said Torey Gilmore, Randle’s great nephew. “She went against racial issues and we took all that to heart. It’s still with us today. Go after what you want, dream big, and don’t put limitations on anything you do.”
Gilmore said Randle’s contributions were endless. He said she helped raise him for most of his life and remembers how she helped with incorporation efforts for the City of Fulshear in 1977. Randle became the first female African American city councilmember, and after serving for 10 years, she was elected as mayor and served from 1993 to 1998.
According to the Fulshear-Simonton Lions Club, one of her proudest achievements during her administration was the construction of the Irene Stern Community Center, a large gathering space for seniors and civic events.
“She was small in stature but big in voice. She was full of life, energy, and encouragement. She was known throughout the community as one of those pillars. She took time to get to know new people and welcomed everybody. I think that’s one thing many people remember about her,” he said.
At the time, the city’s population was about 600 people. Over the next three decades, it grew to more than 12,000 people. Yet, she never left. After her term, Randle continued to attend almost every city council meeting. She continued her work through the Board of Directors for the Fulshear Historical Commission and helped with preserving the Fulshear Black Cemetery.
“Even as she aged, she still committed to her community through civil service. To see someone at 96 still going is encouragement for a lot of the youth,” said Gilmore.
Gilmore said this was the second time his great aunt was nominated to have a new school named after her. The first time, when Randle was still alive, was unsuccessful.
“The only thing is this time, she’s not with us anymore. This is something we would have wanted her to see, but she’s watching. To be at this point is amazing for our family and it’s a big win for Fulshear. We thank Lamar CISD and we’re excited about the fact that a school will be named in her honor. As the city and its population continues to grow, the school will preserve her history. That’s something we will always cherish,” said Gilmore.
Gilmore is currently a counselor at Dean Leaman Junior High School in Fulshear. As someone who is passionate about empowering children to harness their strengths and pursue their passion, he said it meant a lot to see his great aunt honored in education.
“I hope it inspires them to dream big. Think beyond any kind of barriers that you can have. You can come from poverty. You can come from situations that are not favorable and you can still make it,” Gilmore said.
Viola Gilmore Randle Elementary is projected to open in the fall of 2024 and enroll approximately 800 students in the Jordan Ranch area.
“I think it’s going to be very powerful, especially for young Black girls to see Viola Randle’s statue and hear about her influence on the community. We hope they will learn that they can do that with their own lives,” Dr. Nivens said.
SEE RELATED STORY: Michael Langley becomes 1st Black 4-star general in US Marine Corps history
For stories on Houston’s diverse communities, follow Rosie Nguyen on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Copyright © 2022 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.
Credit: Source link