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Monday, July 27, 2015

The Doyle School

Students at Kerrville's Doyle School, 1947
Click on image to enlarge
This weekend the Doyle Exes Club will hold its reunion, a celebration of former students of Kerrville's Doyle School, which was a segregated school for African American students. The school closed in 1966 when all students were integrated into one school system.
Though the school represented racial division of our community, with students separated by race, and with funding inequalities between the two separate systems, many of the former students have justifiable pride in their former school, and are proud to be part of the Purple and White of Doyle High School.
That's because, despite the injustice of the situation, Doyle School had great teachers and support from its families -- and because of their determination, students received an excellent education there. The hurdles the school and its students faced were not fair, but the school overcame them with grace and strength.
According to a history of the school, the "first records of black students finishing a course of study in the Kerrville area was in 1885 when three students graduated from the tenth grade. There were only two more records of graduates between 1885 and 1900. However, from 1900 until the integration of the black school [completed in the mid-1960s], complete records are on file.
"The first record of a black school in Kerrville was in 1909. A new white school was built and one of the old buildings was given to the black community. In order to have the frame structure moved, they would have to come up with the money to have it moved. The black community raised $53 to move the structure to their property." Sources differ as to where that first school was sited, though it was likely near the intersection of Schreiner and Francisco Lemos streets; other sources say an early name for the school was the "Cabbage Hill School."
Early teachers in that school included a Mr. Burton, and later Mrs. A. W. (Annie) Doyle. It was for Mrs. Doyle that the school was named, though it was named for her much later, when Mr. and Mrs. B. T. Wilson arrived at the school in the early 1940s.
In the late 1930s a new building was built for the school, for a cost of $5,171. The new building had three classrooms, an auditorium, two restrooms, and two storage rooms. The school was called the "Kerrville Colored School." Changing the school's name was one of the first things the Wilsons did -- and they chose to honor Mrs. Doyle, who, for many years, had been the school's only teacher, and who had donated the land for the school.
In 1942, B. T. Wilson wrote the school's alma mater. I've enjoyed hearing former students proudly sing of the Purple and White, most recently at the funeral of Itasco Wilson, B. T. Wilson's widow, and an educator at the school.
The Doyle Exes Club was organized in 1980 with Mr. Walter Edmonds, Sr., as its first president. Soon after, Mrs. Earline Smith led the group, and the group's first reunion was held in 1981.
The group gets together to remember their school days, of course, but they've also provided scholarships to college-bound students for many years.
There has been some talk that this weekend's event will be the last reunion. Many of the surviving students are facing the issues you'd expect for a group of people who graduated from high school more than fifty years ago -- health and mobility issues. But, as a friend told me, you never know: there might be more reunions in the future. This group has a history of overcoming adversity.
This is a big weekend for the community: not only is the Doyle reunion scheduled for this weekend, but on Saturday morning a historical marker is scheduled to be unveiled at the Famous Door, home of one of the oldest black-owned businesses in the community.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has very fond memories of B. T. and Itasco Wilson.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times July 25, 2015.


  1. I went to kindergarten (Kerrville) in the 1974-75 school year. My question is, was the Doyle School used as a kindergarten? My family moved from Kerrville in 1977, but I spent 8 wonderful years in Kerrville. I've been trying to figure out where I went to kindergarten for a couple of years. That building looks vaguely familiar.

    Thank you,

    1. I believe it was used as a kindergarten for awhile.

  2. Thank-you so much for your valuable information about my great-great-grandmother! Henry Sebastian and Anna Walker Doyle are my father's great grandparents.I always say I come from a long line of educators and history makers! I was excited when a genealogist, Nick Cimino, sent me a link to your articles on the Doyle School, as part of my family history research. I am looking forward to purchasing your books to find out more about Kerrville's history- Genie Sloan-Pena


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