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Monday, February 13, 2023

A family named Doyle helped change our community's history

Members of the extended Doyle family -- 
before Henry and Anna Doyle moved to Kerrville with their three sons in 1908.
Click on any image to enlarge.

The reason behind the naming of places, streets, and even schools can sometimes be lost to time.

No doubt most people in Kerrville have heard about the Doyle School, which was once a segregated school for African-American students. It is now the Doyle School Community Center, and it’s thriving with a completely renovated building and a full calendar of events.

Anna Doyle
Others may have noticed street signs nearby which are purple with white letters, which say “Doyle District” at the bottom. They not only help passerby know they’re in a special neighborhood, but they’re also a subtle nod to the Doyle School’s school colors: purple and white.

But what about the name? How did it come to be called Doyle?

The answer is simple: there was once a Kerrville family named Doyle, and the school was named in honor of Anna Walker Doyle (1869-1937), who was for many years the principal and head teacher of the segregated school.

Here is the story of the Doyle family:

They came to Kerrville from Memphis, Tennessee, around 1908, for the same reason many families moved here around the turn of the last century: Henry Sebastian Doyle (1867-1913), Anna’s husband, had tuberculosis. In those days it was thought Kerrville’s dry climate helped ease the symptoms of tuberculosis. 

(Coincidentally, another family moved from Memphis to Kerrville in 1904 for the same reason: C. C. Butt had tuberculosis. His wife started a grocery store. You may have heard of it.)

Henry Doyle in London.
Back row, 2nd from left.
Henry Doyle was a native of Georgia; Anna was a native of Alabama. Both were well-educated. Henry attended both Clark University in Georgia, and Ohio Wesleyan University; Anna was a graduate of the Tuskegee Institute, in Alabama, and later attended the State Normal School at Prairie View, in Texas. They married in 1895, in Wetumpka, Alabama. Together they had four sons.

Henry Doyle was a preacher and political activist. He pastored churches in Georgia, Alabama, Washington, DC, Tennessee, and Louisiana. He was a delegate to the ‘national prohibition convention’ held in Ohio in 1892; years later, he was a delegate to the Great Ecumenical Conference of Methodism in London, 1901.

He was active in politics, delivering 63 speeches in 11 counties in 1892 on behalf of Thomas Watson, a populist candidate for congress from Georgia. His life was repeatedly threatened during the campaign, and, in one very dramatic episode, over a thousand armed men protected Doyle and the house where he’d taken refuge from specific threats.

The three sons: Albion, Henry Jr., and Bertram
In 1908, when the family arrived in Kerrville, they had three sons living with them – Albion, Bertram, and Henry, Jr – ranging in age from 7 to 12. (Another son, Levi, passed away as a youngster.) They lived on Jefferson Street. The 1910 census shows Henry working as a minister here.

After Henry died in 1913, Anna chose to stay in Kerrville. Years later, her front-page obituary said “soon after her arrival here, she found that the education among the people of her race was sadly neglected….”

In that news item, it says she collected money from her neighbors, added her own funds, and purchased three town lots, and then persuaded the members of the Kerrville school board to donate a district building which was no longer being used – to be donated for the purpose of establishing a new school for African-American students. 

“She was the only teacher for many years,” her obituary reports, “and had served as principal for more than 25 years.”

When Anna Walker Doyle passed away in August, 1937, it was a sad day for Kerrville. There were mourners from ‘all walks of life.’ She was buried next to her husband in Shreveport, Louisiana. Two of her sons are also buried nearby. Albion, like his father, died of tuberculosis. He was only 25 years old.

Bertram Wilbur Doyle, another of Henry and Anna’s sons, got his doctorate from the University of Chicago the same year his mother passed away. Like his father, Bertram served in the Christian Methodist Episcopal church as a pastor, and later, as a bishop; and like his mother, he was an educator, as a professor of sociology at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and at several other colleges.

In the early 1940s, B. T. and Itasco Wilson arrived in Kerrville. B. T. was to be the new principal at the school, and Itasco one of the teachers. One of the first things they did was rename the school in memory of Anna Doyle, and thus the name Doyle School was born.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who enjoys researching the history of our community. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times February 11, 2023.

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1 comment:

  1. Joe, I appreciate all the effort you put into the history of our town. Diane Ferrell


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