Tressie Langston


Biography Index|| Schools Index


2/24/2002 Langston a legendary educator

By KEN HALL/Special to the Daily Sun

Born June 8, 1935 to Clarence and Vera Lacy, Tressie Langston spent her early years growing up in Troup where she discovered a love for sewing from her grandmother. Sometime later the family moved to Tyler and Tressie continued learning the art of sewing. Having a desire to raise his family in a small community her father moved them again, this time settling in the St. Louis community on the south side of Tyler. Because there was no running water or sewage in the house it meant hauling water and using an outhouse.

It was in the St. Louis Community where Tressie became involved in the 4-H program overseen by the county extension program. Her sewing skills enabled her to enter and win a regional competition in bedroom improvement. The reward for this endeavor was a trip to Tuskegee, Ala. and the famous Tuskegee Institute, founded by Booker T. Washington. It was her first trip out of the state.

While attending Emmett Scott High School Tressie was active in basketball, Tri-Hi-Y, NHA and, of course, 4-H. The school was named after a leader in education and politics. Dr. Scott was executive secretary of Tuskegee Institute from 1897-1915, during the administration of Washington. From 1919 until his retirement in 1934 Dr. Scott also served as business manager at Howard University. He was coaxed out of retirement to become the director of the Sun Shipbuilding Dry Dock Company, Yard No. 4, at Chester, Pa. during World War II, where nearly 18,000 blacks were employed at its height. Dr. Scott died in 1957.

With a dream to pursue home economics as a career, Tressie enrolled at Texas College after graduating from Scott. A scholarship from Delta Sigma Theta sorority enabled her to meet the financial burdens. The entire family was thrilled, because her brother, Clarence Jr., entered Prairie View at the same time.

In the 1950s racism and segregation was still prevalent and a guidance counselor told Tressie the field of commercial education, her first choice, was not open for blacks. Still holding on to her dreams she decided to become a home demonstration agent but would also obtain a teaching certificate just in case things did not pan out. Work as a student teacher took her to Arp Industrial High School where she was an assistant teacher for ninth and 11th grades and teacher for the 10th grade.

In May 1957, Tressie received her bachelor of science in home economics and awarded a Texas teachers certificate for meeting the requirements to teach in elementary, high school and vocational homemaking. Striking out with her freshly minted degree Tressie sought work in the extension service program. Finding no openings she then pursued something in the teaching field, landing a position as homemaking teacher at Cooper High School. Since this was a new program at the school there was only a half unit to teach. The remainder of her schedule encompassed teaching typing and music.

Fortune smiled on Tressie when a phone call from her mother on Dec. 1, 1957, told of an extension opening in Navarro County. She was thrilled to hear the news, but it meant finding a way to get out of her teaching contract at Cooper. The superintendent was not so happy, since this was a new program for blacks, or "Negroes," and the families had been pleased with her. The school board liked her work, also. He mentioned she could lose her certification by breaking her assignment, especially since this was her first job, and suggested she think on it a bit. A second meeting proved more fruitful after she explained how important the move would be to her livelihood. Impressed by her determination permission was granted, and Tressie would gain her release Dec. 30, 1957.

An interview was scheduled with the Southern Negro District Extension Agent in mid-December and Tressie got the job as a Negro County home demonstration agent. Preparations had to be made for the move to Corsicana. Tressie's father helped her find a car and arrangements were made for suitable housing. The car became her first large financial obligation. Upon arrival in Corsicana, however, the promised lodging was unavailable. Calls were made to a future co-worker and he set up an appointment with the landlady of another agent, who took her on the spot. With everything now in place it was time to get to work.

Tressie arrived for her first day of work at the Navarro County Courthouse on Jan. 3, 1958, and began a journey into an environment full of prejudice, racial hatred and fear. For the next 33 years Tressie held her head high in spite of the negativity she had to face, overcoming many obstacles along the way.

On a happier note, Tressie met her husband, Wallace, who lived across from where she rented. Initially shy he was reluctant to approach her, but finally asked her out. In time they became a couple, and on Aug. 12, 1961 the two became husband and wife. One of many qualities she loved about Wallace was his understanding of her work requirements -- out of town trips, night work, and interacting with other men in the workplace. Tressie always sought to better herself, and in 1976 she received a master of science in home economics from Texas Woman's University in Denton.

The years spent as an extension agent saw many changes, many of which dealing with the eradication of segregated offices, prejudiced agents, and a general unwillingness on the part of some to adapt. Even though Tressie was able to advance she nonetheless encountered much difficulty in achieving her dream: To help people better their lives. In recognition of her efforts she was finally named county chairman of the Navarro County Extension Service Program in 1980. She also had a forum in the Corsicana Daily Sun, where the public was always informed of the activities of the service in her weekly "Extension Notes" column.

The many well-deserved accolades given her include: Distinguished Service Award by the National Association of Extension Home Economists (1974), Superior Service Award by the State of Texas (1984), Corsicana Community Center Membership Award (1984), Jackson Ex-Students Association Distinguished Service Award (1985), Corsicana Business and Professional Women's Club recognition for Outstanding Service to the Citizens of Navarro County (1990), and cited by the Texas Senate with Resolution 30 by Sen. David Sibley for exceptional service to the people of Navarro County (1991).

The lasting testament to the dreams of Tressie Lee Lacy Langston can be found in the joy she had in helping many area young people involved in the 4-H programs overcome the hardships of segregation and poverty.

Even after retiring from the extension agency in 1992 Tressie continued to be active in the community until her passing on Jan. 11, 2000. Her presence is very much missed by those who knew and loved her.

Ken Hall is an occasional contributor to the Daily Sun.

All rights to this story reserved. Copyright Corsicana Daily Sun and Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc,. Content  may not be archived, retransmitted, saved in a database, or used for any commercial purpose without the express written permission of the Corsicana Daily Sun and CNHI.

This Page Last Updated on 08/13/18
Navarro County TXGenWeb
Copyright 2001 Edward L. Williams & Barbara Knox