Collection Title: Jackson Purchase Oral History Project – Schools and Education
Series Number: OH263
Interviewee: Patterson, Lula May Bell
Interviewer: Payton, Bill
Date interviewed: July 6, 1979
Processed by: O'Daniel, Hannah
Date processed: April 1, 2014
Description: 1 sound disc (47 minutes)
Abstract: Lula Patterson reflects upon her parents, Professor H. Bell and Mattie Burrow, with a focus on her father's career as an educator. She provided a story of a school bully who made her complete his homework. She discussed discipline practices in schools while she was a youth. She described her chores at home. She recounted an incident at Lincoln High School in Paducah, Kentucky when she attempted to kick her classmate, Clarence Gains. She recalled the physical and financial conditions in her community in Paducah. She mentioned the people who influenced her most in life, including her mother, grandparents and many teachers. She described her years working and attending classes at Kentucky State College in Frankfort, Kentucky during the 1940s. She told of her first teaching job in a one-room school in Ballard County, Kentucky. She remembered the difficulties of many of her students had with learning proper English. Patterson described her 28 years of teaching in Missouri, including her difficulties in being respected as an African American teacher in an integrated school system. She joked about how the girls in high school were concerned that the boys were all away during World War II. She revealed a long term health problem in her throat as a result of her experiences during and the after the Paducah Flood of 1937. She concluded the interview with biographical information on her son and the organizations that she was active in, including the Order of the Eastern Star and Burkes Chapel AME.
Biographical / Historical note: Lula May Bell Patterson was born in May 1923 in Paducah, Kentucky. She was the only child of Professor H. Bell and Mattie Burrow. Her father died soon after her birth. She graduated from Lincoln High School in 1941 in Paducah and from Kentucky State College in 1948. She began her teaching career in a one-room school that housed the first through eighth grades in Wickliffe, Ballard County, Kentucky. She taught in Kentucky for two years before obtaining a teaching job in Hayti, Missouri. She taught in Hayti for at least twenty-eight years and was the first African American to teach in the integrated school system. She married twice, divorcing her first husband and later marrying her second husband, Robert Patterson, in 1976. She died on November 8, 1982 in Hayti and is buried in Paducah.
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