Recognizing Shirley Harris: A Trailblazer in Education

To read more about Shirley Harris’ remarkable life, check out our profile from Black History Month 2023.

Shirley Harris, a graduate of Southwest Texas State College (now Texas State University) and trailblazer in the field of education and racial equality, will finally receive the recognition she deserves. 

On Monday, Nov. 27, Harris’ alma mater, Texas State University, will dedicate the Shirley R. Harris Student Lounge in her honor.

Harris and her five siblings grew up in Gonzales, Texas. She was the first in her family to graduate from college in 1967 when she received her bachelor’s in Elementary Education — and the first Black graduate of Southwest Texas State College. Just two years before she arrived at the university, a federal judge had ruled that the university must end its segregation policies and allow Black students to enroll.

Harris was not the first Black student to enroll, but she was the first to graduate. Despite this achievement, until now, Harris had never received formal recognition from her alma mater for her accomplishments, nor from the state of Texas.

“She was a go-getter,” her brother, former Victoria AFT President Dwight Harris, remembered in an interview with Texas State’s student newspaper. “If you gave her something to do it was going to get it done and it was going to be done correctly.” 

Shirley Harris left a mark on the San Antonio community where she worked as an educator for over 40 years. She’s remembered by her students and colleagues as an “all-business person” who didn’t care much for the spotlight, but rather shared a commitment to help and advance her students’ educational careers. 

Despite this, it’s time that she received recognition for her amazing work so that not only can she be remembered, but so that many more can follow in her footsteps in the fight for justice and equality in education.

If you would like to attend the dedication ceremony at Texas State University, you can find the information on the university’s website. To read more about Harris’ legacy, we recommend this profile on Texas State’s website and our own celebration of Black History Month.