Shirley Ruth Harris

Shirley Harris graduated from Edwards High School in Gonzales in 1961, was one of six children, and the first in her family to get a college degree. Her father was a minister at Wesley Chapel AME Church. Harris was the first Black graduate of Southwest Texas State College on May 26, 1967. She was focused and fearless in her leap forward representation for racial equality on campus.

Harris was originally enrolled at San Antonio college but transferred to TXST in 1965. Two years prior to her enrollment at TXST, a federal judge had ordered the end of the university’s whites-only policy in response to a class-action lawsuit initiated by Dana Jean Smith, an 18-year-old Black student from Austin.

Shirley Harris was an all-business person and came to TXST to get her degree and then went on to work as an elementary school teacher in the South San Antonio Independent School District for one year before moving to San Antonio ISD’s Briscoe Elementary School, where she taught for 42 years. She retired in 2011 and passed away seven years later at the age of 73. She never married or had children.

Source: Focused and Fearless: Remembering Shirley Harris, TXST’s first Black graduate