Teacher, historian Willie Lee Gay to be honored Feb. 26
By D. McGaughey, HCC Central PR
Feb 10, 2015
Willie Lee Gay, the lifelong educator and distinguished historian for whom HCC Central's Willie Lee Gay Hall at the South Campus is named, will be honored at a special celebration - Great Black Educators - 10 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 26 at the building bearing her name.
Mrs. Gay, who turned 85 on Feb. 15, will be given tributes by several people whose lives she influenced. Also expected in attendance, her spouse, Vergel Gay Sr., 86, a retired master technician.
"We are planning a very nice tribute to Mrs. Gay," says Charles Whigham, campus manager of HCC Central’s South Campus. "She is an amazing lady. She taught so many people in her 30 years as an educator and outstanding historian."
HCC opened Willie Lee Gay Hall, at 1990 Airport Blvd. in Sunnyside in 2003. The 40,000-square-foot building contains classrooms, lecture halls and a full array of student services. Expansion of the campus is underway.
Mrs. Gay was a longtime fourth- and seventh-grade history teacher at HISD's Reynolds Elementary and Woodson Junior H.S. She also taught English at Drew High School in Crosby and was a teaching fellow in the English department at Texas Southern University. She holds degrees from TSU and completed advanced studies at Prairie View A&M, Trinity University, and the University of Texas.
Mrs. Gay's enthusiasm for preserving history went far beyond the classroom. She became actively involved in a number of heritage-preservation activities, including the establishment of the Rufus F. Hardin Museum, Inc. and projects she worked on after being appointed to the Texas Historical Commission by former Texas Gov. Ann Richards.
Mrs. Gay was the first African-American to serve as a commissioner for this statewide historical group. Her years of service were 1991 through 1997.
In 2003, Mrs. Gay was celebrated for creating the "Willie Lee Gay Collection" in the Robert Terry Library at Texas Southern University. She conducted preservation projects of Fourth Ward (Freedman's Town), and the former Covington Home at 2219 Dowling Street in Third Ward. The house was demolished in 1995, but Mrs. Gay received approval for a Texas Historical Marker to be placed at the site.
Other collections and assemblages of her historical archives, photographs, oral histories and scrapbooks related to African Americans in Houston area are located at the renowned Gregory Lincoln African-American Museum and Houston Metropolitan Research Center.
Ms. Gay received numerous awards for her outstanding teaching and historical work. Her former students established the "Willie Lee Gay Permanent Endowment Fund" through the Texas State Historical Association in 1986 to recognize and award students researching African-American achievement in Texas.