By: Rebecca S. Jones
(African-American News& Issues)
A warm spirit, beautiful smile and an extraordinary personality all describe the presence of: local educator and community activist, Mrs. Jewell Simpson Houston. Jewell was born in the small town of Giddings, Texas, where residents abide by the motto: “Experience Hometown Hospitality”.
In 1936, her mother the late Mrs. Pearl Simpson, who became a widow after the passing of her husband Rev. Simon S. Simpson; left the town of Giddings in pursuit of a more fruitful professional opportunity. Accordingly, she relocated to Houston with her two small children: John Wesley and Jewell. There she secured a teaching position at Aldine ISD’s White Oak Elementary School located on West Montgomery in Acres Homes. It was in part from this experience that Jewell believes the educational teaching and leadership traits inherited from both her father and mother, served to mold her into the exceptional educator that she has become. When asked she exclaimed, “It was in my DNA to come here and want to help and educate people.”
Jewell attended Booker T. Washington High School during segregation. While in attendance there she remembers being transported on a community bus driven by Mr. Map; who provided the service for a fee. She was bused from Acres Homes to Downtown Houston’s Dallas Street, which is where Booker T. was originally located. Jewell vividly recalls of how their bus was frequently late and the other students would make a mockery of them as they exited. Instead of being crippled by the intended humiliation, she decided to use the platform as a form of motivation. Thus she stated that, “the laughs made me more determined to press on and get an education so that I could help other children”. Therefore, pressing on is exactly what she did.
Jewell went on to attend Texas Southern University, formerly Houston College for Negroes. There she received a Bachelor of Science and a Masters of Science degree. After which, she was employed at the Informer News where she was a Copy Reader. In the early 1950’s, she provided facility and taught classes for a small group of Kindergarten students in the community. Compelled and recommended by former Principal Rufus C. Conley of G.W. Carver Elementary School, Houston began a career as an elementary teacher. She later taught high school courses and served as a counselor at G.W. Carver High School for ten years.
During her last years in the educational system, she worked at Eisenhower High School as a 10th grade Counselor. Mrs. Jewell Simpson Houston describes her career as an educator by stating, “Every day was a blessed day with the students as my priority”. She went on to inform of how she tried to let her students know: “they were important, someone loved them and was depending on them to succeed; they could improve their skills, understanding and self-worth each day and finally there were no limitations in using their God-given talents”. Mrs. Houston declared that her, “life-time goal was to prepare myself, with the Almighty’s hand, to be a beacon of light to my community and others”. Continuing she went on to say, “I am grateful that I am living to witness many, many benefits.” Ultimately, her educational career is summed in the amount of 34 years, 20 of those years were dedicated to being a counselor. Mrs. Jewell Simpson Houston would like to be remembered for recognizing her purpose and holding onto her passion – “To brighten the corner where she is!”
Mrs. Jewell Simpson Houston recollected of the community that she has been apart of for over 70 years. Pursuant, she reminisced of how early Acres Homes community settlers believed that the area would eventually become a gold mine. Some years later residents worked toward the early developments that have assisted the historical community to develop into the land that it has become today. She recalls how there were spacious boundaries of land decorated with a gorgeous array of trees. Back then, there was no flooding and it was close to Downtown Houston. Mrs. Houston remembers when some of the streets located in Acres Homes, were given their names after historically Black colleges and universities and prominent community residents. A few of these street names include: Tuskegee St. (Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, AL); Paul Quinn St. (Paul Quinn College in Dallas, TX – part of the African Methodist Episcopal Church), Wilburforce St. (Wilburforce University in Wilburforce, OH – also part of the African Methodist Episcopal Church), Prairie View St. (Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, TX), Dillard St. (Dillard University in New Orleans, LA), Dollywright St. (named after Store Owners: Mr. and Mrs. Dollywright), Ferguson St. (Store Owners: Rev. and Mrs. Ferguson). Historical facts such as these further contribute to why Mrs. Houston has exemplified such a love and passion for the Acres Homes community.
In 2003, a school was named in honor of one of the heroines of the Acres Homes community that residents, politicians and community activists have come to love. With ten years of existence in educating students, the Jewell Simpson Houston Academy was named in Mrs. Houston’s honor. It is located at 8103 Carver Dr. in the Aldine ISD and is highly recognized for Math, Science and Arts. Principal Ruby Allen stated that, “We all adore Mrs. Houston, this is her school and she makes sure that her presence is known and we truly thank and love her for it.” Mrs. Houston revealed that one of her greatest accomplishments rests in the school that was named in her honor.
To date: Mrs. Jewell Simpson Houston has received a gallery of awards, certificates and recognitions which affirm that she has dedicated her life to ensuring excellence in education and consistent involvement in the community. A brief snippet of her recognitions entail honors bestowed by the following persons: Congressman Rev. Floyd Flakes, State Representative Glenn O. Lewis, Senator Mike Moncrief, State Board of Education member (Dist. 4) Dr. Alma A. Allen, Adjutant General, Larry W. Rivers (Veterans of Foreign Wars), former Mayor Bob Lanier, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee, City Council Member Michael Yarbrough, Council Member-at-Large Judson Robinson III.
Her Civic and Community involvement yields the following: veteran member of the Texas State Teachers’ Association, charter member of the Texas Counseling Association, she was featured at a meeting in San Antonio for writing and presenting an original skit, “A Day In The Counselor’s Life – In at 7:45am and Out at 4:45pm”, past President of the Houston League of Professional Women and Business Clubs, Inc., President of Ferguson Street Area Civic Club, Board Member of the Acres Home Multi-Service Center, member of the Acres Homes Chamber for Business and Economic Development, a constant contributor of several charities inclusive with (The JASA House, Star of Hope, Cancer Society and United Negro College Fund, to name a few) and veteran and constant contributor to the Greek Sororities (Delta Sigma Theta and Sigma Gamma Rho). Mrs. Houston was the recipient of the first Delta Sigma Theta – Dr. Thelma Patton Law Service Award. She also served on several state and connectional committees.
Additionally, she has been a member of Payne Chapel AME Church where she has retained her membership for over 70 years. While, Mrs. Houston has built quite the resume of tirelessly working in the public educational system and community; she has also contributed a great deal in the spiritual capacity of her life. She promoted a three-year Tutorial program after school at Payne Chapel AME Church and was President of the Women’s Mission. Mrs. Houston provided exemplary leadership in regards to making the ELNETA McClain Women’s Center on Arbor St. in Houston a true reality. Finally, she was very instrumental in the implementation of the DESTINY Commission (ages 19-40) at Payne Chapel.
Mrs. Jewell Simpson Houston is a woman of faith, who acknowledges and appreciates the blessing of a beautiful family. She shared 57 years of marriage with the late Melvon L. Houston Sr., who retired as a YMCA employee. Her daughters: Barbara Stewart and Avanell Demart have continued with the generational legacy of serving in the field of education in Houston ISD and Aldine ISD, respectively and have since retired. Melvon Jr., her only son was a retired Area Manager in Engineering who worked for AT&T formerly, Southwestern Bell Telephone Company in St. Louis, Missouri. Her matriarchal legacy also consists of: six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Mrs. Houston has one god-daughter: Mrs. Barbara Giggs McCall (Husband, Darrell and son D.J.).
Mrs. Jewell Simpson Houston has proven to be a gifted educator who has left a lasting impression on her students and those whom she has had the privilege to come in contact with. As this was recorded by a former student of hers, former United States Representative, Rev. Floyd Flakes, who acknowledged Mrs. Houston on the House Floor. He stated, “I rise to pay tribute to a woman who has spent the greater part of her life working to mold the lives of young people though her unselfish and tireless work as a teacher, counselor, community and church worker, mother and friend.”
African-American News & Issues salutes Mrs. Jewell Simpson Houston and in this edition, we would like to thank her for her outstanding perseverance, labor and contributions to the Greater Houston and surrounding areas involvement!