September 28, 2023

Living Legend

Johnnie Mae Brooks-Dale Thompson was born September 17, 1925, to Nettie Eddin and Leon Walter Brooks at 3401 Stonewall St., in 5thWard.  They had one 3-year old daughter, Lois Marie.  The family lived across the street from Gregg Street Presbyterian Church. She was baptized at her parents Church, Mt. Olive, by Reverend T.T. Bradford, when she was seven years old. She also attended Gregg Street Presbyterian Church; Reverend J. H. M Boyce, Pastor.

Mrs. Johnnie M. Thompson
Photo credit:  Dr. Douglass

Johnnie Mae enrolled in Bruce Elementary School at age four, in 1929, and attended there through the fifth grade.  She then enrolled in Phillis Wheatley in the sixth grade and attended until she completed all courses required for graduation, at the age of 14, in the summer of 1940.

Rev. Boyce recommended Mary Allen Jr. College as a fine school.  It had been an all-girls seminary and was now a coed college which emphasized courses in Home and Agriculture.  It had a safe homey, religious environment.  She graduated in Spring, 1942, and enrolled in Tillotson College, Austin, in September 1942.  She attended there until the fall semester, when she had to withdraw because of illness, and was able to complete a required course to graduate in the Spring, 1944.  When she learned Mary Allen had become a Senior College, she applied and was accepted in the Spring 1945 Class.  Mary Allen was then under the control of the Missionary Baptist Convention of Texas, Rev. G. L. Prince was President, and religious training was emphasized.

Johnnie’s parents bought a piano when she was seven-years-old for her and her sister. Private lessons were given by Mrs. Margaret Boyce (Rev. Boyce’s wife) and Mrs. Ina Singleton.  She also took courses at Texas Southern University, U.S. School of Music corresponding courses in 1955, and violin lesson at Mrs. Freeman’s Studio on Southmore St., in 1956.

Students in Mary Allen were given jobs in the lunch room, mail room, library, and co-op (an on-campus store to obtain school supplies and sandwiches).  They were not paid employees and learned how to work and be responsible.  She graduated in the Spring of 1945.

During the summer months, she did odd jobs cleaning, cooking in private homes because she couldn’t get a job teaching Home Economics.  She applied and was put on the substitute list for the 1945-1946 school year in Houston ISD.  In 1946, she applied and received a regular job in Navasota, teaching the fifth grade and Music in the ’46-’47 school year.  Johnnie worked odd jobs in ’47-’48, ’48-’50 worked in Ledbetter Clinic in the Medical Arts Building, 1949, worked in Nicosia Beauty Salon.

In 1950, she enrolled in Texas Southern University to work on her Master’s Degree.  Johnnie received her Master’s Degree in 1951; continued to substitute in HISD and work odd jobs.

In 1952, a TSU classmate, John Lusk introduced Johnnie to John Wesley McIntosh, who needed a teacher that played music.  He introduced her to Superintendent Silvers, who hired Johnnie, September 1952, in Wharton, Texas.  She worked there until 1957.  In 1955, she married Billie Dale, and was divorced in 1958.

On Thanksgiving Day, 1960, her sister, Lois Pecore passed and left 4 girls, 1 granddaughter, and her husband Johnny Pecore, who died in a car accident in 1970.  Johnnie and her parents took care of the girls and helped them to get an education.

Johnnie worked at Harper Elementary School in the third and fourth grades, assisted music and band teachers until she transferred to J. W. Oates Elementary in September 1970.  She worked there until her retirement in 1981. In June 1977, she became the wife of Mark Thompson, who died in an accident in October 1987.  Her mother passed in July 1986.  She regularly carried her father, Leon Brooks and nieces of Lyons Unity B.C.  Johnnie would carry her father to Hester House each weekday to be with friends until his death in 1995.  She also participated in daily activities at the Fifth Ward Metropolitan, Finnegan Park, and Pleasantville Park, which included travel, cruises, crafts, jewelry making, crocheting and quilting.

Although Johnnie had no children of her own, she enjoys nieces and nephews, adopted nieces and nephews, and friends at 93-years of age.  She is the Matriarch of five (5) generations of her family. – Composed by Mrs. Johnnie M. Thompson


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