Lois Jean White became the first African-American president of the National Parent Teacher Association, achieving the feat in the state of Tennessee. White helped raise the PTA’s profile in several inner city classrooms where they were not present before.

Lois Jean Barron White was born on this day in 1938 and raised by a grandmother in Nashville while her mother lived in Massachusetts. After graduating from Fisk University with a bachelor’s degree in Music and studying at Indiana University, White taught at Alabama’s Mills College where she met her husband, George White.

In 1967, the White family moved from Atlanta to Knoxville where White, a flutist, played for the Oak Ridge Symphony Orchestra for 24 years. After leaving music behind, she became involved in the PTA because of her son rising in the ranks to president in the late ’80’s. Her national selection as PTA president took place between 1997 and 1999, and her time there had many high-impact moments.

Chief among White’s concerns were the fact that big cities such as Philadelphia, Boston, and New York did not have a strong PTA presence in comparison to suburban chapters. Much of her time was dedicated in increasing the PTA’s reach and encouraging inner-city students to stay in school.

The Lois Jean White Award is given annually by the Tennessee PTA to teachers who meet the leadership achievement requirements three years straight.

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