Stephen F. Austin State University

Emma Bonner

Emma Williams Bonner was born on October 31, 1915 in the Concord Community near Mount Enterprise, Texas. The third of ten children, Bonner was raised by her mother, Effie Peterson Williams, and her father Sam Williams, a farmer. She attended and graduated from Concord School where she was known as an excellent basketball player. After graduation, Bonner attended Texas College in Tyler, Texas, where she also played basketball. She received a degree in education from Texas College and went on to teach mathematics and coach girls' basketball. Bonner's first teaching job was in Joaquin, Texas, but she also taught in Mount Enterprise, Chireno, Sand Hill, Fairfield, and Lufkin. She loved coaching girls' basketball but was not re-hired as a coach after integration merged the schools while she was teaching in Fairfield, Texas. She was later offered a job by Lufkin coach and family friend Hilton Farris, moving to Lufkin to teach math in the newly integrated high school. Having taught school for several decades, Bonner eventually retired from the Lufkin school district. Emma Williams Bonner's first husband was Wadell Leadon, an acquaintance and former classmate from the Concord Community. Their daughter, Ceatria Marrion, was born in 1937 and died in 2011. Bonner recalls that Ceatria was a good basketball player because of her speed. Ceatria eventually moved to California where she had a son, Maury. Bonner was later married to second husband, Reverend C. N. Bonner, in Tyler, Texas. He was a minister who pastored churches in Hempstead, Fairfield, and Paris, among other cities in Texas. In 1946, Emma and C.N. Bonner welcomed a daughter, Guessippina. Aside from teaching and coaching, Emma Williams Bonner has also been involved in both the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Episcopal Church. Bonner currently lives in Lufkin, Texas with her younger sister Dora.

The interview was conducted by Kristi Warren on June 15, 2012 in the Lufkin home of Emma Bonner.

[Begin Interview]

WARREN: Today is June, 15, 2012, Friday, and I am here with Emma Williams Bonner. And she is ninety-five years old, and we at her house on 622 Cain Street in Lufkin, Texas, and my name is Kristi Warren, I'm the interviewer. So we've already been talking a little bit, and you were telling me about being born in the Concord community. What's that close to?

BONNER: Mount Enterprise [located 137 miles southeast of Dallas and 19 miles north of Nacogdoches].

WARREN: That's close to Mount Enterprise. Okay.

BONNER: It's in the country out from Mount Enterprise.

WARREN: Right.

BONNER: That's where I was born and raised.


BONNER: I grew up in that school out there. It's about five miles out of Mount Enterprise going towards, you know, going south.

WARREN: Okay. Going south.

BONNER: I was born and raised there, went to school, and finished high school from there. And then when I was -

WARREN: Okay. From Mount Enterprise High School? Or what high school? What was it called, the name of the school?

BONNER: Mount Enterprise.


BONNER: Concord.

WARREN: Concord.

BONNER: Concord School. It was in the Concord community and everybody called it the Concord School [All-black school in Rusk County near Mount Enterprise. It was built in 1925 and remained open until 1971].


BONNER: Because it was about five miles out of Mount Enterprise. You know where Mount Enterprise is?

WARREN: Um hm. Yeah.

BONNER: Well it's about five miles south of Mount Enterprise.

WARREN: Okay. That's where the school was?

BONNER: In the country.

WARREN: So you grew up in the country. Your dad was a farmer?


WARREN: Was your dad a farmer?


WARREN: I saw that on your information sheet. What did he grow?


WARREN: Your dad.

BONNER: Everything that would grow in the ground [laughter]. Corn, cotton, every kind of thing that grow in the field, he grew it.

WARREN: He could grow it all.

BONNER: I picked many a bowl of cotton there [laughter].

WARREN: That's wonderful. So you finished school?


WARREN: And then you went to college?


WARREN: Where'd you go to college?

BONNER: Texas College [Originally an all black college in Tyler, Texas, founded in 1894] that's where I finished from. Went to Texas College from Mount Enterprise. Then I went to work down in Joaquin [A small Texas town in Shelby County near the Louisiana border].

WARREN: Joaquin?

BONNER: Mm-hm. Round about different places like that, that's the places I went to school.

WARREN: I read that you were a basketball coach, so did you play basketball at Texas College?

BONNER: In high school I played many games, but when I start teaching I started coaching.

WARREN: Coaching.

BONNER: Yeah. I coached many a ball game.

WARREN: That's good.

BONNER: Yeah. [Unintelligible] I played basketball when I was in high school at Mount Enterprise [referring to Concord School].

WARREN: At Mount Enterprise, okay.

BONNER: And when I went to teaching, I started coaching. I coached basketball up at Fairfield [Small town 83 miles south of Dallas].

WARREN: Fairfield.

BONNER: That's where I, you know, after I married I lived there and I started coaching.

WARREN: Where did you coach? At Fairfield school? Fairfield High School?

BONNER: Yeah well, you know they had two schools, the white and the colored.

WARREN: Right. Okay.

BONNER: [Unintelligible] . . . for the colored campus at Joaquin.

WARREN: Well, what was the name of that campus?

BONNER: Just Fairfield High School.


BONNER: Because they had one white and -

WARREN: They had a black school and a white school. Okay, and you coached at the black school?

BONNER: Yeah that's right.

WARREN: And did you still teach or coach after they desegregated the schools?

BONNER: No, when they integrated the school, well they was so many [teachers] that the black was left off the list.


BONNER: Left off the list and so I didn't, you know, didn't coach anymore. I coached; I don't know how many years I coached there.

WARREN: And what did you just tell me about your daughter? You'd just throw her in the bus and take her with you [laughter]? Is that what you said?

BONNER: Yeah. That one [indicating her daughter Guessippina who was in the next room].

WARREN: Right.

BONNER: I was coaching there when she was a baby. She was born there in Fairfield. And she grew up, so many nights, you know, we go to - be I'd [because I was] coaching, going to different places. She was just a baby then. I'd get a blanket and put it in there and she'd get back there in the back seat and play with them [chuckle]. Lot of ? em [unintelligible], "We want to get back here with Guessippina where we can get on this blanket" [laughing] in the bus. You know, we always used a school bus when were going [to basketball games].

WARREN: Right. Now what's your daughter's name?

BONNER: Guessippina.

WARREN: Guessippina?

BONNER: Yeah. That's her in here.

WARREN: Okay. I met her. She's here.

BONNER: Guessippina. Yes you did. [Remembering] My oldest daughter who died not long ago. My oldest daughter [Ceatria Marrion, 1937-2011].

WARREN: Did she? Okay.

BONNER: She got sick. She was out in California for a while. She came home, it ain't been that long ago. My oldest daughter, she played many a game herself.

WARREN: She did? She played basketball, too?

BONNER: Oh yes she did. Both of ?em played basketball, but this one that passed [indicating her oldest daughter] was fast. She was good, better than this [indicating Guessippina in the other room] cause she got around faster.

WARREN: Right. She was fast, huh?

BONNER: Uh huh. So, you know, I went through all of that. I told them I had put many a mile on the highway. My husband was a preacher [chuckles].

WARREN: He was?

BONNER: [Laughing quietly.]

WARREN: A preacher. Okay.

BONNER: Mm hm. A preacher. And I tried to keep up with him [chuckles].

WARREN: So you had a preacher and a basketball coach?

BONNER: Yep [laughter]. How it was, on the weekends we sometimes we have games every night after we get out of school, get on that bus and take off to different places and play basketball. And sometimes I'd get home around twelve o'clock at night [laughs quietly] then had to get up -

WARREN: So you traveled to different towns to play the different schools where -

BONNER: Yeah, we'd go where different schools in different directions.

WARREN: How many games a week?

BONNER: Well, it depend. Sometimes we have some of them we close by, we go play ?em at night. After we get out of school.

WARREN: Right.

BONNER: Then on a weekend, we all went [laughter]. And when she was a baby [referring to Guessippina], she was in that bus riding with me going coaching. I'd be cold, I'd put a blanket in there and she'd get in that blanket and wrap her up back in the back seat [laughter]. And she would go, and up in Paris, Texas.


BONNER: He pastored a church up there. I told him I put many a mile on that highway. And I'd go down to Hempstead.

WARREN: Yeah. Um hm.

BONNER: When school's out and it was summer, we [unintelligible] down there in Hempstead. Was where he was pastoring. And I know it was Hempstead, and Paris, and well, I forgot where else.

WARREN: So you wouldn't live there, he would travel there and pastor? Or did you actually live in Paris and live in Hempstead?

BONNER: I lived in - no - I lived in Fairfield.

WARREN: Okay. And he would go up there and pastor.

BONNER: He would go up there on weekends, sometimes I'd go up there and some Sundays I wouldn't [chuckle]. It was too far [laughter].

WARREN: Too far.

BONNER: If I had a game on Friday night, I'd have to get up Saturday morning and take off to the different churches where he pastored. One down below Houston, I forgot the name. He stayed in Hempstead two or three years, cause he pastored there in Hempstead. And on weekends I'd take off and go to Hempstead, stay the weekend. And then during the summer months after school's out, I'd go and I'd stay. We'd lock up my house in Fairfield and go down there and stay; spend the summer. Oh I've been all everywhere.

WARREN: So what did you do after you stopped coaching? After they integrated the schools?

BONNER: Well, after they integrated the schools I [unintelligible] was one of the few black teachers that was kept there. Well I went to -

WARREN: So they kept you at Fairfield? Or you moved -

BONNER: Well, I lived at Fairfield for I don't know how many years.

WARREN: So you taught, you just didn't coach basketball?

BONNER: Yeah I coached basketball after I finished college. I went to high school, and went to college and wherever I worked, that's where I coached girls. Because I played basketball, and they knew I could play in Mount Enterprise [chuckles].

WARREN: Right.

BONNER: I played a many a game up there, then when I moved to different places when I finished high school, wherever I went, I coached girls. I coached - I put many a night mile on that highway going different places. My husband, he was a preacher after so long time and he had some kind of big meeting down in Hempst - no - [to her sister, Dora, seated nearby] where was that place we do that church way down there somewhere? And he had a meeting and I was down there with the two children. She [Guessippina] was just a baby like. So he went every weekend but I had to be back to school. I said, "I have to be back to school by Monday morning." So I got in the car and me and two children, the other daughter and this one [indicating Guessippina] they in the back seat playing when they wasn't asleep. And I had to drive all the way from Atlanta, Georgia home. Cause that's when we lived in Fairfield and I had to get back by Saturday cause they had a teacher's meeting. So I had to get back home, back to Fairfield, by that Saturday.

WARREN: So when did you move to Lufkin?

BONNER: [To her sister Dora] What year was that, Dora?

DORA: Was it '69?

BONNER: It might've been '69. When they integrated schools, see, so many of the black teachers was gone. You know, they's let out, you know, cause they didn't want [unintelligible]. Because I was a basketball coach and they didn't need any of those girls coached, so that's the reason I was left off the list. So I took off and went - ?cause my oldest daughter was up in California, that's where her son was born. I went up there and I was with her when he [grandson Maury] was born. And so, after that, I was on my way back home and Hilton Farris [phonetic], do you know him? Hilton Farris here in Lufkin?

WARREN: Hilton Farris?

BONNER: Mm hm.


BONNER: He was here. He was one of the white coaches here in Lufkin. Cause his mother's [unintelligible] from Fairfield, too. Before I got home, he was calling my sister and asked her where was I. And my sister said, "She on her way back home now." And he said, "Well, tell her to call me when she get there." So, I did. About twelve o'clock I called him, and he told me to be here in Lufkin the next morning by eight o'clock [laughter]. I got over at eight o'clock early that morning, took off down here and Dora was always with me, she's my helper.
So we got over from my sister's house and we took off down here to Lufkin. Cause I had never been around in Lufkin much. I'd been down here two or three times, but I didn't know anything about Lufkin. So he told me, "Well, be here in the morning at eight o'clock." That's what Hilton told me. Cause I knew Hilton when he was born. Hilton Farris - he used to be the principal up there at the West school I think. West. I think that's where he was principal. But anyway, when we lived out there in the country, Mount Enterprise, that's where he was born. And I was right there the night he was born. He told everybody, "She was right there when I discovered America" [laughter]. He told everybody that. I said, "I sure was."

WARREN: So did he give you a job?

BONNER: Yeah. He knew about them needing a math teacher here and that's the reason he called me. A math teacher over here at this school.

WARREN: Which school, Lufkin?

BONNER: Here in Lufkin.


BONNER: Cause he called my sister and wanted to know where was I and my sister said, "She'll be here sometime tonight." He said, "Well, tell her to call me when she get there."

WARREN: How long did you teach math in Lufkin?

BONNER: How long did I?

WARREN: Teach math in Lufkin.

BONNER: I don't know how many years I worked there. Oh, because Maury [grandson just born to oldest daughter] was a baby; I was probably here ten or twelve years, here in Lufkin. I don't know, I forgot. I forgot the year I came here. So I became a math teacher. They needed a math teacher here in Lufkin. Cause he [Hilton Farris] knew me, he'd been knowing me all his life and he knew I taught math up at Concord. We grew up together. He was just a baby up there in Mount Enterprise when I lived up there.

WARREN: So you taught black and white students?

BONNER: Mm hm.

WARREN: How was it different? How was school different when you taught in the integrated school than from the segregated school?

BONNER: Well, I enjoyed it ?cause you get a hold of some good children and some stubborn ones, I don't care what color they are [laughter].


BONNER: I enjoyed them white just as much as I did them colored. Cause some of them colored ones was stubborn, too [laughter]. They didn't want to obey, but I let 'em know that I didn't make no difference in children. You just do the right thing and I'll do the same way, right. And sometimes what happened, [unintelligible] sometimes they try to take advantage of you cause you white, I'm black, and they try to take cause they black. But I let them know that students was students; I didn't care what color they were. I was here to teach and I didn't make no difference in children. So we got along fine.

WARREN: That's good. You just made it clear.

BONNER: I made it clear that I didn't make difference in people. I don't care what black or white. I was trying to teach you something that you need to know. I said, I'll teach you all I know. I don't know everything [laughter]. So I taught down at - until [pause], well I don't know how many years I worked there. Cause my grandbaby [Guessippina's daughter], she was a little baby when I was working there, too. Down at Dunbar. And my grandson, when I started keeping him, he was just a toddler, too. I kept both of them and my mother was old and she couldn't, she didn't walk [unintelligible] and he'd get right beside her and creep alongside her, my grandmother.

WARREN: Your grandmother? Or your mother?

BONNER: It's my mother.

WARREN: Oh. What was her name?

BONNER: Effie.

WARREN: Effie?

BONNER: Effie Williams.

WARREN: Oh, he would creep along his grandmother [laughter]. Right.

BONNER: He'd get beside her and go right alongside her. And she'd get on her knees in a state of prayer, he'd get down right beside her [laughter]. [Unintelligible] He finished high school here. He did.


BONNER: Sure did.


BONNER: Finish high school. He was a good football player cause he could run so fast with long legs [laughing]. Maury - he could run so fast and played football. He [unintelligible] high school here in Lufkin. Cause my granddaughter didn't; I think she left to stay with her momma when she was about in the eighth grade. Somewhere around there when she started staying with her mother.

WARREN: Well you mentioned that your husband was a pastor. One of the things that seems to be common is that the church is very important in the black community.

BONNER: Mm hm.

WARREN: So what do you - talk about that for a minute.

BONNER: What? The church?

WARREN: Mm hm.

BONNER: Well, it depends. Most different pastors in churches I went to, some of them was very nice, I enjoyed them. It depends on who, in this church, on who the pastor is and how he associate with his people. And I don't care what kind of job you go in, some of them ain't going to be cooperate with you [laughter]. Some of them very nice [laughter].

WARREN: So it depends, huh?

BONNER: Right. It depends. Yeah we have so many people like that who want to be "big shots" they call it.

WARREN: Big shots? [Laughter.]

BONNER: And I told [unintelligible] I just didn't make no difference because my husband was a preacher. He taught school before he started preaching.

WARREN: Oh he did? What did he teach?

BONNER: I don't know what subject he taught up there in Fairfield before I went up there. Cause after we built that home up there, well, that's where I started living up there. Because I taught down here at Joaquin.

WARREN: At Joaquin?

BONNER: Mm hm. I taught there just before we married when I taught down there.

WARREN: So when you were growing up, I guess in the Concord community.

BONNER: Mount Enterprise.

WARREN: Mount Enterprise area. Do you remember your grandparents?

BONNER: My grandmother I do, but not my grandfather. My grandmother, I was named for her.

WARREN: Oh, you were?

BONNER: Emma Williams. Yeah my grandmother was always, she had a big family, and she wanted an Emma in every one of her children's families [laughter]. She did. She named two or three of them, and I'm one of the Emma's left.

WARREN: You're one of the Emma's left. Okay.

BONNER: I was named - I told I never will forget my grandmother, she come over to our house and sit down there [unintelligible], you know her husband's dead. And I was holding - she come to our house and sat in a big rocking chair.

WARREN: A big rocking chair?

BONNER: She enjoyed that big chair. I was holding her in that chair when she drew her last breath. She come to our house sometimes and stayed two days at a time, and she named me Emma cause her name was Emma.

WARREN: Right.

BONNER: And she'd come out and sit down and talk to us as she got by herself. My daddy wouldn't let her stay by herself cause his daddy was dead, and Grandmama, he would let her stay cause it was too dangerous for her to be by herself out in the country.

WARREN: Right.

BONNER: So she stayed with us a lot. And she'd sit down and she'd talk to us and tell us different stories way back then.

WARREN: What stories do you remember?


WARREN: Do you remember any of the stories that she told you? What were they about?

BONNER: Anything she'd talk about [laughter]. She'd talk about some of the things that happened way back then when she was growing up, what not. It was amazing to us some of the things she would tell us what happened back in that time, slavery time I guess it was. And she'd sit down and she'd tell us different story and we'd say, "Grandmama what about this, and Grandmama what [about] that." And she'd tell them the best she could. She told how they grew up out there in the country, you know, how they grew up and what not. Grandmama, she, as she grew up, she'd tell us about she enjoyed different things that happened then. And she was telling how they, out there in that community. And so she named me Emma. She wanted an Emma in every one of her children's families.

WARREN: She did. Do you remember what your first job was?

BONNER: Of teaching?

WARREN: No. Just any job. Your first job when you were growing up.

BONNER: No, we lived out there in the country and we worked out there and what not. We was at home -

WARREN: For free, huh? [Laughter.]

BONNER: Yeah right. You're right [laughter]. Picked a many a bowl of cotton. Well, I know what the country's about.

WARREN: Did you have a close community out there? Neighbors or friends that lived around?

BONNER: Not too close together like it is here. Some of them lived about a mile away from there or what not. Enough that we'd go visit all of them. Some of Grandmama's daughters, most of them, when they get married they move out from there, Mount Enterprise. Usually [to] wherever they husband were. But Mama and Papa used to tell us where they lived. I forgot what she [unintelligible] when she married Papa.

WARREN: What about when you moved to Lufkin? Did you have a lot of friends here or did you think it was a pretty close-knit community?

BONNER: Only thing I knew about Lufkin, we had visited down here, I have two nieces that teach here and still here in Lufkin. I have aunties and some nieces that live here in Lufkin, some still live here in Lufkin. They were scattered about here and several of them live here in Lufkin, but I never had visited Lufkin much, cause we always went the other way.


BONNER: Instead of going to Lufkin to shop, we'd go to Henderson.

WARREN: Henderson [127 miles east southeast from Dallas, Texas].

BONNER: Henderson, that's where we went.

WARREN: That's where you shopped?

BONNER: At Mount Enterprise at home, we lived out in the country from Mount Enterprise. That was our favorite shopping place, Mount Enterprise, cause that's all we knew was Mount Enterprise when we's growing up. And then when some [unintelligible] we'd go to Henderson. We loved to go to Henderson cause it's a big town.

WARREN: What do you remember about going to school? What did you like best when you were going to school?

BONNER: I liked math.


BONNER: Math. Uh huh. The principal always tell me, he depend on me knowing if there was a problem with the children, he always depend on me to help him find a way to work it. Alexander his name was. I think his first name was Frank. Frank Alexander. I know it's Alexander, but I just wonder -

WARREN: Frank Alexander.

BONNER: And as I grew up, I played basketball. I played ?bout ever since I was big enough to play [laughs].

WARREN: Well that was your favorite thing about school, wasn't it?

BONNER: [Laughs] Right.

WARREN: Playing basketball. Okay.

BONNER: That's right. Then when I finished there, I coached there one or two years in Mount Enterprise. My oldest brother was a bus driver and I had a niece that taught there. And people went to griping about us too many from the same family in one school.

WARREN: Oh really.

BONNER: Yeah. They started griping about us.

WARREN: Now why was that a problem?

BONNER: They thought it wasn't right for them to have that many out of the same family in the school that somebody else have a job. They just jealous.

WARREN: Because you were working - you were all teaching at the school?

BONNER: Yeah. I was teaching. I was coach for girls.

WARREN: They wanted some other families -

BONNER: Somebody other wanted to get a job there.

WARREN: So, most of your family went to school then?

BONNER: Yeah, Mount Enterprise, that's were most my family we finished from Concord.

WARREN: But did they go on to college?


WARREN: Your brothers and sisters?

BONNER: Yeah, well my oldest sister, she taught school up there a long time and my oldest brother drove the school bus. He was the bus driver.


BONNER: And that's what they were griping about ?cause my sister was there and I had a niece taught there and my other brother drove the school bus. And they griped so I told them, Okay with me whichever one they want to let go, Okay. I said my sister's home, I wasn't living there at that time. I said my sister's at home, I'll find a job somewhere else. So that's before I even married. And I played basketball a many a game. I was one of the main players of basketball.

WARREN: So how did you meet your husband?

BONNER: My first husband, we was schoolmates before he died. The daughter that passed not long ago, her [oldest daughter Ceatria Marrion's] daddy.

WARREN: That's her dad. Okay.

BONNER: And he was a good ball player, too. His sisters all went to school together, we played basketball together. His oldest sister, we played many a game of basketball. His sisters live down in Houston now.

WARREN: Okay. So you guys met in school and then, how did that work? Did you court one another or did you go on dates? Or what did you do?

BONNER: Well you know then you didn't do so much close courting like they do now.

WARREN: Didn't do what?

BONNER: Close courting.

WARREN: Close courting. Yeah, Okay [laughter]. Kept your distance a little?

BONNER: [Chuckling] Yeah, we grew up together and then he finished high school there, too. My first husband, the daughter that died not long ago, it was her daddy. Her daddy was a good ball player, too.

WARREN: How did you meet your second husband?

BONNER: Well, going to different places, school and things like that we met.

WARREN: In college?

BONNER: No. Going to [unintelligible] because I had started working.

WARREN: Working. You were teaching already.

BONNER: Uh huh.


BONNER: Yeah I was teaching when I met him. And we got acquainted with each other. He in Lufkin, too, down near Sand Hill. I used to work down there, and when I first started, that's when we got acquainted with him. He's at Nacogdoches, and that's when we got married. And that's when Guessippina was born.

WARREN: Right.

BONNER: Cause his family is from Fairfield. You know where Fairfield is?


BONNER: That's where his family grew up and we met up, and what not. So after he was in service, [unintelligible] moved up there in Fairfield. Cause he was in the Army.

WARREN: Oh he was.

BONNER: As we got together we married [unintelligible] like that. And after we got married we built a house there in Fairfield right on the edge of the school campus [laughter]. That house is still -

WARREN: So you could walk to work?

BONNER: My house joined the school campus. All I had to do was just walk out my door and then on the campus [laughter]. Because his people lived up there, and so I didn't know nothing about Fairfield, but that's where his family was. We met up in school and that's when we got married, so [pause].

WARREN: What year was that?

BONNER: I don't know what day that was. If Guessippina was - [motioning toward the other room in case I wanted to get the exact from her daughter].

WARREN: That's okay.

BONNER: I don't know what date that was. Because my first husband, of my daughter that passed, she was up there with my mother staying so she thought when she was little she come live with me and I kept her and raised her up. She come and lived with me when I was in Fairfield.

WARREN: So just looking back over the years about some historical events, what do you remember about the Great Depression? How did that affect your family, or did you know there was a Great Depression? Or do you remember -

BONNER: [Seems to misunderstand my question]. No I didn't know his family. My husband family, they lived way up in Fairfield around up in that part and I never was around them that much. We met up in different schools like that and different places together but as far as raise - see up in Mount Enterprise, my daughter, her daddy, we grew up together and I knew him.

WARREN: Right.

BONNER: He's the one who got killed. I knew him. I knew her daddy [Ceatria's father, Waddell Leadon], the one who died not long ago, cause we went to school together up in Concord.

WARREN: Now, you were born in 1915. Right?

BONNER: I think that was the year [laughter].

WARREN: That's what your daughter put on your paper [the Oral History Biographical Sketch]. So 1915, and the Great Depression that was in the early '30s, 1930s, do you remember anything about that? There was a lot of financial hardships around the United States, I didn't know if that affected your family or if you remember anything about the Great Depression.

BONNER: [Pause]. Uhmm. Well, it depend on what happened during that time. I knew we grew up in the country.

WARREN: So it didn't affect you as much as it maybe did in the bigger cities.

BONNER: No it didn't affect me cause I didn't know that much about it. I lived out in the country [laughing].

WARREN: Okay. What about World War II? Do you remember where you were when Pearl Harbor happened?

BONNER: No, I must've been in Mount Enterprise. Concord.

WARREN: Okay. And what about the Civil Rights movement? Do you remember much about that? Or were you involved in that or did you have family members who were actively involved in the Civil Rights movement?

BONNER: If I did, I didn't know anything about it, what happened. I heard talk about it, what not, but far as knowing something about it, I couldn't hardly tell you nothing now.

WARREN: You were just doing your teaching and doing your thing, huh?

BONNER: Doing my duty [laughter].

WARREN: Your duty, okay.

BONNER: See when you live like us out there, and living out there in the country, we didn't get exposed to none of this different stuff like I do now among different peoples, different town. But that time, we didn't go nowhere but go to the school and Mount Enterprise and back to the house.

WARREN: So basically, the main way it affected you was when the schools joined together?

BONNER: Mm hm.

WARREN: And you didn't have a coaching job anymore, but you did teach math.

BONNER: Oh yeah.

WARREN: In the integrated school.

BONNER: No, when they integrated that school it was too many out of the same family they said [too many members of the Williams family employed by the school]. So I told them, my oldest sister, I said she's been here, you know, she'd been there longer than I had, I said, "she's at home." That's the reason I told them; they didn't know which one to let go. I told them for my part it didn't matter. Cause my oldest brother was a bus driver and they lived up there at Mount Enterprise, and I wasn't living up there at that time. But he was a good bus driver cause he drove many a mile on that school bus every morning. They didn't want to let him go either, because you couldn't get those good bus drivers. I told my sister that was home, cause her house wasn't very far from the school, I said, "She's at home." They'd have to leave their own home going somewhere every morning to go to school. So if she'd have to drive across the creek to her house -

WARREN: To the combined - to the integrated school?

BONNER: Yeah. Mm hm. They [unintelligible] Concord. That's where we all finished from. She [her sister] was older than I was anyway, and I told them I'll find somewhere [else to work], cause I was younger than she was. I said I'll find something to do. We went to church up there in Mount Enterprise, so a lot knew our family anyhow.

WARREN: When you were growing up, when you were a little girl, do you remember having someone that you admired, or a role model, or somebody that you looked up to?

BONNER: Yeah, different things, I don't know.

WARREN: Or even in college or whatever. Did you have someone that you looked up to?

BONNER: Yeah, well my favorite teacher in school. Her name was - she was a Gibson at that time. Elisie [pronounced El ee'see] Gibson. She was a good teacher. When I first started to school down at Concord, she was my teacher.

WARREN: What subject did she teach?

BONNER: Well, out there in the country you didn't get much further the sixth grade.

WARREN: Oh, you went through the sixth grade?

BONNER: She taught me math. That's where I started my math teaching, cause she didn't go no higher.

WARREN: So school went through the sixth grade out at Concord.

BONNER: Yeah that's right.

WARREN: Then where did you go after that? Later you went to Texas College?

BONNER: Texas College. That's where I finished from. Texas College up in Tyler.

[Audio problems - background noise caused by readjusting the recorder]

WARREN: Did you ever travel anywhere when you were young?


WARREN: Just stayed around?

BONNER: Around to the country community. Go to all those churches and things like that if you wanted to. And Miss Elisis Gibson was my first grade teacher when I first started school. And the incident was, when I marched [graduated], she and I marched the same year from Texas College.

WARREN: Really?

BONNER: She talked about it. See, at that time, teachers didn't have to go all the way through [did not need a degree to teach at the black school]. They go to college, but they didn't have to be completed, they keep going. But I finished high school and I started going to the same school she did, Texas College. And that same fall, she marched from Texas College, I did too.

WARREN: Do you remember what year that was?


WARREN: Do you remember what year that was?

BONNER: No, I'd have to look on my diploma somewhere [laughter].

WARREN: Diploma.

BONNER: She talked about that so much. We both marched that same summer from Texas College. She told everybody; she got a kick of me marching the same time she did. She enjoyed it, too, in Texas College up in Tyler.

WARREN: That's interesting. Well, I've taken almost an hour, so is there anything else that you want to - any other memory you have of Lufkin or someone important around here that you want to put on the record?

BONNER: Well, [unintelligible] I worked with Mrs. Kennedy was one of my favorites.

WARREN: Really? Reverend Kennedy?

BONNER: Uh huh. She was my favorite person here when I came here. Of course one of my ex-students live here [laughter]. Miss Bullet.

WARREN: Bullard or Bullet?

BONNER: Bullet. Bullet. Her husband he pastors a church down there and she went to school and I taught her in Fairfield. I taught her when she lived in Fairfield. I was her math teacher. She live here, and I got two or three nieces that still live here, too. They still live here and half my family moved here.

WARREN: After you did?

BONNER: Yeah, some of them got here before I did, though. This here brother across the street [indicating her 88 year old brother, Willis Williams, who lives directly across from her on Cain Street] he came after I. He hasn't been here too many years cause he was in California.

WARREN: What's his name?

BONNER: Willis Williams.

WARREN: Willis Williams.

BONNER: They lived up in California for I don't know how many years they had lived up there. So he finally come home.

WARREN: So you've seen a lot of changes in 95 years.


WARREN: What do you think is probably the biggest change you've seen in your lifetime?

BONNER: I don't know, some changes I made, I enjoyed them. After I went to Fairfield, they integrated the schools and that's when I was left off. They didn't keep but a few of the black teachers. My oldest daughter, she was just a little tot when I first moved to Fairfield. I don't know how many years I taught up there. And when they integrated, they left so many of the black teachers out. One or two of them, you know, was kept. And some of them, they kept them but the only time they use them was when they need a sub teach.

WARREN: A substitute?

BONNER: Uh huh. They'd need a sub. I was the basketball coach and I taught math when I lived there.

WARREN: So did you or your sister end up teaching at the integrated school? In Fairfield?

BONNER: Up in Fairfield? No I didn't have no sister that teach up there, my daughter -

WARREN: Okay I thought [confusion about location of story concerning the school that had to chose between Emma and her sister] - your daughter? Is that what you said?

BONNER: She didn't teach up there. She grew up there, but she didn't teach there. Because I don't know how many years I taught there. I was around 'til they integrated the schools. That's when they let so many of the black ones go.

WARREN: Right. So is that one of the biggest changes you saw? Or what do you think is one of the biggest changes you've seen in your lifetime?

BONNER: Well [pause]. I don't know if that was the biggest change or not, or what not, because I was married [unintelligible] and we married when I started working up there. It was a big change, cause it was a big school and big community cause I just left from being in a small place. I wasn't in Lufkin then, you know, down here. In fact, I hadn't been to Lufkin but two or three times in my life. I had two nieces that lived here and I knew they was here. I had three nieces that lived here in Lufkin at that time - my oldest brother, his daughters. They grew up at Mount Enterprise when they got to school down here, well, I was in Fairfield then. So the only time I had been down here was visiting, but I hadn't spent much time in Lufkin at that time. Just down here to see them, that's as far as I got. And I knew Hilton Farris, you remember?

WARREN: Yes. Yeah.

BONNER: I knew him before he was born [laughter]. He told everybody down there, "She was right there when I discovered America." [Laughter]. I never will forget that, cause I was living in Fairfield at that time. And I went to California; that's when Guessippina's son was born [I believe she actually means Ceatria instead of Guessippina. Otherwise, this is different than the first account of this story] and when school's out I went up there to be with her when he [grandson Maury] was born. And when I got back, before I got back, he called my sister and asked her where was I. Up in, from Mount Enterprise. My sister said, "Well, she'll be here some time tonight. I don't know when, cause she stayed up there a week with her [Ceatria] when her boy was born." And I decided to come home, cause I left my mother with sister. I couldn't leave her by herself. I kept my mother. He said, "Well, tell her to call me when she gets there." And about twelve o'clock that night, when I got to Mount Enterprise, he called me.

WARREN: So that's how you got to Lufkin.

BONNER: That's how I got to Lufkin. So I called him to see what he wanted, you know, and he told me that they needed a math teacher here [in Lufkin]. And he was talking about me, cause I taught him when he was down there in Concord [laughter].

WARREN: That's good. Well I think that's all the questions that I have, but I really appreciate you spending some time with me.

[End CD 1]
[End Interview]