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Founder of Negro Fine Arts School dies

December
14
1978

On this day in 1978, Iola Bowden Chambers, music teacher and director of the Negro Fine Arts School, died in Brownwood. Chambers was born at Holder, Texas, in 1904. She developed an early interest in music, and after receiving a diploma in piano from Daniel Baker College in 1923, she studied at the Washington Conservatory of Music, where she received a graduate diploma in piano in 1926. She returned to Texas and taught piano before moving to Georgetown in 1933 to become a music instructor at Southwestern University. As an early white proponent of black education, she helped found the Negro Fine Arts School in 1946, in which students from Southwestern University taught local African-American children to play the piano. The program, in operation from 1946 to 1966, added vocal music and art in later years. The Negro Fine Arts School staged an annual recital to showcase the students' accomplishments, and awarded scholarships to students going to college or pursuing other higher education. The school also helped to ease the transition from segregation to integration both in the Georgetown Independent School District and at Southwestern University. Charles Miller, one of the first students in the Negro Fine Arts School, said of Chambers, "She was the one that came across the railroad tracks and helped us all. Miss Bowden was to Georgetown what Eleanor Roosevelt was to the United States, because she was one of the first."

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