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FINCH, MILDRED NEWTON

FINCH, MILDRED NEWTON (1922–1986). Mildred Newton Finch, mathematics teacher and community leader, was born on February 28, 1922, in Marshall, Texas, to Rev. A. J. Newton and Della (Gibson) Newton. Reverend Newton served as a Methodist minister throughout Texas, including Marshall, Houston, and Port Arthur. As a result, Mildred traveled with her family and attended public schools in these cities. After graduating from Charlton Pollard High School in Beaumont, she followed her two older sisters and enrolled in Wiley College, a Methodist college, in Marshall, Texas. While at Wiley College, Mildred joined Delta Sigma Theta sorority and met her future husband Fred J. Finch, Jr. She graduated from college in 1943 and earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in mathematics. The couple married on November 14, 1942, and Mildred gave birth to their only child, a daughter named Mollie Marie, on August 7, 1943, in Dallas. The young family moved to Alabama when Fred served in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. While her husband was stationed at Tuskegee Air Field, Mildred taught mathematics at Tuskegee University.

After the war, Fred was accepted to Harvard Law School, and the family moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts. While living in Cambridge, Mildred and her daughter spent significant time in the city’s public library checking out books. Even though Mildred had been accepted to Radcliffe to pursue her master’s degree in mathematics, the couple could only afford to send Fred to law school. She later earned a master’s degree from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, by taking classes during the summer.

Once Fred Finch graduated from Harvard Law School, the family returned to Dallas in 1954, and Mildred began her teaching career in the Dallas Independent School District. She taught mathematics at several Dallas schools, including L. G. Pinkston High School, James Madison High School, and George Washington Carver Elementary. In 1966 Mildred accepted a faculty position teaching mathematics at the newly-opened El Centro campus of the Dallas County Community College District. She was the first African American to teach math at the community college and later served as chairperson of the mathematics department.

Both Mildred and Fred were active in their community and church throughout their lives. Although Fred was a deacon in St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church, Mildred continued to be true to Methodism, the faith of her youth. She was member of several professional organizations, including Mathematical Association of America, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges, Texas Junior College Teachers Association, and the El Centro and DCCCD Faculty Associations.

As she approached retirement, Mildred looked forward to continuing her work in the community and spending time with her grandchildren, James and Melanie Belt. However, the couple’s lives were tragically ended on the morning of March 16, 1986, during a home invasion and robbery. Mildred and Fred Finch were buried at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Dallas, Texas.

In the 2010s Mildred Finch’s legacy continued through the El Centro College Mildred Finch Learning Center, where students received tutoring and supplemental support in math. Moreover, the Mildred Finch Memorial Scholarship, offered to students who plan to teach mathematics in public schools after graduation, continued her tradition of service to the community.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Mollie Marie Finch Belt, Email correspondence with author, February 12, 25, 2012. Dallas Morning News, March 18, 21, 1986. Sadye Gee, Black Presence in Dallas: Historic Black Dallasites (Dallas: African American Museum of Life and Culture, 1988?). The Learning Center, El Centro Community College, Dallas County Community College District (http://www.elcentrocollege.edu/Student_Services/LearningCenter), accessed February 25, 2012. Scholarships: Mildred Finch Memorial Scholarship,The Foundation, Dallas County Community College District (http://www.foundation.dcccd.edu/page.aspx?pid=617), accessed February 25, 2012.

Jackie Roberts

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Jackie Roberts, "FINCH, MILDRED NEWTON ," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ffi63), accessed October 01, 2014. Uploaded on January 25, 2013. Modified on May 21, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.