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MITCHELL, TELLIE BENJAMIN

MITCHELL, TELLIE BENJAMIN (1878–1955). Tellie Benjamin Mitchell, African-American educator, son of Martin Mitchell and Lydia (Carter) Mitchell, was born in Columbus, Colorado County, Texas, on December 8, 1878. Little is known of Mitchell’s early life. By the mid-1880s Mitchell’s mother had moved to Fort Bend County and by 1900 had married Henry Lewis. Tellie was listed as “stepson” to Henry Lewis in the 1900 census. Mitchell attended elementary school in Kendleton, Fort Bend County, and in 1894 entered the high school department at Wiley College in Marshall. He graduated from high school in 1898 and immediately entered the undergraduate department at Wiley College. He graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in May 1903. He began a career in teaching and taught for a year in Simonton in Fort Bend County.

In 1904 Mitchell opened the Powell Point School, a two-room schoolhouse in Kendleton in Fort Bend County. In 1918 five of the six graduates of the school went on to college to train as teachers. Mitchell taught and served as principal of this school for the next fifty years. In 1923 he persuaded the Rosenwald Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to building schools for rural southern black children, to build a new school building for Powell Point. The new building, consisting of six classrooms, an auditorium, and a library, was completed in 1925. Powell Point continued to house grades one through twelve until 1954, when it became an elementary school.

Mitchell was also active in the Colored Teachers State Association (now the Teachers State Association of Texas). He served as president of the association in 1934–35 and was a member of the association’s executive committee for fourteen years. In 1954 Mitchell retired and was named superintendent emeritus of the Kendleton Independent School District. The gymnasium at the district’s new high school was named for him.

Mitchell died of heart disease on February 12, 1955. He was buried in Kendleton Cemetery in Fort Bend County. He was survived by his fourth wife, Ruth Whitaker Mitchell. He had survived his three previous wives, Annie, Ella and Vervarona Mitchell. (Annie and Vervarona were both teachers, as listed in the 1910 census and 1940 census respectively.) Although he had no children, Mitchell’s half-century of service to his community affected three generations of Kendleton’s school children and left a formidable legacy. Powell Point School received a Texas Historical Marker in 1994.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

 Historical Marker Files, Texas Historical Commission, Austin (Powell Point School). Texas Standard, September–October 1954.

William C. Yancey

Citation

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

William C. Yancey, "MITCHELL, TELLIE BENJAMIN," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmiac), accessed July 30, 2014. Uploaded on April 25, 2013. Modified on May 21, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.