L. June H. Brewer, African-American professor and East Austin community leader, only daughter of Charleston Powell Harden and Minnie Elizabeth (Bremond) Harden, was born in Austin, Texas, on September 5, 1925. The second of three children, she attended Olive Street Elementary School, Kealing Junior High School, and L. C. Anderson High School in East Austin. Brewer went on to receive a B.A. with honors from Samuel Huston College (now Huston-Tillotson College) in 1944 and an M.A. in English from Howard University in 1946. Afterwards, she taught at Morgan State College and Samuel Huston College. In 1949 she married Bert H. Brewer of Mexia, Texas, and together they raised two sons —Bert H. Brewer, Jr. (b. 1954) and Charles R. Brewer (b. 1957).
In 1950 June H. Brewer was one of the first African-American students admitted to the University of Texas at Austin. Immediately following the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Sweatt v. Painter on June 5, 1950, Brewer submitted an application and was enrolled for the second term of the summer semester of 1950 along with W.D. McClennan, Wilhelmina Perry, Mabel Langrum, Emma Harrison, Bessie Randall, and Horace Lincoln Heath. While in graduate studies at UT-Austin she attended Fulbright seminars in Mexico, studied abroad in the Balkans, and was named a fellow of both the Southern Education Fund and United Negro College Fund. Additionally, in 1960 Brewer helped establish a local chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and served as that organization’s regional director. In 1963 Brewer earned her Ph.D. from the University of Texas after completing a dissertation entitled, “An Ecological Study of the Psychological Environment of a Negro College and the Personality Needs of its Students.”
Following her education, Brewer taught English at Huston-Tillotson College for thirty-five years. During that time she served as chair of the English department and was awarded Huston-Tillotson’s first endowed professorship (Karl Downs Professor of Humanities). She also enjoyed visiting professorships at Cornell University, Southern University, Wells College, and Morgan State College. The bulk of her academic research was focused on black women writers as well as portrayals of black women in recent literature—an interest she attributed to her travels in Africa and the West Indies. To pursue this research, she was awarded a fellowship for the academic year of 1973–74 from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Upon retirement, Brewer was named professor emeritus at Huston-Tillotson and continued to be heavily involved in Austin’s academic community.
While teaching at Huston-Tillotson, Brewer served on several task forces for the Austin Independent School District and focused much of her attention on reducing dropout rates. In 1980 she ran, unsuccessfully, for a place on the A.I.S.D. school board. In that year, Austin was under federal court order to improve the ethnic and racial balance of its school system, and busing was the dominant issue of the school board elections. Despite receiving 90 percent of the vote in East Austin—a traditionally black and Hispanic community—Brewer was defeated in a runoff election by Steve M. Ferguson, a strong anti-busing candidate. In addition to her involvement with Austin’s public schools, she was a member of the Black Alumni Advisory Council at UT-Austin and directed the Dos Culturas Honors Program at Huston-Tillotson. This program sought to bring together black and Hispanic students who shared classes and living quarters at Huston-Tillotson in the interest of fostering cross-cultural understanding. She also founded the Borders Learning Community, a non-profit organization that recruited male students at Huston-Tillotson to mentor younger African-American boys in the community with the expressed goal of rectifying the racial achievement gap in standardized test scores and college admission rates.
Over the course of her illustrious and groundbreaking career, Brewer received many awards and recognitions. Among these were the National Women of Achievement Connie Yerwood Award, the NOKOA Outstanding Educator Award, the YWCA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009, the Al Edwards Unsung Hero Award, the University of Texas at Austin Community Leadership Award (2008), and the Villager’s Living Legend Award. Additionally, the University of Texas at Austin Division of Diversity and Community Engagement named the June Brewer Legacy Award in her honor in 2009. On May 28, 2010, June H. Brewer passed away quietly in her East Austin home. She was buried in Austin’s Evergreen Cemetery.
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Austin American-Statesman, June 4, 2010. Leslie Blair, “Dr. June H. Brewer Remembered for Her Dedication to Teaching and Learning,” University of Texas at Austin Division of Diversity and Community Engagement (http://blogs.utexas.edu/ddcecentral/2010/06/04/dr-june-h-brewer-remembered-for-her-dedication-to-teaching-and-learning/), accessed February 13, 2012. Carol J. Borland and Jaques Cattell Press, eds., Directory of American Scholars, Vol. II (New York: R.R. Bowker, 1974).
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R. Matt Abigail,
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