Thelma Scott Bryant, author, historian, and educator, was born Olga Thelma Scott on September 26, 1905, in Houston’s Third Ward. She was the only child of Walter Elmo Scott and Ella Bell (Wall) Scott, pioneer Houstonians. She attended Douglass Elementary School and was a lifelong member of Trinity East United Methodist Church, which she joined at age fourteen. As a child she played the piano for the church Sunday school and took part in all church-sponsored youth activities.
Thelma Scott graduated from the Colored High School (later known as Booker T. Washington High School) of Houston in 1922. Four years later she graduated with a degree in biology from Howard University in Washington, D.C., and returned to Houston. After her return, she taught English at the Houston County Training School in Crockett, Texas, for a year. She then returned to the city of Houston once more and got a job as a science teacher at Phillis Wheatley High School in 1928. As a young woman, she enjoyed membership in the Cinderellas, a women’s club, and engaged in a dynamic social life of shopping, dancing, movie-going, and other activities.
On September 8, 1932, she married Ira B. Bryant, who taught social science at Phillis Wheatley. Her husband went on to become principal at Booker T. Washington High School and later at Kashmere Gardens High School. In her autobiography, Thelma Scott Bryant noted that the happiest times of her life were those “Spent as the wife of Ira B. Bryant.” In 1941 she took early retirement to serve as a full-time assistant to her husband who authored several books, beginning with The Development of the Houston Negro Schools (1935). She helped Ira Bryant with the research, organization, and typing of his works. The couple traveled extensively, mostly to educational meetings. Bryant shared her husband’s activism in the community. She served on the board of the local YWCA, was a volunteer for the Lighthouse for the Blind, and later was a member of the Houston chapter of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History.
Thelma Bryant also shared her husband’s love of history. After his death in 1989, she began to document the history of Houston and remembered in great detail her experiences growing up in the city. In 1993 Bryant received the Good Brick Award from the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance for her documentary narrative, “Pioneer Families of Houston (Early 1900s)” (1991). Her other narratives included “Our Journey through Houston and U. S. History” (1996), “Methodism in England, In America, and at Trinity East” (1998), and her autobiography, which she authored at the age of ninety-four.
Bryant was a dedicated member of the Wesleyan Service Guild, which became the Woman’s Society of Christian Service and later United Methodist Women. She received a “Service Pin” from each group in recognition of her work.
She was very proud of her family heritage which included many educators and other professionals including her uncle Emmett Jay Scott, who was secretary to the famed educator, Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskegee University. E. J. Scott authored several books and other publications, and Emmett J. Scott Elementary School in Houston is named in his honor.
Bryant and her husband did not have any children, but they mentored hundreds of students. During Thelma Bryant’s later years, history professors and other educators from Texas universities, including Texas Southern University, conducted interviews seeking her extensive knowledge of Houston and Texas history. Thelma Scott Bryant died on September, 15, 2008, at the age of 102. She was buried in Golden Gate Cemetery in Houston.
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Thelma Scott Bryant, Interview by Patricia Smith Prather, August 3, 2007, Houston Oral History Project, Houston Public Library Digital Archives (http://digital.houstonlibrary.org/oral-history/thelma-scott-bryant.php), accessed May 28, 2013. Thelma Scott Bryant and Ira B. Bryant Papers, African American Library at the Gregory School, Houston Public Library, Houston. Houston Chronicle, September 18, 2008. Teresa Tomkins-Walsh, “Thelma Scott Bryant: Memories of a Century in Houston’s Third Ward,” The Houston Review (Fall 2003) (http://houstonhistorymagazine.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/thelma-scott_NEW.pdf), accessed May 28, 2013.
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Texas in the 1920s
Texas Post World War II
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Bryant, Thelma Scott,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 27, 2022,
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