Ethelyn Mildred Taylor Chisum, Black teacher and administrator, was born in Dallas on June 9, 1895, the daughter of William Henry and Virgie M. (Collins) Taylor. After graduating from Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College in 1913, she taught in the public schools of Rock Creek (Smith County), Waxahachie, and Dallas (1916–23). On September 23, 1923, she married John O. Chisum, an optometry student. She did secretarial work from 1925 to 1928. In 1932 she became attendance teacher at Booker T. Washington High School in Dallas. In 1941 she became dean of the school, a position in which she served until her retirement in 1965. During her tenure as dean she earned a B.S. in 1936 and an M.S. in 1959 from Prairie View State College. Mrs. Chisum joined the staff of Southern Methodist University in 1967 to work with the Upward Bound program and remained with SMU until poor health forced her second retirement in November 1982.
She served as president of the Dallas Teachers Council, an affiliate of the National Education Association, from 1948 to 1958 and as an advisor to the council from 1959 to 1965. She was the NEA membership chairwoman for North Texas from 1955 to 1960. In 1956 she chaired the Dallas Negro Division to Improve the Texas Teachers Retirement Plan. She served on a special committee of the Texas Education Agency for the study of teacher-training programs (1955–57) and on the Constitution Committee of the Texas Association of Women Deans and Counselors (1962–64). She was a life member of the NEA and a member of the National Association of Women Deans and Counselors, the Texas Personnel and Guidance Association, and the Teachers State Association of Texas. She was a founder, president, and president emeritus of the Dallas Personnel and Guidance Club.
In addition to her involvement with professional organizations, Ethelyn Chisum was active in community and civic affairs. In the mid-1950s she served on the board of the Texas Commission on Race Relations. She was a member of the board of management of the Maria Morgan branch of the YWCA, a branch she helped establish in 1927 in order to make that program available to Dallas Blacks. She also served as president of the North Park-Cedar Springs Civic League and as a member of the board of trustees for the Dallas Metropolitan Chapter of the March of Dimes. Before joining Knight's Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, she was an active member of the New Hope Baptist Church. She was also a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority; a member and president of the Priscilla Art Club, the oldest Dallas club for Black women; and a member of the North Dallas Democratic Women's Club. She served as second vice president of the Prairie View Alumni Association from 1961 to 1963 and as a member of the executive committee from 1963 to 1965. She died on January 27, 1983. The John O. and Ethelyn M. Chisum Collection at the Dallas Public Library not only chronicles the careers of Ethelyn Chisum and her husband, but offers much information about the lives of African Americans in early twentieth-century Dallas.
The Handbook of Texas Women project has its own dedicated website and resources.
Who's Who in American Education, 23d. ed. Who's Who of American Women, 1966–67.
University Presidents and School Administrators
Texas Post World War II
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Mary M. Standifer,
“Chisum, Ethelyn Mildred Taylor,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed September 21, 2021,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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