Joan Yvonne Snell Ervin, community activist, education advocate, and the first African American to serve as a member of the board for the Lubbock Independent School District, was born in Waxahachie, Texas, on April 5, 1932, to Joe Earl Snell and Katie Mae Grays-Snell. She came to Lubbock with her parents in 1937. After receiving her diploma from Dunbar High School, she studied at Prairie View Agriculture and Mechanical College (now Prairie View A&M University).
On October 1, 1949, she married Clarence Lee Ervin, a soldier in the United States Army, and moved with him to his assigned posts. After his discharge, they moved to Lubbock in 1952. The couple had two sons, Tyrone and Clarence, Jr. She became the first African-American secretary employed at the city urban renewal agency in 1962 and in 1965 was the first black woman hired at IBM in Lubbock, where she worked until retirement in 1990.
While serving as president of the Dunbar High School Parent Teacher Association she was appointed and then elected to the board of the Lubbock Independent School District in 1970 and served until 1978. Governor Dolph Briscoe appointed her to a state board to study education issues in 1974. Later Governor Ann Richards made her an education advisor.
In Lubbock she held leadership positions as chairperson of the Martin Luther King Commemorative Council, vice president for the Juneteenth celebration, on the University Medical Center Hospital District Board, as a director for Lubbock Community Radio, and at New Hope Baptist Church.
Ervin died on September 19, 2012, and is buried in the City of Lubbock Cemetery.
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Bibliography: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, August 27, 2000; September 25, 2012. Katie Parks, Remember When? A History of African Americans in Lubbock, Texas (Lubbock: Friends of the Library/Southwest Collection, 1999).
Activism and Social Reform
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Ervin, Joan Yvonne Snell,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 09, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
October 22, 2013
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