The Handbook of Texas is free-to-use thanks to the support of readers like you. Support the Handbook today.

Font size: A / A reset

Support Texas History Now

Join TSHA to support quality Texas history programs and receive exclusive benefits.

Become a TSHA Member Today »

Goree, Elizabeth Thomas Nolley (1845–1929)

Langston James Goree V and Deborah Bloys Hardin Biography Entry

Elizabeth Thomas (Tommie) Nolley Goree, early Texas teacher and school administrator, the daughter of Edward Dromgoole and Mary Frances (Nicholas) Nolley, was born on November 11, 1845, at Montgomery Hill Plantation, Baldwin County, Alabama. She taught at Tuscaloosa Female College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, before joining her sister, Martha Ann Otey, at Andrew Female College, Huntsville, Texas, in 1866. After Martha died in the yellow fever epidemic of 1867, Tommie took over as head of the school and remained so until her marriage to Confederate veteran Capt. Thomas Jewett Goree on June 25, 1868. The couple lived for a year at Raven Hill Plantation, which Goree's mother, Sarah Williams Kittrell Goree, had purchased from Sam Houston before the Civil War. In 1869 they moved to Moffatville Plantation in Madison County, where Goree operated a general store, Goree and Wakefield, in Midway, and Tommie opened a school that she operated from 1869 until 1873. In the latter year the family returned to Huntsville, and Captain Goree joined Col. Leonard A. Abercrombie in a law practice there. Tommie remained active in the community and with her growing family.

In 1877 Governor Richard B. Hubbard appointed Goree superintendent of the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville, at which post he served for the next fourteen years. Mrs. Goree worked with the prisoners in many capacities. She ran the prison Sunday school and learned Spanish so that she could teach the Mexican-American prisoners. According to one obituary, she also attended every funeral at the prison, often as the only mourner. In 1879 Sam Houston Normal Institute was established in Huntsville, replacing Andrew Female College. Tommie, a lifelong advocate of higher education, had promoted the new college. On the day of the formal opening, the Gorees entertained the school officials and the visiting dignitaries in their home. It was then, and at Tommie's arranging, that Oscar Henry Cooper and Governor Oran M. Roberts met and began finalizing plans for the University of Texas.

After her husband died in March 1905, Tommie moved to the Huntsville home of her daughter, Sue Hayes Thomason, and son-in-law, Dr. John W. Thomason. Until her death on September 5, 1929, she lived with her children and their families, remained active in the community, and served as a staunch advocate of education. The Gorees had five children, of whom only two lived to adulthood. John and Sue Thomason had nine children, the eldest of whom was artist and author John W. Thomason, Jr. Tom and Tommie Goree are buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Huntsville.

Biographical Souvenir of the State of Texas (Chicago: Battey, 1889; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). D'Anne McAdams Crews, ed., Huntsville and Walker County, Texas: A Bicentennial History (Huntsville, Texas: Sam Houston State University, 1976). Thomas Jewett Goree, The Thomas Jewett Goree Letters, ed. Langston James Goree V (Bryan, Texas: Family History Foundation, 1981). Under Texas Skies, October 1954. Clarence R. Wharton, ed., Texas under Many Flags (5 vols., Chicago: American Historical Society, 1930).


  • Education
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Advocates
  • Educators
  • General Education
  • Women

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

Langston James Goree V and Deborah Bloys Hardin, “Goree, Elizabeth Thomas Nolley,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed February 27, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: