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Hemmings, Myra Lillian Davis (1895–1968)

John Etta Slaughter and Gary W. Houston Biography

Myra Davis Hemmings, black teacher and actress, was born in Gonzales, Texas, in 1895 to Henry and Susan (Dement) Davis. She graduated from Riverside High School in San Antonio in 1909 and completed undergraduate studies at Howard University in 1913. She received a master's degree in dramatic arts in 1947 at Northwestern University. As a student at Howard University, she was a founding member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, a public-service organization, in 1913. She served as the first undergraduate president of the seminal Alpha Chapter. In 1990 the organization had 725 chapters in the United States and chapters in Germany, the Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, and West Africa.

In 1913 Myra Davis began her career in San Antonio as an English instructor at Douglass High School; she later transferred to Phyllis Wheatley High School. Her teaching career spanned fifty-one years, during which time she received many accolades for her oratorical gifts and for her stage productions of works ranging from Shakespeare to those of modern writers. She was married to John W. (Pop) Hemmings, a former Broadway actor, in 1922. They organized the Phyllis Wheatley Dramatic Guild Players, an extension of the dramatic productions staged by her high school seniors. Their productions, in which she often acted, played a fundamental role in the cultural life of black San Antonians. In 1944 Mrs. Hemmings coproduced, codirected, and starred in Go Down Death, now a black film classic.

Her extensive activities in the Second Baptist Church reflected her deep religious commitment. She was the organizer of the Dramatic Theatre Guild, which, upon her death, was renamed the Myra Davis Hemmings Memorial Theatre Guild. When Mrs. Hemmings became the first female trustee of the Second Baptist Church, she established a precedent that became a tradition at that historic institution. She died on December 8, 1968, in San Antonio.

Paula Giddings, In Search of Sisterhood: Delta Sigma Theta and the Challenge of the Black Sorority Movement (New York: Morrow, 1988). Phyllis Klotman, Frame By Frame: A Black Filmography (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978).


  • Education
  • Educators
  • English and Journalism
  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • Women
  • Performing Arts

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

John Etta Slaughter and Gary W. Houston, “Hemmings, Myra Lillian Davis,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 24, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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