Isaiah Quit Hurdle, African-American minister and public school educator, son of Rev. Andrew Jackson Hurdle and Viney James (Sanders) Hurdle, was born in Greenville, Texas, on August 12, 1886. Raised on a farm in Hunt County, I. Q. Hurdle grew up in a family of seventeen children. His father, A. J. Hurdle, was a slave on a plantation in Daingerfield, Texas. However, he escaped during the Civil War and found refuge with a unit of Federal soldiers. He later became a reverend in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), served as president of the Northeast Texas Christian Missionary Convention, and opened the Northeast Texas Christian Theological and Industrial College in Palestine in 1912.
As a youth, I.Q. Hurdle was educated at the Center Point School of Hunt County. In 1906 he enrolled at Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College (now Prairie View A&M University), where he studied science and excelled in football, tennis, and choir. After graduating in 1913, he moved to Gregg County, where he taught at the Post Oak School. On June 30, 1915, he married Erma Bowser of Davilla. Together they raised three children—Irving, Zenobia, and James. I. Q., ordained by his father’s church, edited the Texas Christian Evangelist from 1912 to 1916. In 1916 he moved to Palestine where he became president of Northeast Texas Christian Theological and Industrial College, the institution founded by his father.
In 1920 the college burned down, and Hurdle decided to move to Austin, where he began an illustrious thirty-four-year career as a teacher and school administrator. From 1920 to 1925, he taught science at L. C. Anderson High School, where he eventually became head of the science department. Following that, he attended graduate school at the University of Colorado. From 1927 to 1930, he served as principal of the Gregory Town School, which was later renamed Blackshear Elementary. Then, in 1930 he became principal of Kealing Junior High School, the first junior high school for Black students in Austin. (The school closed in 1971 but was later reopened as a magnet school in 1986.) After his time at Kealing, Hurdle continued to serve as a school administrator. Eventually, he became principal of the Clarksville School, an honors school for Black students, where he worked until his retirement in 1954.
Over the course of his career, Hurdle was also closely involved with the Colored Teachers State Association of Texas (CTSAT). He was elected to a one-year term as president of that organization in 1936 and served as an editor for the CTSAT’s quarterly publication, the Texas Standard, from 1937 to 1938. While president of the CTSAT, he led the fight for the passage of Texas House Bill 678. Since Texas had no graduate schools for Blacks, this bill provided state funding for Black students who wished to attend out-of-state graduate programs. Aside from H.B. 678, which eventually became law, Hurdle helped organize the Central Texas District of the CTSAT, promoted the spread of Boy and Girl Scout groups in communities across the state, requested provisions to allow for fully-funded retirement plans for teachers, and called for the CTSAT to assist the state in caring for the blind and deaf, as well as juvenile delinquents. Hurdle was a member of the CTSAT’s Division of Research and Investigation and worked as the CTSAT’s special agent on higher education in 1947. Additionally, he was a member of the CTSAT’s executive committee. He was also a firm supporter of the National Education Association and was the first Black member of the NEA’s Texas delegation in 1945. Moreover, he voiced his concerns about the unequal distribution of state funds for public schools—according to the April 1933 issued of the Texas Standard, in 1930 Blacks comprised 16.9 percent of Texas’s public school population, but the value of Black school facilities amounted to only 5.5 percent of the total value of all public schools statewide.
Hurdle was a Master Mason, and he spent his retirement as a public relations officer for the St. Joseph Grand Lodge in Austin. He also served as secretary of the Texas Commission on Interracial Cooperation (1952–53) and was on the executive board of the Texas Commission on Race Relations (1955). Following the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the Texas Commission on Race Relations worked to foster cooperation between local citizens, school boards, and superintendents in order to formulate an amiable path toward school desegregation.
Hurdle maintained a lifelong commitment to his church. While in Austin, he was head of the 12th Street Christian Church and served as president of the Texas United Christian Missionary Convention in 1943. He was also a parliamentarian in that church’s national convention from 1949 to 1956, a delegate to the World Convention on Christian Education in Toronto in 1950, and a trustee of Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas (1945–57). In the late 1950s he moved to San Antonio, for a time, and was pastor at the Willow Park Christian Church there. His religion certainly influenced his educational philosophy, and, as president of the CTSAT, he had spoken out publically against the degrading effects of drink, jazz, and the “frivolous attitude of some scientific minds…bent toward birth control,” and reminded his fellow teachers that the Ten Commandments were the cornerstone of a proper education.
In 1968 Hurdle suffered a stroke and died in Dallas on January 14, 1968. The people of Austin remembered his contributions to their city, and his house at 1416 East 12th Street was eventually made a historical landmark of the city. Due to the efforts of educators such as Hurdle, by 1930 Texas boasted the highest number of Black high schools and the highest Black literacy rate of all southern states.