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 »

Iles, Ella Beth Winn (ca. 1889–1952)

Alwyn Barr Biography Entry

Ella Beth Winn Iles, the first long-term African-American teacher in Lubbock, Texas, was born the daughter of Henry and Rebecca Winn on their farm in Washington County, Texas. Her date of birth was November 24, in 1889 based on school records, or in 1895 based on her headstone.

Her father provided early education for his ten children at home. Ella received a diploma from East End High School (later named E. R. Pickard High) in Brenham, Texas, in 1910. Beginning in 1912 she studied at Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College (now Prairie View A&M University). She then taught eleven years at Dunbar School in Temple, Texas. During that time Ella wed a man by the name of Carruthers, but nothing else is known about him.

Two years after creation of the first African-American class in Lubbock, Texas, Ella Winn Carruthers arrived in 1922 to teach forty-seven students, first at Mt. Gilead Baptist Church and in 1923 in a new two-room public school. By 1925 her students had grown in number to 160. Consequently, she instructed half of them in the morning and the rest after lunch. In 1926 the school was named Paul Lawrence Dunbar School.

On March 12, 1927, Ella married Oscar Iles, a veteran of World War I who worked in a warehouse and helped form the first Boy Scout troop for African Americans in Lubbock as well as American Legion Post 808 for African Americans. She participated in the activities of Mt. Gilead Baptist Church.

In the summers Ella Iles enrolled at Prairie View to complete her bachelor of science degree by 1935. Later she added summer graduate courses at Prairie View and the University of Denver. Health problems caused her to retire in 1948 after teaching in Lubbock for twenty-six years. Family and friends brought her from a hospital to attend the naming of Ella Iles Elementary School in 1951 in recognition of her contributions to the development of African-American education in the city. She died in Lubbock on April 8, 1952, and was buried in the City of Lubbock Cemetery.

Samuel J. Ayers, Ella Iles: Early Texas Teacher (Lubbock: Hermosa Creations, 1999). Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, July 9, 2000. Katie Parks, comp., Remember When? A History of African Americans in Lubbock, Texas (Lubbock: Friends of the Library/Southwest Collection, 1999). Vertical File, Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library, Texas Tech University.


  • Education
  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • Educators
  • Women

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

Alwyn Barr, “Iles, Ella Beth Winn,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 16, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 22, 2013

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: