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Kay, Savannah Harris (1869–1951)

Debra Blacklock-Sloan Biography Entry

Savannah Georgia Fields Kay, educator, community builder, and religious worker, was born on March 3, 1869 (or 1870), in Victoria County, Texas. She attended local schools there and upon completing the eighth grade passed a board of education exam. She taught in Victoria, Montgomery, and Robertson counties “where her work was characterized with excellence.” Kay earned a B.S. degree from Prairie View State Normal School (now Prairie View A&M University).

Savannah married Robert Kay in 1889; the couple had no children. In 1909 the Harrisburg School District hired Kay to teach at its colored school—a one-room building located on Elm Street; it was later replaced by a two-story eight-room facility. The school was located in a depressed area of town, but Kay worked tirelessly to change residents’ apathy for education and community betterment. She was a progressive educator and was promoted to principal after three years. She was an advocate of industrial training, and as a result, students excelled in home economics and manual training. Affectionately referred to as “Mother Kay,” she encouraged students to pursue a higher level of education and supplied materials to assist them. On October 11, 1927, the Harrisburg School was annexed by the Houston Independent School District.

Kay resided in Harrisburg and was a member of Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church where she was active in the Women’s Home Mission Society and served as superintendent of the church school, choir director, secretary of the Sunday School Union, and district superintendent of the Epworth League. Kay also instituted programs to interest youth in church activities. She was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star and served as Secretary Adah A. M. W. M. and former Grand Martha. Civically, Kay was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Ethel Ransom Federated Club, Prairie View clubs, and the YWCA.

Kay moved to Los Angeles, California, around 1943 and continued employment as a principal. She died on May 16, 1951, and was buried in Lincoln Memorial Park Cemetery. In 1952 the Houston Independent School District renamed the Harrisburg Elementary School the Kay Elementary School.

Ira Babington Bryant, Jr., The Development of the Houston Negro Schools (Houston: Informer, 1935). Galveston Daily News, May 26, 1909; September 26, 1919. Andrew Webster Jackson, A Sure Foundation and a Sketch of Negro Life in Texas (Houston, 1940). The Red Book of Houston (Houston: Sotex, 1915).


  • Education
  • Educators
  • School Principals and Superintendents
  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • Women

Time Periods:

  • Progressive Era
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • Great Depression


  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

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

Debra Blacklock-Sloan, “Kay, Savannah Harris,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 12, 2021,

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July 3, 2013
April 7, 2017

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