Malone-Mayes, Vivienne Lucille (1932–1995)


By: Emily Dorward

Type: Biography

Published: October 11, 2021

Updated: October 11, 2021


Vivienne Lucille Malone-Mayes, mathematician, civil rights activist, first Black woman with a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Texas at Austin, and first African American professor at Baylor University, was born on February 10, 1932, in Waco, Texas, to Pizarro Ray and Vera Estelle (Allen) Malone. Her father, a real estate agent, was a delivery driver when, in 1916, he witnessed the Jesse Washington lynching in Waco. Her mother was a teacher at the segregated A. J. Moore High School. Both strongly encouraged Vivienne’s academic pursuits. Malone-Mayes attended North Seventh Street Elementary School and A. J. Moore High School in Waco, where she graduated at the age of sixteen in 1948.

With the intention of studying medicine, Vivienne Malone-Mayes enrolled at Fisk University but switched her major to math. She was encouraged to pursue the subject by her instructor, Evelyn Boyd Granville, the second African American woman in the United States to attain a Ph.D. in mathematics. Malone-Mayes also joined the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. She completed her undergraduate degree in 1952 and her master’s degree in mathematics at Fisk University in 1954. She married James Jeffries Mayes, a student at Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry, on September 1, 1952, at New Hope Baptist Church in Waco. The couple had one daughter, Patsyanne Mayes, and later divorced in 1985.

After graduation, the couple moved to Waco, where Malone-Mayes joined the faculty at Paul Quinn College, a historically Black college, and her husband opened a dental practice. In 1961 she applied to the doctoral program in mathematics at Baylor University in her hometown. The school had not yet integrated and rejected her application on the basis of her race. By then she had chaired the math departments at both Paul Quinn College and Bishop College. Malone-Mayes pursued a doctorate degree at the University of Texas at Austin. When she graduated in 1966, she became the second African American woman, after Lillian K. Bradley in 1961, to earn a doctorate degree and the first to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Texas. Her time at the University of Texas was isolating. She was marginalized in her graduate program, which was made up almost entirely of White men. There during the civil rights movement, she participated in protests and demonstrations against segregation in Austin, including one at Hilsberg’s Café next to campus.

In 1966, upon completion of her doctorate, she joined the faculty at Baylor University, where she taught for the entirety of her career and became the university’s first African American faculty member. In 1971 she was named the Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year by the Baylor Student Congress. She also served on the board of directors of the National Association of Mathematicians and was the first African American elected to serve on the executive committee of the Association for Women in Mathematics. Malone-Mayes’s academic and professional success was hard-fought. She faced racism and sexism on her path to becoming a professor. In Waco she was a demonstration organizer, participated in picket lines to advocate civil rights causes, and remained active in social justice organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), until the end of her life.

Vivienne Malone-Mayes’s involvement in her community and success in the face of obstacles were indicative of her enormous drive. She remained active in Delta Sigma Theta, and in 1994 she served as president of the Waco Alumnae Chapter, which her mother and aunt, Jeffie Obrea Conner, had co-founded in 1943. She was an active member of Waco’s New Hope Baptist Church throughout her life. Through the church, she established a boys’ choir and encouraged at-risk children to join the congregation. She participated on the board of directors for the Family Counseling and Children Services, the Heart of Texas Region of Mental Health and Mental Retardation (see MENTAL HEALTH), and Goodwill Industries. She also co-founded local organizations for Black women professionals, including The Waco Links (see THE LINKS, INCORPORATED) and the Circle-lets. Her daughter said Malone-Mayes’s commitment to the community of Waco had a generational value because she used her success to help her community.

Vivienne Malone-Mayes retired from Baylor University in 1994 due to health issues. She died at the age of sixty-three on June 9, 1995, in Waco. She was buried in the historically-segregated Greenwood Cemetery in Waco. In recognition of her career, a bronze bust of Malone-Mayes was put on display in Sid Richardson Hall at Baylor University in February 2019. See also EDUCATION FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS and SEGREGATION.

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Robert F. Darden, “Vivienne Malone-Mayes,” Wacoan (https://www.wacoan.com/vivienne-malone-mayes/), accessed November 1, 2019. Etta Falconer and Lorch Lee, Vivienne Malone-Mayes in Memoriam, Association for Women in Mathematics Newsletter (November/December 1995). Amanda Mylin and Prisca Bird, “Vivienne Lucille Malone-Mayes,” Waco History (https://wacohistory.org/items/show/51), accessed November 6, 2019. Brigham Narins, Notable Scientists from 1900 to the Present (Detroit, Michigan: Gale, 2008). Terri Jo Ryan, “Baylor’s First Black Faculty Member,” Waco Tribune-Herald, archived by Waco History Project(http://www.wacohistoryproject.org/Moments/vivienne.html), accessed November 1, 2019. Vivienne Malone-Mayes Papers, The Texas Collection, Baylor University. Waco Tribune-Herald, February 26, 1986; November 21, 2018.

Categories:
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Activists
  • Advocates
  • Civic Leaders
  • Civil Rights, Segregation, and Slavery
  • Education
  • Educators
  • Math
  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • Women
Time Periods:
  • World War II
  • Texas Post World War II
Places:
  • Central Texas
  • Waco

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

Emily Dorward, “Malone-Mayes, Vivienne Lucille,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 16, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/malone-mayes-vivienne-lucille.

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October 11, 2021
October 11, 2021

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