Thomas William Pratt, African-American educator and a prominent figure in Dallas, was the fourth of seven children born to David and Jane Pratt. He was born in Campbell, Texas, near Greenville in May 1876. He attended the public schools in Greenville and graduated from Ross High School. He then entered Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.
After graduating from Fisk University, Pratt served as principal of a school at Commerce, Texas. Two years later he served as principal of Ross High School. He later taught mathematics and science at Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College (now Prairie View A&M University). When he arrived at Dallas in the 1920s, he taught Latin and social studies at Booker T. Washington High School. He then served as principal of Fannie C. Harris Elementary School. In 1930 he became the first principal of the new Julia C. Frazier School and stayed at this post until retiring in 1945.
Pratt married his wife Ella around 1911, and they had two children—T. W., Jr., and Theresa. Ella Pratt gave concerts and taught music to black children and promoted classical music among the Dallas African-American population.
Pratt was very active in local, state, and national organizations. He served as president of the Teachers State Association of Texas and was a member of its executive committee. He held memberships in the National Education Association and the North Texas Colored Teachers’ Association. Pratt was an elder and trustee of the Forest Avenue Christian Church in Dallas, and he helped found the National Christian Missionary Convention. For the convention he worked in the Christian Education Department as state president and member of the board. He established and edited The Newsletter, the newspaper of the Texas Missionary Convention. Pratt was also a trustee of Jarvis Christian College and received an honorary doctorate from that institution.
Pratt published the Dallas, Texas Negro City Directory in 1947. He was also president of the Dallas Negro Chamber of Commerce (now Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce) and served as captain of the YMCA membership campaigns. He was a member of the board of management of the Moorland branch of the YMCA. Pratt also belonged to the Dallas Grand Jury Association. Pratt held memberships in several fraternal organizations, including the Order of the Eastern Star (past International Grand Patron and Grand Patron Emeritus) and the American Woodmen. He was a thirty-third-degree Mason.
Pratt died on May 12, 1962, from injuries sustained when he was struck by a car a month earlier. He was buried in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery.
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Dallas Express, May 19, 1962. Dallas Morning News, May 13, 1962. Robert Prince, A History of Dallas from a Different Perspective (Austin: Nortex Press, 1993).
School Principals and Superintendents
Activism and Social Reform
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Pratt, Thomas William,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 16, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
May 24, 2013
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: