Rae Mandette Files Still, member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1941 to 1951 and educator, daughter of Samuel Morgan and Montana Estelle Files, was born in Hill County, Texas, on November 20, 1907. She attained a B.A. in education from the University of Texas in 1934 and an M.A. in education from the University of Texas in 1949. Following her graduation and prior to her election to the Texas House of Representatives, she worked as a teacher at Waxahachie High School in Waxahachie, Texas. She married Forest Still, a lumberman from Waxahachie, in Austin on May 26, 1945. They had no children.
Rae Files Still served five consecutive terms in the Texas House of Representatives as the Democratic representative of Ellis County and held office from January 1941 to January 1951. She also served as chair of the House Education Committee from 1947 to 1951. She is best remembered for championing educational reforms, most notably the Gilmer-Aikin bills. She was the only member of the House to serve on the interim committee, which met from 1947 to 1948, to conduct a study on the status of the state’s public education system. The result of this survey was the series of laws that became the Gilmer-Aikin Laws. The educational reforms brought about by these bills included consolidating school districts from 4,500 to 2,900; changing the basis of state funding from enrollment to actual attendance; defining the length of the school year; raising teachers’ compensation; and guaranteeing children access to twelve years of schooling. The bills also called for the replacement of the elected state superintendent of public instruction, a position long held by L. A. Woods, with a commissioner of education to be appointed by an elected State Board of Education consisting of twenty-one members and confirmed by the state Senate.
L.A. Woods garnered support from teachers and superintendents to put pressure on their House members to defeat the bill. Still was able to head the bills through the legislature despite a tense all-night hearing on March 16, 1949, and critics’ claims that the legislation was communistic in nature and a personal attack on Woods. Still eventually proposed a successful bill to retain Woods as a “special consultant” in the hopes of decreasing his personal opposition and that of his supporters. The contentious nature of this process convinced Still to leave the legislature and return to teaching. She also completed her master’s degree and wrote a thesis about her experience working on the Gilmer-Aikin Laws, which was published in 1950 as The Gilmer-Aikin Bills: A Study in the Legislative Process. She taught in Dallas and Waxahachie, won an award from the Texas State Teachers Association in 1956, and moved to Germany to teach in the 1960s, before her retirement in 1975. Still passed away in Waxahachie on April 8, 1991.