The list keeps growing for Black citizens who are leaving a legacy for Grayson County. This month as we celebrate Black History Month, I thought it would be good to remember some of the outstanding African Americans who have made an impact on Denison and Terrell High School, where they graduated.

The list keeps growing for Black citizens who are leaving a legacy for Grayson County. This month as we celebrate Black History Month, I thought it would be good to remember some of the outstanding African Americans who have made an impact on Denison and Terrell High School, where they graduated.


JoAnn Perkins


First to come to mind is my good friend, JoAnn Perkins who passed away during the past year. JoAnn grew up on Tower Lane in Denison and credited Texoma Business and Professional Women, Pat Welch, Cora Bell, Lee Alyce McGrew and Donna Lorance for their leadership and encouragement to accomplish her achievements. She was voted Woman of the Year in 2004 by the Texoma B&PW Club.


From B&PW she became involved in the Region VI and Texas NAACP, Unit 6352, and then in 2006 was elected president of that unit. She brought home the Torchbearer’s Award from the state NAACP conference in 2007 "lighting the way for civil rights, justice and community service."


Her focus was on building bridges instead of walls in the community which with her help produced some lasting relationships.


She was most proud of the Sherman and Denison units of the NAACP being combined during her term as president and the name being changed to the Grayson County unit to include all the county.


She first went to Washington, D.C. to march on Capitol Hill to preserve the Voting Rights Act, and then attended the inauguration of President Barack Obama, traveling 24 hours one way to stand about six hours to witness the historic inauguration. She said that was "one of the most exciting times in my life."


At the end of her life she was still giving to her church, neighbors, grandchildren, adult children and community. Bring all those roles together and you’ll find compassion and generosity inside each heart.


Clora Bryant


Clora Bryant, world famous woman trumpetists, graduated from Terrell High School in 1944 and through the years has been honored around the world.


She grew up in Denison listening to the music of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Glen Miller, Lionel Hampton, Harry James and others. Her father’s love of jazz and blues was passed along to Clora and her two brothers, Fred and Mel.


When Fred was drafted into the Army during World War II, he left his trumpet behind and Clora learned to play it in her junior year at Terrell. After graduation she turned down two full scholarships to attend Prairie View College that offered a chance to play the trumpet in the all-girl orchestra, The Prairie View Co-eds. The highlight of 1944 was playing at the Apollo Theater in New York at age 17.


She and her dad moved to Los Angeles in 1945 for her to be "discovered." She transferred to UCLA and became active in the Central Avenue Jazz scene and recorded her first album, "Gal with a Horn," in 1957


She played Las Vegas in the 1950s and 60s and had a role in one movie, "Pepe" that starred the Mexican idol, Cantinflas. She appeared as the only female in the big orchestra behind Sammy Davis Jr.


Her career was varied, from Jazz festivals in Europe to the concert halls and festivals in Russia to the hotel and club scene in Australia, Canada and over the USA, including Hawaii.


Clora helped edit "Central Avenue Sounds" and has been included in at last 20 books and magazines including "The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz," by Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler. In May 2002 she was honored at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., as the Mary Lou Williams Jazz Woman of the year.


Dr. Claude Organ


Dr. Claude Organ grew up in Denison and attended Anderson Elementary School and Terrell High School. His mother was a teacher and his father worked for the Postal Service, after serving in World War II, then finishing school at Lincoln University in Missouri.


After high school graduation he first went to Xavier University in New Orleans, graduating cum laude in 1948. Then he was named chairman of the board of the school for six years. He was turned down at Howard University in Washington, D.C. and at Meharry Medical College in Nashville because he was Black so he began medical school at the age of 20 at Creighton in Omaha, NE. There he became the first Black to attend the school, where he was treated the same as all other students and found no patient refusal.


Later he went back to Howard University where he had been rejected as a young student, but this time to give a speech as president of the American College of Surgeons.


His honors were many; he lectured often and authored more than 250 scientific articles and book chapters, primarily on general and endocrine surgery. He authored or co-authored five books and lectured worldwide for many years and was editor of the "Archives of Surgery," that was distributed in 85 countries to 33,000 surgeons.


He was dedicated to opening doors for other minorities and women surgeons.


Dr. Organ died in 2005 in Berkley, CA.


Marguerite Bradshaw


Marguerite Bradshaw played with Clora Bryant in that all-girl orchestra, the Prairie View Co-eds at Prairie View College, but her life took a different turn after college. She became a teacher.


Marguerite also graduated from Terrell High School when Denison schools were segregated. She went to Prairie View in the 1940s on a valedictorian’s scholarship from Terrell and was a piano major in college. She played the saxophone in high school.


After graduating from Prairie View Marguerite headed to New York City where she was assistant principal and principal. She was in charge of the pilot project for decentralization of New York City schools in the office of the superintendent in his absence.


After a successful career in education she returned to her home in Denison when she retired. As a niece of Viola Hilliard and Pearl Carter, she spearheaded the Viola Hilliard and Pearl and Dugan Carter Scholarship Foundation that gave scholarships to DHS graduates. When Miss Hilliard died in 1967 she appointed Marguerite, in her will, to head the foundation. Miss Hilliard had been head of the Wimms School in Denison.


Through that program she was partially responsible for many young people being able to attend college.


She was a musician, a teacher and a strong supporter of family values. She died in January 2007.


Clora Bryant and Dr. Organ are listed in Denison Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni.


Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at d.hunt_903@yahoo.com.