New Early Childhood Center Named After Trailblazing Springfield Teacher

An African-American woman who taught Springfield children for over four decades during times of racial strife in the city will be the namesake of the school district’s new early childhood education center.

The honor bestowed on Adah Fulbright came through a unanimous vote by the Springfield School Board. Fulbright was the first African-American teacher to retire from the Springfield school district after teaching into her 70s.

Betty Ransom addressing the Springfield School Board

Betty Ransom, a former student of Adah Fulbright at Lincoln High School, spoke to the school board about the possibility of the school being named after her teacher.

“She devoted her life to the parents and the students that she taught at Lincoln (school),” Ransom told the school board. “She noted with pleasure the trends that education was taking.”

Ransom noted that Fulbright was educated in the only Springfield school that would teach African-American youths, a four-room schoolhouse, before her career teaching students.

“I believe that Adah Fulbright deserves a place in history,” Ransom said. “I believe that Adah Fulbright deserves any honor we can give her.”

Mark Dixon spoke to the Board about Fulbright, and noted that she was educating African-American students “during a time not only of racial segregation, both within Springfield public schools but also the community at large, but she did so during what was arguably the most heinous set of circumstances ever seen in this city.”

The school had narrowed the choice for the naming of the school to three potential honorees through a naming committee, with these two finalists chosen alongside Fulbright:

  • Reverent Oliver & Ms. Linda Brown, for whom the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka (KS) is named. Brown’s oldest daughter Linda is a Central High School graduate;
  • Dr. Arthur Mallory, a Buffalo High School graduate and Army veteran who was a President of Missouri State University from 1964 to 1971. He also served as the Missouri Commissioner of Education where an early childhood education program was development and put into place.

The family of the Browns sent a letter to the board before their last meeting asking for the withdrawal of their names.

(photo of Adah Fulbright courtesy Missouri State University archives)

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