FOSTER, VIOLA ALYCE
FOSTER, VIOLA ALYCE (1910–1986). Viola Alyce Foster, trailblazing entrepreneur, was born in Wesson, Texas, in 1910. Her childhood was marked with tragedy and struggle because of the death of both of her parents during her formative years. She treated her maiden name as a closely-guarded secret, and it is not known. Her father died when she was two, and her mother died during her high school years. The pain of Foster’s mother’s death was greater because she no longer lived at home when it occurred. Because her hometown did not provide high school studies for blacks, she had moved away in order to attend high school in another town.
Foster attended a private high school and earned money for her tuition by working in the school’s dining halls. Although she was unable to attend college after high school, she kept self-improvement and learning at the forefront of her priorities. Later in her young adulthood she moved to Dallas and lived with her brother, “who was then employed as a domestic in a home a few blocks away from Southern Methodist University.” Foster later explained in a 1968 Dallas Morning News article that she “yearned to go there [to SMU] and complete her education.” She said, “I would stand and gaze over there for hours but could not go where Negroes were not accepted.” Despite her frustration, Foster pursued her education by attending business school at night. She worked at a department store during the day and spent her lunch breaks studying shorthand. After completing her business program, she became a secretary at Crawford Funeral Home. She married H. C. Foster and deferred her dream of earning a college education until after she raised her family.
In 1950 she and her husband began a real estate and insurance agency called H. C. Foster Real Estate and Insurance Company. During the years that she longed for SMU, Foster had hired a private tutor to teach her the insurance business, and she later became a licensed insurance agent. She told the Dallas Morning News in 1975, “I decided to try [for my real estate license] because insurance is companionable with real estate.” The Fosters’ business grew and saw unprecedented success. In 1963 Viola Alyce Foster graduated cum laude from Bishop College with B.S. degrees in business and psychology.
By the 1970s H. C. Foster Real Estate and Insurance Company serviced more than $250 million in mortgage loans within the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Because of the company’s success, V. Alyce Foster was hired by Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company as a mortgage loan consultant in 1974. She maintained her work at H. C. Foster while working at Golden State Mutual. She became well-known throughout the business community for her acumen and success, and she became a legend among Dallas professionals who knew of the challenges she faced as a young person that she had subsequently overcome. In the late 1960s Dallas Morning News society columnist, Julia Scott Reed, began covering Foster in her columns, an indication that she had become a person of influence and interest within her community.
Foster not only made great strides professionally, but she made them within her church and community work as well. At her place of worship, St. John Missionary Baptist Church, she became chairman of the trustee board, an extremely prestigious position within the 1,000-member church that prided itself in having the most knowledgeable and capable people at the helm of leadership. In 1968 she was sent to the United Nations in New York City as a representative from the National Negro Business and Professional Women’s Club. The UN had extended an invitation to the group that was filled by Foster and one other member of her organization. She was also a member of the National Council of Women of the United States, the National Association of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Delta Sigma Theta, and a life member of the YWCA where she served on the Metropolitan Dallas branch finance committee. She was a charter member of the South Dallas Business and Professional Women’s Club.
Foster was married to H. C. Foster. Before this union, both had children from previous marriages. She had a son named George Anderson, Jr.; he had a daughter named Gloria Kirven. Between the two, Foster gained nine grandchildren. On January 30, 1986, she died at her home in Dallas after a brief illness at the age of seventy-six. She died having accomplished all her goals. She summarized these goals by explaining that she never wanted to be “anything less than a whole human being with a purpose in life” and that she always worked in order to gain “a greater opportunity to serve people” and to have “a chance to prove that women are capable of succeeding in business as well as being good secretaries.”
Dallas Morning News, April 28, 1968; March 20, 1974; February 14, 1975; January 31, 1986.