GREER, ENNIS ADOLPHUS
GREER, ENNIS ADOLPHUS (1896–1973). Ennis Adolphus Greer, educator and namesake for the pre-integration African-American high school in El Campo, Texas, was born on July 10, 1896, on a farm in Wharton County, Texas, to Lee and Margareth (also known as Margaret) Greer. Ennis was the youngest of eleven children.
Ennis Greer attended grammar school in Wharton. At just ten years of age, he became the Sunday school superintendent at his church, and the following year he was elected a delegate from his church to a district denominational convention.
At the age of just seventeen, in about 1913, Greer began teaching black students in El Campo. The first year he taught seventeen students in seven grades. Those seventeen had been urged to attend by Greer, who canvassed the area to get enough students so that the school would qualify for financial assistance from the state. The second year the school grew to forty-five students; an additional teacher was hired to help Greer with the teaching load. The school board authorized the hiring of that teacher but pledged only half of her $30 per month salary. The school had to raise the other half.
Initially classes were conducted in a Methodist church auditorium. Burlap sacks were used to form partitions between “classrooms,” and, in addition, other burlap bags were stuffed into holes in the floor to help insulate it from the cold wind outside during the winter.
Ennis Greer first attended Houston Colored Junior College and then transferred to Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College, where he earned a teacher’s certificate in 1919, but he did not complete his bachelor’s degree at that time. He returned to El Campo and resumed teaching. At some point he also became the principal of the school. In 1922 a brick school building for blacks was constructed in El Campo. At that time it was the first and only such establishment in Wharton County. The lot upon which to construct it cost $150, but, true to form, the school board again authorized just half that amount and said that the school would need to raise the remaining $75. Greer sold peanuts on the streets until he raised that amount of money. The new building contained five classrooms. Soon additional teachers were hired.
On December 28, 1925, Ennis Greer married Lyla Bell Roberson from Matagorda, Texas. Like Ennis, she came from a big family. She, too, was well educated; she had four years of college and taught in the black El Campo high school. They had no children.
In 1935 Greer returned to Prairie View and completed his bachelor’s degree. Later he attended graduate school at the Colorado State College of Education, now the University of Northern Colorado, in Greely. In 1948 Greer completed his master of science degree at Texas State University for Negroes (now Texas Southern University) in Houston. After each personal educational accomplishment, he returned to his job as principal of the El Campo high school, which was consistently rated as an honor school by the Colored Teachers State Association of Texas (CTSAT). At one point, Greer’s role as founder of the school was officially recognized when the school was named for him.
Eventually the school building that had been erected in 1922 was not large enough to accommodate the increasing number of students. In 1953 the voters of El Campo approved a school bond issue for $1 million that included funding to build a new school for African Americans. The resulting school building that was again named after Greer contained a cafeteria, a gymnasium, and fifteen classrooms. By early 1954 the enrollment had grown to 335 students. In 1959 the school expanded again to include a chemistry lab, a teacher’s lounge, and four more classrooms. Additionally, it received full accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. It was one of the only schools in the area to do so.
Greer was elected to a term as president of the South Texas Teachers Association, an organization comprising thirty counties in the Gulf Coast area. Later he was elected treasurer of that association. He was a member of the National Education Association, the National Principals Association, and the Texas State Principals Association. Ennis Greer also served on the executive board of the CTSAT from 1953 to 1959, as well as various other CTSAT committees. Additionally, he was one of eight members of a certification panel during the planning stage of the Gilmer-Aikin Laws that mandated reorganization of the system of public schools in Texas in 1949. He retired from his position at El Campo in 1963, but afterwards he worked as a counselor at Texas Southern University.
Greer served as master of the Wharton Masonic Lodge No. 99. He was an officer in the Order of the Heroines of Jericho and served as secretary of the West End Civic Council of El Campo. He founded the African-American Boy Scout movement in El Campo and served as a scoutmaster for many years. He served on several Wharton County grand juries and was assistant superintendent of the Sunday school of the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in El Campo.
Ennis Greer died in a Houston hospital on February 19, 1973, at seventy-six years of age. His funeral was held at the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in El Campo. He is buried in the Community Civic Cemetery near El Campo. Lyla died about a year later. She had taught in the El Campo schools for more than forty years.
Mr. and Mrs. Ennis A. Greer were posthumously awarded the Texas Library Association’s (TLA) Philanthropic Award in 1978. A sculpture of Professor Greer graces the Wharton County Junior College Library; Ennis and Lyla Greer left a posthumous $100,000 donation to the college.
Vanessa Parks, “Learning Center Ceremony Honors Prof. Greer,” The WCJC Trailblazer, December 5, 1977. Texas Standard, March–April 1954. Victoria Advocate, February 22, 1973.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Robert J. Duncan, "Greer, Ennis Adolphus ," accessed October 27, 2016, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fgrbm.
Uploaded on June 13, 2013. Modified on August 15, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.