Mary Elizabeth Branch was born the child of former slaves in 1881 in Virginia. By 1930, she was the president of Tillotson College (now Huston-Tillotson University), having served decades as an accomplished educator. The Tillotson campus was badly in need of improvement when Branch arrived.
Over the next 14 years, Branch successfully transformed Tillotson from a women’s junior college to a four-year, coeducational undergraduate school with an A rating from the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. At the time, Branch was the only African-American female president of such an institution.
Lyndon B. Johnson appointed her to the Negro Advisory Board of the National Youth Administration during the Depression. She was also president of the Austin chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and helped establish the United Negro College Fund.
This month, KUT is partnering with the Ruthe Winegarten Foundation to celebrate Women's History Month. Every day, we'll bring you a short feature spotlighting a historic woman, movement or group of women in Texas.