1898 - 1987
Viola Velma Hilliard was the second child born to the late Oliver and "Molly" Hilliard, children of the earliest black settlers in Denison, Texas and direct descendants of slaves of Texas Governor Roberts.
When selected valedictorian of her class, she did not tell her father because she did not think he would approve (her being a girl).
She worked five years, saved her money, attended Prairie View A&M College, graduating from there. She was among the first black teachers to attend Southeastern University in Durant, Oklahoma obtaining her Master's degree. Subsequently, she also did graduate work at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
Ms. Hilliard believed that an entire family could be elevated intellectually if each helped the other go college and acquire substantial employment. It worked into her family where she had a hand and voice in the education and guidance of every family member (brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews) who grew up under her or within reach of her guidance.
Ms. Hilliard was always considered a superior teacher, one of the best Denison has ever had. As a second grade teacher, she laid a fine foundation for the educational success of her young students. She cared about more than their technical education. She cared about their emotional and physical needs, often rewarding them generously and buying for them when they could not afford what they needed for special situations.
Late in her life she was Master Teacher in charge of Wimms Early Childhood School in Denison and came out of retirement to work, teaching underprivileged children in East St. Louis, Missouri for a short time.