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Willie Lee Gay Collection

Identifier: MSS 0152

Content Description

The Willie Lee Gay Collection documents her participation in historic preservation and various historical organizations in Texas and Houston from 1972-1997. Majority of the collection is correspondence from the 1970s through the late 1990s. Some of the topics represented include the Texas Historical leadership award and Texas History Day,and various history events. Materials are largely textual, comprising, memoranda, agendas, invitations, a resume, brochures and programs, clippings, memorabilia, and printed matter. A small number of images of individuals including Willie Lee Gay and Hazel Hainsworth Young.


  • 1972-1997

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish or reproduce materials from the Willie Lee Gay Collection must be obtained from the African American Library at the Gregory School or the appropriate copyright holder.

Biographical / Historical

A Texas historian for the past 30 years, Willie Lee Gay is a former teacher and a vocal advocate for documenting the history of African American communities in Texas.

Willie Gay attended Texas Southern University, graduating with a bachelor’s in history in 1952 and master’s degree in English in 1959. She taught at several schools in the Houston Independent School District including Carter G. Woodson Junior High School, James Reynolds Elementary, and Charles R. Drew High School. As a history teacher in Houston, she was never content to teach strictly from a textbook. Her teaching style incorporated an interdisciplinary approach, where students would conduct site visits, demonstrations, and hands-on research that involved students proactively. Her philosophy was to instill a passion for history and to make it real and relevant for her students. She founded the Junior Historian Club at the Carter G. Woodson Junior High School. Besides teaching, she became actively involved in many organizations that were dedicated to preserving history, such as the Harris County Heritage Society, the Harris County Historical Commission, and the Houston Preservation Alliance.

Her working relationship with former Governor Ann Richards led to her appointment as the first African American Commissioner of the Texas Historical Commission (1991-1997), where she dealt with historic preservation issues on a state-wide level. Ms. Gay contributed to the work of historic preservation in Houston and has contributed many entries on African Americans in the Handbook of Texas, a multidisciplinary encyclopedia of Texas history.


1 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials



Resources are arranged by format; correspondence arrangement is chronological.

Custodial History

These records were formerly housed at the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library as MSS 1021 Willie Lee Gay Collection and were transferred to the African American Library at the Gregory School, Houston Public Library in February 2019.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Willie Lee Gay thru Johnson Branch

Related Materials

MSS 0006 Willie Lee Gay Collection

MSS 0151 Willie Lee Gay and Carter G. Woodson Junior Historians #244 Collection

PH 0027 Willie Lee Gay Photographs

RG 0026 Harambee Club Collection

MSS 0152 Willie Lee Gay Collection
An Inventory of Records at the African American Library at the Gregory School, Houston Public Library
In Progress
Sheena Wilson
March 2021
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Gregory School Repository


The African American Library at the Gregory School
1300 Victor Street
Houston, Texas 77019
Houston Metropolitan Research Center
Houston Public Library
550 McKinney St.
Houston, Texas 77002