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'I wish that my grandmother was here': Granddaughter of former Aycock High School teacher reflects on legacy

'I wish that my grandmother was here': Granddaughter of former Aycock High School teacher reflects on legacy
Posted at 7:00 PM, Feb 09, 2024

ROCKDALE, Texas — Susie Sansom-Piper, a former teacher and principal of Aycock High School in Rockdale, aided with school integration, and advocated for the fair treatment of black students in the late 1960s.

Now, Rockdale ISD is honoring her contributions to the district.

  • Susie Sansom-Piper served as a former principal and teacher for Rockdale ISD for 42 years.
  • She fought for equal treatment of black students to that of their white peers and connected cultures once schools integrated in the late 1960s and often faced racism herself.
  • Now, Rockdale ISD is recognizing her as a "distinguished alumni."

BROADCAST TRANSCRIPT:

Tamara Powell's grandmother was more than just a beloved family member.

Susie Sansom-Piper was a key figure in integrating Rockdale schools, and now, she's getting the recognition Powell says is long overdue.

"She was a very strong personality, very quiet, very humble, but I grew up watching her just service the community. She was always helping somebody," Powell said.  

Sansom-Piper was born in Rockdale in 1921, and attended Aycock High School — the city’s only black school.

After graduating from college, she came back to teach, eventually becoming principal.

Her family says she fought for equal treatment of black students to that of their white peers and connected cultures once schools integrated in the late 1960s.

But it was equally hard on her.

"She made great friends, and people that she kept in contact with throughout her life that were colleagues," Powell said. "But then, there were the teachers that never accepted her because she was black or used the n-word on a regular basis, so those were the things that hurt and cut deep."

She journaled these feelings in handwritten notes she left behind after her death in 2019.

Now, the school is honoring her impact for its distinguished alumni program.

"We've got some really, really wonderful people that have graduated and have made wonderful careers for themselves, and so it brings back lots of talent to our town and gives our students an opportunity to learn,“ Gaye Bland, a committee member for the Rockdale Alumni Association said.

Powell’s continuing to keep the legacy alive, working on a biography, sharing Sansom-Piper’s contributions to Black history.

“I wish that my grandmother was here to see it and hear it because she would often remark, ‘I don’t know what I've done' or ‘What have i done to impact my students?’ and I see it every day in people that remember her," Powell said.

If you would like to learn more about Sansom-Piper’s legacy, you can look forward to the release of Powell’s book in the spring.