Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Shirley Lee Cross Temple of Kentwood, LA Served George Washington Carver

Shirley Lee Cross Temple was born September 12, 1912 in Coushatta, Louisiana. She passed away  on January 28, 2005. Her parents Nathaniel James Cross and Josephine Yarborough Cross preceded her in death. She married Collis Benton Temple, Sr., and to their union Shirley Collen, Bernita Elaine, Sandra Janice, Valeria Antoinette, Brenda Joyce and Collis Benton, Jr., were born.

Her early schooling was in Merryville, Louisiana were here dad was the principal. During those years, the last of schooling for African-American students in Louisiana was eleventh grade. Upon completing eleventh grade, she entered Tuskegee Institute, completed the twelfth year of schooling and subsequently completed her B.A.Degree.  She was a member of the Tuskegee 100 Choir, serving as secretary for four years.

Shirley often talked about her choir director, William L. Dawson and the fact that one of the choir's most exciting tours was the performance for President Franklin D. Roosevelt White House and the opening of Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Music was part of Shirley's life every day.

Among other experiences, Shirley also described to family and friends the opportunities to serve George Washington Carver she worked in the college dining hall. She also recounted the memorable occasion when she and other Tuskegee students attended programs to hear inspiring lectures from such notable as Mary McLeod Bethune. She was the family griot.

George Washington Carver
She moved with her husband Collis, and two babies, Collen and Elaine to Kentwood in 1942. Kentwood was home for her until 1996. She embraced the residents of Kentwood and the surrounding communities.  She became a member of Oak Grove A.M.E. Church where she continued to sing, play and participate in local, conference and national church activities.

Shirley was a phenomenal woman! Her life was filled with doing for others and sharing with other. Even with having to raise five daughters and a son., she took on many tasks. She could do anything! She would do any job from repairing electrical appliances, to sewing her daughters' clothing from feed sack to canning fruit and vegetables to herding cattle. She was always her husband's help mate-writing papers, typing papers, running a store, teaching school, directing school's choir, serving a guidance counselor and earning a Masters Degree from Atlanta University.
Mary McLeod Bethune


Source: The Funeral Program of Shirley Lee 
Cross Temple. 

As the only African-American and female among a filed of nine candidates for state representative, Shirley was one of the first primary winners. Her opponent was a former educational supervisor. She also represented Louisiana as a delegate to the International Women's Year Conference.

We have many outstanding women and men in Tangipahoa and St. Helena Parishes, Louisiana who had made great contributions to our Parish, State and Nation. If we do not educate our youth about women and men who fought for the civil rights, education and other human and civil rights in our parishes the, question is who will? What an honor to write blog about an outstanding woman who served our parish and state.