Jim Plyler remembered for leading Tyler ISD through integration of schools

Jimmy "Jim" Plyler, superintendent of Tyler ISD from 1969-1979, remembered for his leadership during integration of Tyler schools.

Tyler ISD trustees hailed Monday the leadership of the late Jimmy "Jim" Plyler for leading the district as superintendent during the early days of integration and for his continued support of the district through the years.

A memorial service for Plyler will be at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at First Presbyterian Church. Plyler, 91, died June 9 at his home.

Plyler served as Tyler ISD superintendent from 1969-1979. A year after he was appointed superintendent, the federal district court issued the first of several desegregation orders for Tyler ISD.

"Through all he had to go through with integration and segregation and bringing our community together, I don't think I've ever heard anyone say a negative word about him," Tyler ISD school board President Andy Bergfeld said. "That's a lot to me that someone could go through leading a community and a district through that time period and be held in as high esteem as he has been."

Bergfeld added that during his time serving on the school board, Plyler was "a constant face anytime Tyler ISD needed support."

Board member and retired educator the Rev. Orenthia Mason, who Plyler hired in 1973 to work in Tyler ISD, remember Plyler as a man who pursued excellence and was well-respected among the African-American community.

"Mr. Plyler had high expectations of all his employees. He came at a very crucial time during integration, so I'm sure he had a lot of battles that he had to fight," she said. "Even with all of those battles and all those challenges, I can say the African American community holds him in high esteem."

She added that Plyler did everything he could to help principals improve and do their jobs well. Plyler was always visible in the school district and supported Tyler ISD even long after his retirement, she said.

"Until his health failed, he was always attending various functions and supported people if they had a family issue. We honor the great memory of Jim Plyler."

Plyler was instrumental in the 1971 hiring of Jean Washington, who taught at Hubbard Middle School 30 years and is now a school board member, and in the hiring of her husband, Therelee Washington, as principal of Bonner Elementary.

"Anytime anything happened with us as a family, Mr. Plyler was there," Mrs. Washington said. "He always supported the family. My Plyler was a wonderful, wonderful man for Tyler."

Current Tyler ISD Superintendent Dr. Marty Crawford recalled that when his dad was a young superintendent in Lindale, he had positive to things to say about Plyler.

"He was always a guy my dad could call for advice or for mentoring," Crawford said.

Although Tyler ISD Trustee Dr. Patricia Nation did not know Plyler, she said, "I do know his legacy is one that will continue and it was nothing but positive, so he will be missed."

Other trustees did not know Plyler either but said they appreciate his service.

Plyler began his education career teaching and coaching at Schreiner Institute in Kerrville, moved to Lufkin and then in 1951 became a teacher and coach at the old Tyler High School.

Plyler was named assistant principal of Robert E. Lee High School in 1958, principal of Moore Junior High in 1961 and director of personnel in 1964, a position he held until his appointment as superintendent in 1969.

Plyler was active in numerous professional organizations, civic organizations and First Presbyterian Church.

Twitter: @Betty_TMT







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