Educators. Business owners. Mothers. Women who were first. Women who shaped churches and started organizations that still benefit Longview.
As Longview celebrates its 150th anniversary, Charm magazine considered the role women have played in the city’s development. The conclusion we came to: Longview’s history is filled with women who blazed one trail after another, probably too many to ever fully identify and list.
They are the women whose names we see on buildings and other facilities around town, the women whose deaths left holes in our city’s fabric and the women who continue to influence the city’s development.
“Typically in early Longview, it was kind of like in other early cities of its size, women were very involved with their local churches,” said Dr. Meredith May, a history instructor at Kilgore College who has studied the history of women in East Texas. “(Women) were the ones who were basically the backbones of their churches. They were also the ones forming social organizations around the turn of the century. ... It was women — when public education didn’t really take off in Longview, public education came to Longview pretty late — it was women who were founding private schools to ensure some kind of education for kids.”
Women also have been entrepreneurs throughout the city’s history. Like women’s entrepreneurial history in general, the businesses that women in Longview historically have owned weren’t among the larger companies, May said.
“Which is one reason it gets overlooked, because it’s small scale, but it’s not small for her family,” May said.
Charm magazine asked people around the community to tell us about women they believe had great influence on Longview’s past and present. We also conducted an informal, online survey asking people to vote on the women in our recent past who they think were the most influential.
One woman rose easily to the top in voting: Dr. Peggy Coghlan, who died in 2018. Coghlan was a longtime Kilgore College employee with a list of “firsts” under her belt and played a huge role in establishing two centerpieces of life in Longview: the Longview Public Library and Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center.
“She does a great job of illustrating my point — you don’t have to hold political office or run for political office to be extra influential,” May said. “That’s kind of a big theme of women’s history.”
Charm magazine, with the help of our online poll, has selected Coghlan as the most influential woman of Longview’s most recent 50 years, but we’d also like to recognize a long list of women in our past who are no longer with us but who made our city what it is today, in alphabetical order. (Also, you’ll find women who are recognized in names of buildings and other facilities around town in a separate list.)
• Dr. Peggy Coghlan •
Coghlan was a driving force behind several landmark institutions. She was the first assistant director for the Kilgore College Rangerettes, under founder Gussie Nell Davis; the first woman to receive a Doctor of Education from Texas A&M University; and later the first woman to be named vice president of Kilgore College in 1993 until her retirement in 1996. She led the charge to raise more than $1 million for books and furnishings for what was the city’s new public library in 1987. She and her husband led fundraising efforts to build the Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center debt-free.
• Dr. Effie Kaye Adams •
Adams was the first coordinator/supervisor of Longview’s black elementary schools and a Fulbright Teacher who wrote “Experiences of a Fulbright Teacher” and “Tall Black Texans: Men of Courage.” She is credited for her work in helping to integrate Longview schools. and she was founder of the East Texas Educators Research Council.
• Mary Helen Bair •
Bair was one of the founder’s of Longview’s Thanksgiving Food Drive in 1985 and led the effort for 25 years. She also was operations manager of Radio Station KFRO for decades and was active in a number of other civic organizations. The Rotary Club of Longview named her Citizen of the Year in 2009.
• Armatha Barryer Banks •
Banks was a Beckville-area native who later moved to Longview and became a civil rights activist, leading lunch counter sit-ins and bus rides. In her later years in Longview, she remained active in civil rights issues, including helping with voter registration efforts.
• Amelia Belding •
Belding was a longtime chairwoman of the Gregg County Historical Commission, organizing member of the Captain William Young Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and a member of the Sabine River Chapter of the Daughters of the American Colonies. She also was state chairman of genealogical records and helped lead restoration efforts of the Everett Building, which houses the Gregg County Historical Museum.
• Joan Berry •
Berry was a Longview City Council member who served with a number of city boards and commissions and other organizations.
• Viola Cobb Bivins •
Bivins helped organize the local chapter of the American Red Cross in 1917, among other community activities.
• Eva Jean Finch Blount •
Blount was active in numerous community organizations and at First Christian Church. She was the wife of well-known local lawyer R.E. “Peppy” Blount.
• Ann Lacy Crain •
The daughter of Rogers Lacy, who started the oil and gas production company R. Lacy Services, Ann Lacy Craine was known for her philanthropic nature. She donated the Everett Building to the Gregg County Historical Museum in honor of her parents, Rogers and Lawson Keener Lacy. The Aeolian-Skinner pipe organs at First Baptist Church and First Presbyterian Churches in downtown Longview also were gifts from Crain, and she supported many other nonprofit organizations. Longview World of Wonders, the children’s discovery center in downtown Longview, was dedicated in honor of her parents through a donation from the Crain Foundation.
• Mattie Castleberry •
She was owner of Mattie’s Ballroom, a famed oil-boom era dance hall that was on what it is now FM 2087 between Kilgore and Longview, and later the Reo, which also became a famous Texas dance hall in Longview.
• Odell Everhart •
Everhart was a longtime educator and wife of J.L. Everhart, another longtime local educator and principal. They both worked in Longview’s segregated school system and then participated as educators in integration in Longview schools.
• Arlyne Flanagan •
She and her husband, Tracy, built the Arlyne Theater, a famed local theater on Methvin Street in downtown Longview
• Claire Smith Foster •
Foster was active in numerous community organizations, including founder of what was the Sabine Valley Mental Health and Retardation Center (now Community Healthcore), art and theater groups, Longfellows and helped move the Longview Charity League into the Junior League of America. She also was known for establishing the Stockpot with her business partners, which brought world-famous chefs such as Julia Child to Longview.
• Jane Cunningham Galosy •
A sixth-generation Longview native, she was known for her sense of fashion and operated Galosy’s, a women’s clothing store, from her family homestead, the Rockwall Farm. She was active in a number of community organizations, including the Junior League.
• Joy Guidroz •
Guidroz headed up the Buses for Longview Committee, the group that successfully led efforts to start Longview’s public transit system.
• Hazel Hickey •
Hickey was a longtime leader in Longview’s banking industry through Texas Bank and Trust and a force in the cultural and nonprofit communities in Longview.
• Dottie Hunt Kleeb •
Kleeb was a former New York City Rockette who founded a Longview dance school in 1958 that continues to operate today under her daughter’s leadership. Hunt also helped start the dance department at Kilgore College.
• E. Mae Jacobs •
She was one of the few women in the state who were school administrators when she was principal of the early Ned Williams school. The school originally operated under various names as a school for black students from the late 1800s to 1971
• Ollie Jenkins •
Jenkins was a black Girl Scout leader who in 1946 rallied her troop to convert an unused old Works Progress Administration building in Longview into a library and community center for black residents.
• Virginia Kelly •
She was the daughter of G.A. Kelly, owner of Kelly Plow, which operated in Longview from about 1882 to the 1960s. Virginia Kelly influenced life in Longview in numerous ways, including as first president of the Women’s Federation of Clubs that was formed in 1934 in cooperation by more than 20 clubs in Longview. The group built the Longview Community Center, which was completed in 1939, and operated the facility for many years.
• Evelyn LeTourneau •
With her husband R.G. LeTourneau, she founded a manufacturing business making earth-moving equipment that continues to operate in Longview. When they were flying over Longview in 1946, considering the city for the site of their factory, she saw what was a vacant Army hospital and its 200 frame buildings. She suggested starting a school there for World War II veterans returning from the war. LeTourneau University is the product of that idea.
• Jo Lloyd •
Lloyd was one of the original organizers of Women in Longview Day and a community volunteer.
• Dolly Northcutt •
A longtime civic leader and member of one of Longview’s early families, Northcutt was named “First Lady of the First Century of Longview” during Longview’s centennial celebration. She helped start the city’s first library, started the Captain William Young Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, was involved in beautification efforts, served on the Gregg County Historical Foundation board of directors that helped establish the Gregg County Historical Museum and was an organizing member of the Longview Federation of Women’s Clubs, which built the Longview Community Center.
• Kate Womack Rembert •
Married to Longview’s first millionaire, F.T. Rembert, the couple owned the Rembert Theatre and Palace Hotel in downtown Longview and were among investors who built Lake Lomond in Longview.
• Fanny Lacy Scoggins •
With her brother, Claude Lacy, Scoggins started the Lacy Telephone Co. in 1896 and received a franchise from the city council for the business. She purchased a switchboard in Waco, and her brother, who was in the hardware business, strung the telephone lines.
• Agnes Scruggs •
Scruggs led Longview’s Bicentennial Committee in 1970 and an effort to make Longview a “City of Flags,” encouraging the installation of flags at local public facilities and businesses and at people’s homes. She also established a Fourth of July parade that Longview held starting in 1968 to about the mid-1980s, among other work in the community.
• Grace Shore •
Shore, who operated TEC Well Service and Shore Production with her husband, Ron Shore, in Longview, was a member of the Texas State Board of Education from 1998-2002 and was its chairwoman for 2001-02. She also was a board member of the Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corp. from 2003-05 and a member of the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission from 1996-2004. Shore was active in a number of community organizations as well.
• Karen Silkwood •
Born in Longview, Silkwood became the first woman on the union negotiating team at Kerr-McGee Cimarron Fuel Fabrication site in Oklahoma, where she made plutonium pellets. She testified about her concerns about health and safety practices at the nuclear facility before the Atomic Energy Commission and died in a mysterious car crash in 1984. Meryl Streep portrayed Silkwood in the 1985 Academy Award-nominated film, “Silkwood.”
• Wilma Godfrey Spear •
Spear owned Thompson’s, a longtime downtown department store with her husband, Emmett, from 1926 when they opened the store until 1945, when they sold it. The store continued to operate for several more decades.
• Pam Surles •
Surles was the longtime director of Asbury House, a preschool for low-income families, and then Prep School at First Christian Church, as well as a community volunteer.