Black History Month spotlight: Willie Pruitt, Sr.

BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) - "I am Willie Pruitt. I was born April the 17th, 1929. As of right now, I am 90 years old. I met my wife Mell Ruth Pruitt who has made me what I am today," said Willie Pruitt, Sr.

Willie Pruitt and his late wife Mell, graduated from Prairie View A&M in 1952 and moved to a then-segregated Bryan.

"She went over to Kemp as a teacher, Kemp High School and I went over to Washington Elementary School," said Pruitt.

Willie worked at the first black public school in Brazos County, and eventually became an assistant principal at Bryan High. He says it was a time he'll never forget.

"It was all expired books. Pages were all torn out. All the white kid's names were in the books. It was some experience to go through all of that, but finally, as we went along it got better and better. Finally, after being integrated for the first two or three years, we were able to get along with each other," said Pruitt.

The couple retired after more than 30 years in education, but their dedication to our community didn't end.

In 1990, the Pruitts led the creation of the North Bryan Community Center, and right across the street where Washington Elementary once sat, the couple founded Brazos Valley African American Museum. It's the only African American museum between Houston and Dallas.

"I thought it was very important so the kids would know where they came from and where they want to be going," said Pruitt.

Shortly after the museum opened, the city officially changed the street name from East 20th Street to Pruitt Street.

Pruitt says after everything he's witnessed over the last 90 years, he's happy to see how far Bryan has come.

"Right now, I think we're doing pretty good. Most of us are more educated, we are more loving, and kind and respecting, and respect each other and I just think it's a whole lot better," said Pruitt. "It was a terrible thing to go through, but we made it. It's just amazing how time changes things."