NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) — A woman who helped the desegregation of Nashville schools has died at the age of 99.
Mary Louise Watson died peacefully in her sleep at home.
In 1957, Watson bravely walked into Jones Elementary School in Nashville with her daughter Barbra Jean, desegregating it.
The Watsons were one of 11 families that first integrated into Metro schools. A news release said Watson was threatened by her white neighbors that Barbra Jean would be kidnapped or that her home would be burnt down - but Watson was determined.
“I wanted my children to have a good chance to succeed, the same as everybody else. Segregation never helped nobody," Watson said while speaking to a reporter about why she took the risk. "I hope what we did back then has made a little bit of a difference. I am glad I made the effort anyway. While we’ve come a long way since 1957, there is still a lot of work to do.”
Watson's contributions to the Nashville civil rights movement earned her the prestigious Freedom Sister Award in 2010.
“Keep teaching, is the bottom line, you want to keep teaching that this is the better way. Teach people to love and respect everybody, not just some. Love everybody,” was her mantra.