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Three black trailblazers honored as Seattle heroes

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by John Iwasaki
Seattle Post Intelligencer

Being one of the first black teachers hired by Seattle Public Schools in the late 1940s was stressful enough. It didn’t help that Virginia Galloway replaced a white teacher, no matter that he lacked credentials.

She remembered how the principal visited her first-grade classroom at the old Horace Mann School in the Central Area and played “Old Black Joe” on the harmonica.

When Galloway asked him to refrain, he told her it was “his school.”

Replied Galloway: “And this is my classroom.”

That kind of trailblazing boldness was recognized Friday when the African-American Elders Program honored Galloway, Dorothy Hollingsworth and the Rev. Samuel B. McKinney as “community heroes.”

“Without you, a lot of us wouldn’t enjoy the comforts that we have,” case manager Gwendolyn Williams said in introducing the honorees to about 80 people at Catholic Community Services. The agency sponsors the elders program, which is paid for primarily by the city of Seattle and helps deliver social and health services.

McKinney, pastor emeritus at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Seattle, is an institution in the local African-American community. Hollingsworth, the first black woman to serve on a Washington school board, also served in other visible public positions.

Galloway’s story is lesser known. The Washington, D.C., native started her career at a “colored school” in Ellerbe, N.C., where she taught a variety of grades and subjects and “kept the stove going.”

She later moved west after Seattle Public Schools had hired its first African-American teacher, Thelma Dewitty, in 1947.

“I want everybody to remember her name,” said Galloway, 92. “After that, I was one of the first five” black teachers hired.

Galloway later taught at Harrison and Maple Leaf elementary schools, served in middle management for the district and was vice principal at Lafayette and principal at Genesee Hill and Maple Leaf elementary schools.

After retiring from the district, she worked as principal at St. Mary’s School in Seattle. In retirement, she volunteered in schools on three continents.

In 1965, Hollingsworth, 87, a South Carolina native, became the first director of Head Start in Washington when she assumed the program’s leadership in Seattle Public Schools. She served as the city’s director of early childhood education and was a member of the Seattle School Board from 1975 to 1981, and the state Board of Education.

The career of McKinney, 81, includes a long list of pastoral, Christian education, economic development and community service achievements.

The honorees are community and historical treasures, the type often forgotten by younger generations, said the Rev. Alan Benson, former pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of the Bible in Seattle

Senior citizens should not have to be raising their grandchildren, struggle to find rides to their doctor’s appointments or spend their days in loneliness, he told the audience, challenging them to commit to “action, not lip service.”

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