Ada M. DeBlanc-Yerwood
Ada Marie DeBlanc-Yerwood Simond (November 14, 1903-October 22, 1989) was a children's author, historian, co-founder of the W.H. Passon Historical Society, and co-founder of the George Washington Carver Museum in Austin.
Life and Education
Ada DeBlanc was born on November 14, 1903 in Iberia Parish, Louisiana. Her family was descended from an eighteenth century French explorer, Louis Juchereau de St. Denis. Her parents were illiterate Creoles who spoke a dialect of French patois. Her family was farmers who grew soybeans, sugarcane and rice. In 1914, her family relocated to Austin, Texas due to several years of poor farm production. While in Austin, DeBlanc's father worked in a drugstore and her mother worked as a seamstress. Since DeBlanc was a teenager, she worked as a housekeeper and was the caretaker of her younger siblings.
Ada DeBlanc, with the help of friends, was able to take the equivalency tests necessary to earn diplomas from the college preparatory and business departments. After working as a secretary at Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College, she married Aubrey Askey and had three children. They divorced in 1927.
In 1929, Ada DeBlanc married Dr. Charles Yerwood. Against her husband's wishes, she decided to return to school. She worked as a secretary at Tillotson College in exchange for free tuition. In 1934, she received a B.S. in Family Life Education. She, then, went on to Iowa State College where she earned an M.S. Home Economics Education and an M.S. Child Development in 1936. Her thesis was titled: “Certain Housing Conditions and Activities of Negro Girls enrolled in Federally-Aided Schools in Texas as One Index of Their Educational Needs”.
Charles Yerwood died in 1940. Ada had previously been inspired by him to work in public health so, in 1942, she became a public health representative for Texas Tuberculosis Association. She served in that role for 25 years. Her role required her to travel across Texas to educate poor families about topics such as sanitation, nutrition, disease prevention, safety and medical resources. She also recruited volunteers to form community health organizations in the towns she visited.
During this time, she also continued her studies in public health, human development, conflict resolution, and community organization at a number of schools including University of Michigan and University of Chicago. In 1949, she married Luther Simond, a teacher.
In 1967, Ada retired due to age but continued pursuing numerous other positions. When asked why she would not retire, she said, “Old is a state of mind. When you do nothing, you become nothing. The need to be productive—give life to something—doesn’t automatically stop at age 65 or 70.”.
In 1977, she began her career as a historian and writer. She wrote and published a series of children's books that depicted historically accurate stories of black families living in Austin in the 1900s. In 1979, she co-founded the W. H. Passon Historical Society to promote Austin's Black history. In 1980, she also co-founded the George Washington Carver Museum in a building that was Austin's first Black library.
Ada DeBlanc Simond died of a heart attack on October 22, 1989.
After completing her degree at Iowa State College, Ada DeBLanc became head of Home Economics at Tillotson College.
- She received recognition from the Texas Legislature's Black Caucus, The Texas Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and the Texas Historical Commission for her literary work.
- She received the Arthur B. DeWitty Award from the NAACP for her commitment to human rights
- The Austin Independent School District and Huston-Tillotson College endowed a scholarship in her name to recognize her work in education
- In 1980, she received a distinguished service award from Austin mayor, Carole McClellan
- Austin City Council announced November 16, 1983, "Ada Simond Day"
- Inducted into the Texas Women's Hall of Fame in 1986
- On July 20, 2015, the Austin Historic Landmarks Commission designated Ada and Luther Simond's home an Austin landmark.