LEBANON, Tenn. (WKRN) – Around town, people refer to her as “Miss Hattie,” and even though she is no longer teaching in the classroom, her legacy as a gifted educator lives on through a school named in her honor.
Hattie Bryant began her career as an educator in the 1940’s after graduating from Tennessee State University.
From 1944 to 1966 she taught at the all black Market Street School, until one day her boss approached her with a new assignment.
“He wanted me to leave Market Street and he told me we want you to come over to the junior high and we are going to get a classroom set up for you,” she recalled.
At the time the junior high school had not yet become integrated and Miss Hattie became the first African-American teacher to work at an all-white school in the district.
“Some of the teachers were a little standoffish, if we want to use that word. We had a vacant period where we would go into the lounge and when I would go into the lounge some of them would leave,” she said.
Miss Hattie persevered and she taught at Lebanon Junior High for 13 years and her career with the Lebanon School District spanned more than three decades.
In 2010, she was honored for her contribution as a gifted educator and she helped break ground on a school named in her honor.
Now at 93-years-old, she considers herself very fortunate to be able to visit the Winfree-Bryant Middle School whenever she wants.
“I tell everybody they gave me my roses and I can smell them before I die. Many times they wait until someone dies before they name a road or a school after them, and I can smell the roses and visit the school and see the children,” she told News 2.
Her daughter Marilyn Bryant said she is so proud of her mother’s legacy and was thrilled a school was named in her honor.
“I was so proud of her and she was just so enthralled and so proud and so honored, and I was just very happy and honored that they chose her,” she said.
Winfree Bryant Middle School opened in the Lebanon Special School District on August 1, 2011.