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The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard

Mayor Patsy Jo Hilliard was born on August 20, 1937 in Denver, Colorado. Her father, Elmer Dudley Morrison II, was a chair car attendant, while her mother, Jessie Morrison, was a model. In 1955, Hilliard graduated from Manual High School in Denver, which she attended with her future husband, Asa Hilliard, III. She took classes at Los Angeles State College and worked as a playground supervisor for the Los Angeles public schools in 1956. Hilliard received her B.A. degree in interdisciplinary social sciences from San Francisco State University in 1976. In 2008, Sojourner-Douglass College in Baltimore, Maryland presented her with an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

Hilliard has a decades-long career working in schools. From 1956 to 1961, she was a summer playground supervisor for the Denver Public School System. In 1964, Hilliard taught first grade at Bright Functions School in Monrovia, Liberia. While in Liberia, she also served as volunteer coordinator for the organization American Women in Liberia. In 1975, Hilliard became the first African American and the first woman board member of the South San Francisco Unified School District, a position she filled until 1980. Hilliard made history again in 1993 when she was elected mayor of East Point, Georgia. She was both the first woman and the first African American ever elected to that position. Hilliard remained mayor until 2006, longer than any other East Point mayor. In 2007, Hilliard hosted a television talk show entitled “In the Know with Patsy Jo.” She now serves as CEO of Waset Educational Production Company, which she founded in collaboration with her husband, and leads educational tours to Egypt with the organization Ancient African Study Tours.

Throughout her career, Hilliard has worked with many organizations, including the East Point Business Association, the Fulton County School District’s Superintendents Advisory Board, the Atlanta Airport Rotary Club, the Atlanta High Museum of Art, and the DeYoung Museum of Art. She has served on the Executive Board for the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP, and has served as President for the Atlanta chapter of Links, Inc. and the Atlanta Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Hilliard has received dozens of awards, including the Drum Major for Justice Award from the SCLC, the Torch Award from the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and a Public Service Award from Alpha Kappa Alpha. In addition to being counted one of the 100 Most Influential Black Women for six years, she has been inducted into the Atlanta Business League Women’s Hall of Fame.

Hilliard has four children and is the widow of famous historian and EducationMaker Asa G. Hilliard III.

Patsy Jo Hilliard was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 15, 2010.

Accession Number

A2010.085

Sex

Female

Interview Date

7/15/2010

Last Name

Hilliard

Marital Status

Widow

Middle Name

Jo

Schools

Whittier ECE-8 School

Cole Junior High School

Manual High School

San Francisco State University

Colorado State University

California State University, Los Angeles

First Name

Patsy

Birth City, State, Country

Denver

HM ID

HIL13

Favorite Season

All Seasons

State

Colorado

Favorite Vacation Destination

Africa, Ghana, Liberia

Favorite Quote

Be True To Thyself.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Interview Description
Birth Date

8/20/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Chicken, Ice Cream

Short Description

Education administrator and mayor The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard (1937 - ) was the first African American and the first female mayor of East Point, Georgia. She served on the Executive Board of the Atlanta NAACP and as President of the Atlanta chapters of The Links, Inc. and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Employment

Denver Public Schools

Los Angeles Public Schools

Bright Functions School

South San Francisco Unified School District

City of East Point, Georgia

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard describes her father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard describes her father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard remembers her paternal grandmother and step-grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard describes her paternal grandfather and step-grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard talks about her paternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard describes her father's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard describes her mother

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard describes her mother's personality and profession, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard describes her mother's personality and profession, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard talks about playing bridge

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard remembers her mother's charm school in Denver, Colorado

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard describes her mother's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard talks about her early religious experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard describes her experiences at Whittier Elementary School in Denver, Colorado

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard remembers Cole Junior High School in Denver, Colorado

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard describes her neighborhood in Denver, Colorado

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard talks about integration in Denver, Colorado

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard remembers the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard recalls her classmates and teachers at Manual High School in Denver, Colorado

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard talks about her extracurricular activities

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard describes her college and professional aspirations

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard recalls meeting her husband, Asa Hilliard, III

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard describes her experiences at Los Angeles State College of Applied Arts and Sciences

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard recalls her introduction to Denver's city politics

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard describes her husband's teaching career and research

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard recalls her family life in San Francisco, California

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard describes her experiences in Liberia

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard talks about her civic involvement in Liberia

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard recalls founding the Liberian chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard describes her election to the South San Francisco Unified School District board

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard talks about her involvement with The Links, Incorporated

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard describes her civic activities upon moving to Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard recalls her mayoral campaign in East Point, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard remembers her accomplishments as mayor of East Point, Georgia, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard remembers her accomplishments as mayor of East Point, Georgia, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard talks about the development of the Camp Creek Marketplace in East Point, Georgia

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard remembers her travels with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard remembers her travels with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard talks about her work with the National Conference of Black Mayors

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard recalls her trips to Egypt

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard talks about her radio show, 'In the Know with Patsy Jo'

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard remembers her husband's death

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard reflects upon her life

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard shares her advice for future generations

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard talks about her involvement with the NAACP

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

6$5

DATitle
The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard talks about her civic involvement in Liberia
The Honorable Patsy Jo Hilliard remembers her accomplishments as mayor of East Point, Georgia, pt. 1
Transcript
While you're there, you become a part of the American Women in Liberia. What is that that organization does (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) (Laughter) I had to laugh about that. I just did it because they asked me to. But I thought you know why do we need American Women in Liberia? But what happened--I would go to these parties and people would say, "Well, when I was in London [England], we used to do so and so." "When I was in Paris [France], we did so and so." So their whole idea is that there's nothing to do in Liberia. I mean you know there's nothing. These people don't know what they're doing and we can't help out at all. So I thought okay. And that's why I joined the American Women in Liberia 'cause I thought this is what I can add, this whole volunteer thing. So I went to several agencies in Monrovia [Liberia]. And I said, "There's a possibility that you'll get a volunteer," I said, "because you know there are a lot of Americans who are here with their husbands, and they're here for like one or two years. And they're professional. So they wanna do something to enhance their profession, and they want it to be stimulating, and at the same time to help you. So what is it that we can do in your agency that will be helpful to you?" And I wanted to make sure it was their choice because I also found that many of us will go into a situation and say this is what we're going to do whether they want you to do it or not. And I had observed that. So I had lists of things of what agencies wanted us to do. So then I made up the list and I took it back to the organization and so they agreed that we'd circulate this list. So then I was happy to go to cocktail parties and I'd hear that conversation, I'd say, "Well here, it's something right here. Why don't you check on--let me know what you wanna do and I'll get in touch with them." That was really rewarding to me because I didn't have many people complaining about what there was not--what they were not able to do in Liberia. 'Cause I think one of the first things I did is work at a hospital. And I was filling mayonnaise jars with St. Joseph baby aspirins. Now you know I mean I'm sure that's necessary, but surely there's something else I can do that, you know and that's kind--so we changed that whole thing, and I think it was really good and many of the people in Liberia were very happy for that.$$Now--how, how many years did you stay in Liberia?$$Six years, just before I came home, I became a member of the Eastern Star [Order of the Eastern Star]. And that was exciting because I--well I, yeah I was able to go to--they have a temple there. I was in the Queen Esther Chapter [Queen Esther Chapter No. 1] of Eastern Star, and so the temple in Liberia we actually met in. And I think it's been destroyed now you know because of the war [Liberian Civil War]. But it just happened that Mrs. Tubman [Antoinette Tubman] was in our same chapter. And so I had a couple of opportunities to actually go to the mansion and speak with her personally, and that was just a thrill. I tell you it was a thrill of a lifetime.$$Tell me who Mrs. Tubman is.$$She was the wife of President W.V.S. Tubman [William Tubman], who was the president of the country when we got there. He passed away I think in 1970, either '70 [1970] or '71 [1971], but he had been president for some time. And you know they often talk about, you know, how African government should be. But it was in a sen- it was not a totalitarian government, but he had a way with his paramount chiefs. If there was a dispute, he would get together with all the chiefs and they'd settle it. Now how, how they did it, they did it. But it may not be our way, but it was their way. And we need to be respectful of the way other people do things and not insist that they do it our way 'cause it doesn't always work. And I think we're learning that now with some of the confrontations that we're in presently. But it was, it was--I went back for the inauguration two or three years ago with the first president [first female president], Ellen [Ellen Johnson Sirleaf], and that was exciting because I remember President Sirleaf used to come to our house a lot and say what should be happening in Liberia. And she and my husband [HistoryMaker Asa Hilliard, III] would have these long conversations. So when I got a chance to see her when I went back for the inauguration, I said, "Okay, remember all those things that you said? Okay it's your turn to do it." 'Course it's, you know, certainly not that easy and it's difficult as a woman to do things. And she's had to really kind of make some changes in the government. And I think they're having a hard time accepting a female. But I just love that country. We're--I'm an honorary Liberian.$And what were some of the things that you accomplished your first term [as mayor of East Point, Georgia]?$$Well I feel good about, one thing is the library [East Point Branch, East Point, Georgia]. Because we've always had a library, it sits right behind city hall [East Point City Hall, East Point, Georgia], but it really did not have the kind of books that we needed. And we didn't have like where you can go in and read the newspaper or read Ebony magazine or something. It didn't represent the community as it had changed. And so I found out when I first moved here that the county put a library in every city. There were six, six cities in Fulton County [Georgia]. And the, the--and so but on the headlines of the newspaper it said, "East Point says no to Fulton County library." And I could never understand that. So one of the first things I did is meet with the county manager. We had a meeting at my office. And I said, "What can we do to get a library here?" So we started that process. And you know I had some people who didn't want it--but--and that just shows you how people work together because there was a minister, Reverend Fordsman [ph.] at an A.M.E. [African Methodist Episcopal] church came to my office one day and had a big pack of flyers because we had to get people to vote. See what I, what I did is I said let the citizens decide then, you know if we can't decide among ourselves, let's vote. We put--let everybody vote. So then we had to let people know about it. And so you know I had no money, the city didn't have money for this. And he brought this big box of flyers. Then I--there's another man who had an organization of young people in the projects. And I--he had this big bus. And I said, "Reverend, if you'll please bring some of the parents to the board meeting, the board of trustees meeting at the library." 'Cause see they had a board of trustees, both those members were wives of former council members. Nobody even really knew about the meetings, you know they just gonna have their little--and decide what was gone happen with the library. So of course I knew when the meeting was. I said, "I want you to take the people and make a presentation." And they said they, they were so surprised (laughter) when those people got off the bus and went in. So I mean that just shows you, you know if there's some direction, people are willing to do. You know they're willing to do. I mean that's--that was just so gratifying to me. And so we got out the vote and I mean like three to one, people wanted a library. And so they built the library. And we have a--they built a new library. So we were even able to keep the old building, and we have a brand new library. Then the other thing I was able to do is we have a clinic, Grady clinic [East Point Grady Health Center, East Point, Georgia], which--now that's the first time I ever--myself saw people picketing because there was some people who did not want the clinic. They didn't want it there and they were actually walking around the city hall. And I thought what is going on? But you know for some reason or another they didn't want the clinic. And I knew that clinics were now coming to communities rather than you having to go downtown or try to find 'em, and we needed it. So we built it, and it's there. And it just makes me--every time I see it (laughter), I'm happy it's there.