||On January 21, 1963, Dyess Elementary was the first school in the Abilene Independent School District to integrate all students. African American military families living on Dyess Air Force Base were previously forced to send their children to the segregated Woodson School, which was located further from the base than Dyess Elementary. Although the U.S. Supreme court ruled in 1954 that school segregation was unconstitutional, the State of Texas passed House Bill 65 that prohibited the desegregation of schools without a local referendum.
However, in December 1962, Texas Attorney General Will Wilson ruled that HB65 was unconstitutional. The Department of Defense also threatened to pull funding from Dyess Elementary if it was not integrated during the ’62-’63 school year. Abilene Independent School District Board Members voted unanimously on January 14, 1963, to begin the integration of district schools. Dyess was chosen as the first school to integrate kindergarten through sixth grade. The board quickly approved new attendance zones to allow parents to choose between keeping their children at Woodson, or integrating them at Dyess. The following week, on January 21, 38 African American students began school at Dyess Elementary.
The remaining AISD schools desegregated kindergarten through sixth grade in the fall of 1963, with the other grades integrating gradually. Complete integration of Abilene schools was achieved in 1970, 16 years after the U.S. Supreme court’s initial ruling.