SIMS, MARY JANE (1874–1950). Mary Jane Sims, black teacher and writer, daughter of James and Nance Sims, was born in Round Rock, Texas, on February 26, 1874. She grew up and attended school there and began her teaching career at age sixteen in a small Bastrop County school for black children. After four years, she transferred to Galveston and taught until 1900. She then went to Prairie View State Normal School, where she held various teaching posts. She also began writing children's books and composed popular music. In 1920 she resigned from the school to work for the Young Women's Christian Association, but left that position soon after to teach in Temple. She remained in Temple for three years, then returned to Round Rock to teach. As a Jeanes School teacher, she supervised public education for rural black students in Williamson and Travis counties, often in remote areas. From 1925 to 1931 she also codirected a six-week summer Christian-education program at Hopewell School in Round Rock where she taught remedial reading to younger children. In 1927 she completed her bachelor's degree at Samuel Huston College in Austin. She subsequently transferred to Austin and taught in black schools there. She taught primary-grade children at Gregory School in 1930 and at Olive Street School from 1931 to 1943. The district reportedly acknowledged her skill in nurturing children's reading by appointing her the first black supervisor of primary reading for black elementary students. In 1942 her children's books, Carlo and Mule-eared Bunny, were published by El Organo Press.

In 1943 Sims moved to Pasadena, California, and taught reading in a private school. She returned to Austin in 1946 and, soon after, organized a preschool nursery at Greater Mount Zion Baptist Church, the first Austin nursery school for African-American youngsters. She remained active in East Austin and Round Rock until a brief illness caused her death on April 16, 1950. Her remains were buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Austin. In 1956 the Austin Education Association established the Mary Jane Sims Scholarship for Anderson High School graduates. When the Austin Independent School District built an elementary school in East Austin that year, a community campaign persuaded officials to name it for Mary Jane Sims.


Austin Mirror, February 3, 1961.

Sherilyn Brandenstein




The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

William E. Bard, "ADAMS, WALTER R.," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed March 19, 2015. Uploaded on June 9, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.