Archive for Sunday, January 13, 2013

Family and friends remember LHS math teacher Debra Green

January 13, 2013


Debra Ann Harvey Hicks Green, a graduate of Lawrence High School who later taught math there for 31 years, died Dec. 26, 2012. She was 61.

Debra Ann Harvey Hicks Green, a graduate of Lawrence High School who later taught math there for 31 years, died Dec. 26, 2012. She was 61.

When Debra Green was buried earlier this month in a small country cemetery southeast of Lawrence, a big part of the history of Lawrence High School, and all of Douglas County, was buried with her.

Debra Ann Harvey Hicks Green, a graduate of Lawrence High School who later taught math there for 31 years, died Dec. 26, 2012. She was 61.

"Her life could be a book," said Jack Hood, a social studies teacher at Lawrence High. "She and her family have been so important to the history of Lawrence, and I think Kansas University athletics back in the day. She influenced so many people as a teacher and a community leader. She bridged gaps between the different communities of Lawrence."

Green was buried Jan. 3 at Vinland Cemetery, alongside at least six generations of her family. The cemetery sits not far from the Harvey family homestead where her great-grandmother Rebecca Brooks Harvey, a former slave, settled in 1863 after being freed from a plantation in Arkansas during the Civil War.

"She got up here with four children that I know of, and she buried some on the way," said Green's mother, Dorothy Harvey. "And she was pregnant with a child. But she got here and she worked with Sheriff Stephen Ogden and started homesteading. She was able to secure quite a bit of this property."

According to family records at the Douglas County Historical Society, Rebecca Brooks Harvey was born a slave in North Carolina. Nobody knows exactly when or where. Around the age of 5, she was sold as chattel to a man who eventually brought her to Van Buren, Ark., where she grew up. There, she met her future husband, David Harvey, a teamster on the plantation. They were separated when he joined the Union Army, which took him to St. Louis and, eventually, Fort Leavenworth.

Rebecca Brooks was freed from slavery during a Union Army raid of Van Buren in December 1862. She and scores of other former slaves were brought to Kansas and arrived in Douglas County on Jan. 26, 1863 - 150 years ago this month - just a few weeks after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

it wasn't long before word of her move reached David Harvey at Fort Leavenworth. He quickly came down to Lawrence where, as Dorothy Harvey puts it, they were "legally" married, because marriages between slaves were not recognized at that time.

They worked as sharecroppers on the land of then-Sheriff Stephen Ogden, and by 1893 had managed to acquire 100 acres of their own. They raised three sons on the farm, all of whom later attended Kansas University: Frederick Douglas Grant Harvey, who became a doctor; Sherman Alan Harvey, who became a lawyer; and Edward S. Harvey, Debra's grandfather a businessman who was also the first black player on the Kansas University football team.

High school and civil unrest

Debra (Harvey) Green was born in 1951, grew up in Lawrence and attended Lawrence High during the turbulent era of the late 1960s.

Racial tensions in America were running high following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968, and Lawrence was not immune to those troubles. From 1968 through 1970, students at LHS demonstrated, organized petitions, and even engaged in walk-outs and sit-ins at the school to protest discriminatory treatment of black students.

Records from that time show the students protested what they perceived as unfair and unequal treatment of black students. There were no black students on the LHS cheering squad, for example, and no school-recognized clubs or organizations for black students. They also protested what they called an "inadequate curriculum," including the absence of any African-American history studies.

"And it was true, too," recalled longtime Lawrence High librarian Martha Oldham, who was just starting her career at the time. "But her father (Dean Harvey, 1922 - 1999) would not allow her to walk out. He said, 'You can honor everything that they're fighting for, and they're all legitimate reasons, but you can do it another way besides walking out.' He wanted to impress upon her how important an education was.

"That was her father."

Teaching career

After graduating LHS in 1969, she attended KU where she earned a bachelor's degree in education in 1973. A few years later, Green returned to her alma mater as a math teacher.

Ray Wilbur, who headed the LHS math department from 1964 to 1995 and knew Green as both a student and colleague, remembered Green a teacher who often asked to take on the most difficult students and assignments.

"And she never shied away from them," he said. "She would take some of the more difficult classes and did a great job with them. She also took some of the more advanced classes, Algebra II classes. But she did take difficult students, did a great job with them, encouraged them and helped them get through their math requirements."

Green taught at Lawrence High from 1976 until her retirement in 2007. Along the way, she earned her master's degree at KU in 1999. And she spent 11 years sponsoring cheerleading squads, the same squads she couldn't have joined during her own years in high school.

"Debra Green was a professional teacher in the highest regard, LHS librarian Oldham said. "She had high standards, but if you had a problem she always had time to talk. Debra touched lives in a positive nature."

To honor her memory, Lawrence High officials are establishing a memorial scholarship fund. The scholarship will be awarded to one student per year with financial need who has experienced a personal or family crisis, overcome it and decided to make themselves eligible to attend a four-year college, junior college or vocational school.

Donations can be made through the Lawrence School Foundation, 110 McDonald Drive, Lawrence 66044.


Bob Forer 5 years, 4 months ago

An inspiration for many and a wonderful woman and teacher. She will be missed.

And let this be a reminder to those of you who derisively refer to Missouri fans as "slavers." Neither KU nor Lawrence was ever considered on the leading edge of the civil rights movement. integration in Kansas was long in coming, and racism was alive and well in Lawrence well into the early seventies.

I remember there were no black cheerleaders on the Central Jr. High first team, even though Central was where most of the Lawrence blacks attended.

Why do you think Wilt had mixed feelings about his years in Lawrence?

So next time, Jayhawks and Lawrencians, don't be so quick to pat yourselves on the back. You were all on the sidelines when the brave and courageous changed America. Take a back seat, please, and quit attacking Missourians for the sole purpose of propping yourselves up. You all were not much better.

NotReallyChuck 5 years, 4 months ago

Debra attended Fairview School District No. 21 and Kaw Valley School District No. 95 (1950's and '60's), where she was a cheerleader. Wonderful family and a part of Douglas County history!

tdiddy 5 years, 4 months ago

Thanks for writing this great well deserved article Peter. Mrs. Green meant a lot to Lawrence and the whole LHS student body. It was a great honor to have her as a teacher and counselor and friend. She will be missed, but her legacy lives on.

Martha Oldham 5 years, 4 months ago

Not only was Debra Green a wonderful teacher, but she was active in the Native American Methodist Church. Her voice reached to many people. She will be missed!

Trumbull 5 years, 4 months ago

Good story. Enjoyed reading it and learning something about a good teacher.

Deb Engstrom 5 years, 4 months ago

I had the privilege of co-teaching classes with Debra Green. I learned so much from her about relating to kids as kids regardless of ability, ethnicity, or race. Her classroom was a safe haven for many students who struggled in school. Many times, since she retired I found my self asking, "What would Debra Green do?"

Heather Perry 5 years, 4 months ago

So sad I had her as a high school teacher................she was a great teacher!! RIP

Clickker 5 years, 4 months ago

A truly amazing story of Ms Green and her family. Although I am not sure about
"And she spent 11 years sponsoring cheerleading squads, the same squads she couldn't have joined during her own years in high school."

I thought that at that time, anyone could be a Cheerleader at LHS, the students tried out and were voted on by the student body. There were no race restrictions, its just that many minorities either didnt try out or were not voted on by the majority. After the walkouts, I thought that there were mandated minorities on the cheer squads.

Bob Forer 5 years, 4 months ago

Girls had to try out for cheerleader and were chosen by the coach, not the students. Black girls tried out, but they were never chosen for the varsity team.

Clickker 5 years, 4 months ago

I didnt realize the coach picked them. I do know that when I went to LHS in the early 70's we (the student body) voted during an assembly. We had to vote for X amount of white girls and X amount of minorities. This was after the protests/walkout.

kancan5 5 years, 4 months ago

That's not true; I was there, too. They were voted on by the student body. Several of my black friends were very talented in sports, and had been cheerleaders at Central Jr Hi. But as the article said, there was a lot of racial tension in the late 60'sd at LHS. There was in fact a Black American club, and there was specifically a Black Spring Queen and also a Native American Spring Queen. Because of a lot of peer pressure, the black girls did not try out for cheerleaders in the open tryouts; they surely would have been elected if they did, because they had had already been elected in Jr Hi and were very popular.

Bob Forer 5 years, 4 months ago

I went to central. I still have the Mustang year book. There were no blacks on the first team. Angela Morrison was on the second team, along with a couple of other black girls. Angela was very good looking, bright, and well liked. But she was black.

Please don't sugarcoat the truth.

The student body selections occurred after the walkout in the late sixties. The Black and Native America Spring Queens were not added til after that, in the seventies.

Lawrence Morgan 5 years, 4 months ago

Thank you your the excellent comments, especially The Sycophant. There's a lot to be learned from in his comments, and they should be expanded upon in the future.

I did not know Debra Green, but even reading about her in this article imparts a great deal of information to me. We don't want to forget these people and what they have done.

In a future blog, I will discuss ways in which Lawrence can really honor people who have made a difference.

Michael Bennett 5 years, 4 months ago

RIP Mrs. Green. I had her for Algebra II at LHS, she was a very sweet woman with a love for education.

Tara Painter 5 years, 4 months ago

she was a great teacher, being slow as a kid it was always hard not to feel stupid, but she'd give me a hug and tell me there were no stupid people and to ask many questions as I needed. She never got stressed when I had trouble with homework. My favorite High School teacher. I'll miss you.

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