When Lois Shaw thought about who should give the keynote speech for the Doyle School’s Black History Month Celebration she thought of one person — Sylvia Doyle.
Last year, it was almost by accident, that Sylvia Doyle reconnected with her Kerrville roots to discover the story of her remarkable great grandparents who played a key role in educating the Hill Country’s black children in the early 1900s.
Shaw was hopeful that Doyle would accept.
“This feeling just came over me that she should come back for Black History,” said Shaw, adding that some people didn’t think the Doyle would come back. “I said it was worth a try. So, I called and I readily accepted.”
Doyle, who lives in Washington, D.C. and who works for the U.S. Census Bureau, discovered her family’s Texas roots when her son embarked on a project for school. That led him to discover Henry Doyle, a populist leader, who came to Kerrville to help alleviate his suffering from tuberculosis, which ultimately killed him in 1913.
However, Doyle’s wife, Annie, stayed here and founded an all-black school that would eventually bear the family’s name. Sylvia Doyle was aware of her great grandfather, but the stories of her family’s impact on generations of black schoolchildren in the Hill Country had been lost in the family’s history. Her son’s project ended up becoming her own, as she scoured the internet for more information before finding local historian Joe Herring Jr.’s blog post on the work of Annie Doyle.
On Nov. 25 of last year, Sylvia Doyle had a business trip to San Antonio and decided to make a side trip to Kerrville to see the Doyle School. The day proved emotional.
The first person she met was Lois Shaw.
On Saturday, Sylvia Doyle gladly returned to Kerrville to speak to a standing-room-only crowd about her great grandmother’s legacy, and the importance of the day.
“I thought I was going to come, take a picture and go back home,” Doyle said of her first trip to Kerrville last year. “I didn’t think there was anything more to it than a plaque. Something that didn’t have anything to do with me.
“It wasn’t just a historical marker, but it was a living place. I sat down with Ms. Shaw and she showed me a book of all the Doyle exes, reunions and things that have gone on in the community center for years and years. All of the different events. All the things that are held here over many, many years.”
During her speech, Doyle told the audience how emotional it was for her to hear the stories and the song “Purple and White” sung during her first visit.
“They told me stories, they told me tales and they sang a song,” Doyle said. “They showed me photographs and that is history.”
The day not only featured Doyle’s speech but also remembrances by two former students of the school — Annie Walker and Mable Neal. There was also a choir performance that was directed by Shaw.
Neal’s speech proved to be a humorous remembrance of the work of B.T. “Prof” Wilson, who was firm in his commitment to education and discipline.
“Although our school was small, and didn’t have that many teachers, and didn’t have many things that other schools had, it graduated people who would become educators, nurses and physicians,” Neal said.
That legacy is not forgotten on Doyle.
“I could see the line of history coming from my great grandmother into this community and spreading out to all of the people and the lives were touched for years and years,” Doyle said. “It’s not the past at all. It’s today It’s what we’re living right now. We are now, even in this room, the history for our great, great-grandchildren.”