Ms. Josie Mae Grant was born on December 16, 1927 to Robert Maceo Grant and Willie Beatrice Flowers (Upton) in Hallettsville, Texas. Josie Mae’s parents preceded her in death. Her father passed at the age of 76 in 1984 and her mother passed at the age of 91 in 2000.
Josie Mae grew up in Schulenburg, Texas surrounded by her mother’s side of the family, consisting of numerous aunts, uncles and cousins. Her father lived in Houston, Texas about 100 miles away in the Third Ward. She spent time living with her favorite aunt, Ezella Ward, who was affectionately called Aunt Ezell and her Aunt Cleo Greenwood. Josie Mae’s mother had a set of twins, Otis Ody, Jr. and Otelia Ody (Word) in 1930, both of whom preceded her in death, and her father had no other children.
While growing up in Schulenburg, Texas, the family church was Pleasant Union Missionary Baptist Church which was under the direction of Pastor George W. Edwards. Her mother and stepfather, James Upton, attended this church until they passed. Josie Mae and her twin siblings graduated from J. A. Greene High School in Schulenburg.
Looking to escape the small-town life of Schulenburg, Josie Mae left to follow some of the Flowers family who had earlier moved to San Antonio, in search of a new life. She enrolled into St. Philip’s College, a historically black junior college and graduated with an Associates of Arts degree in May 1947. Realizing that she wanted to achieve more, she embarked on another adventure and enrolled in Huston-Tillotson College in Austin, Texas, another historically black institution. Josie Mae worked jobs throughout her time in college to pay her tuition because her family could not afford the expense. This ultimately led to her graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education in August of 1953. This same year, Josie Mae pledged to her beloved Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, whom she continuously supported until her death. The only thing she was dedicated to more than her sorority was her church.
After graduating from Huston-Tillotson College, Josie Mae took her talents on the road to the small towns of Floydada in West Texas, and then on to Cleveland in East Texas, where she exercised her passion for teaching children. She eventually found her way back to San Antonio to pursue a higher education in teaching to forge a path for upward mobility and increase her earning potential. Upon graduating with a Master of Arts in Education from the University of Incarnate Word College in 1966, she started her teaching journey with the San Antonio Independent School District. She remained with SAISD until her retirement in 1996. Her love of education and dedication touched the lives of students attending Wheatley, Highlands, Fox Tech and Jefferson High Schools in the city of San Antonio for 30 years.
Friendship Baptist Church under the direction of Pastor R.L. Archield, Sr., became her church family when she joined sometime in the 1960’s. Josie Mae served her church by using her passion of teaching, a role she was destined to do. Sister Harper served as a Sunday School teacher, Sunday School Superintendent, and a Vacation Bible School teacher. Also, she was a dedicated member of the renowned Usher Board #3 until she was physically unable to continue to serve. Sister Harper’s crowning achievement was being the Chairlady of Women’s Day in 1983. She not only brought an innovative concept of using the ladies of the church as governors representing the states that make up the United States of America, but this vision led to different platforms to hold events which in turn allowed that Women’s Day to be the most financially successful at that point in time.
Josie Mae Harper lived to be 92 years old. When you live that long you outlive mostly all of the family you know and most of your closest friends are already waiting on you to join them in Heaven. Josie Mae was married to Jesse Harper for a time and, unfortunately, they divorced in 1965, this union produced no children. However, Sister Josie Mae Harper has produced, nurtured and raised children throughout her life by way of teaching. Josie Mae Harper leaves behind to cherish, Her Legacy.
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