An overflowing audience packed St. Paul AME Church in San Bernardino for two-days for the home going celebration of the last surviving member of the church’s founding family, Mrs. Dorothy Inghram, the 106-year old leader in local education.
Community leaders who were present included: Assembly Member Wilmer Amina Carter, San Bernardino Mayor Patrick Morris, Stater Brothers Markets President/CEO Jack Brown and Ms. Inghram’s former pastor Rev. James E. Grant, Sr. who in Mrs. Inghram’s earlier years requested he be the speaker at her funeral. Long retired, Rev Grant, who recently celebrated his 83rd birth- day, joked that he doubted that either of them had expected to wait so long to carry out her request.
Dorothy Inghram was born on November 9, 1905 in San Bernardino, CA after 106 years She died on March 14, 2012. She was the youngest child born to Henry and Mary Ella Inghram. As a child growing up in had great memories of her family, her comfortable home and attending local schools. She always enjoyed reading, writing and arithmetic, and was a lifelong learner. She attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School, Sturges Jr. High and was a 1923 graduate of San Bernardino High School. She was a music major and while at San Bernardino Valley College she wrote the school's Alma Mater, it is still being used today.
In 1936 she became the first Black to graduate from the University of Redlands (U of R) with a Bachelor Degree in Music. Because of her race there were no teaching opportunities in California so she landed a job at Prairie View College in Texas from 1936-1939. Her mother's illness and subsequent death brought her back to California. She decided to stay and pursue a teaching degree at U of R. It posed a problem because there were no Black teachers. In 1942 Mill School District, a one school district, had an opening and the County Schools Superintendent sent her to fill the position. She had always had to fight race and poverty but this assignment was particularly difficult. Eventually both teachers quit rather than work with her, in 1951 she became the Principal of Mill School, then in 1953 she became the Superintendent of Schools, making her the first Black in the state to hold the position. In 1963 she became a Principal in San Bernardino Unified School District and in 1968 she was appointed Liaison-Principal for the Intergroup Relations department. She retired in 1971. Dr. Inghram encountered much racial prejudice in her life and overcame all obstacles put in her way. So much so she was the recipient of many prestigious awards. The community honored her by naming a library the Dorothy Ella Inghram Branch Library. She was dedicated to reading and just before her death was still talking about the importance of the library in the growth and development of children. She authored several books, among them were Beyond All This (1983) the story of her family, The Incredible You (1993) Dear Meg and in 2004 What's On Your Mind. At 106 her mind was sharp and she was thinking about finishing her next book. At 100 years old she was still driving a car, at 102 she retired from her weekly bowling game. She also loved baseball and golf.
In 2003 she received the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters-from California State University, San Bernardino and in 2000 Redlands University presented her with the Inaugural Alumni Educator of Distinction, Lifetime Achievement in Educational Justice Award. In 1999 she was named the Woman of Distinction by San Bernardino Valley College. Her awards are numerous from many community organizations and elected officials. Dr. Inghram comes from a family of achievers. Her parents founded St. Paul AME Church in 1904. Her brother Howard Inghram, M.D. was the area's first Black doctor, her sister became a nurse. Her other brothers, Ben, became a chef and Henry was the first Black to work for the newspaper, he became a pressman. There is a community center named for her parents and an elementary school named for Dr. Howard Inghram. With the many accolades and awards she received, it was the personal 106 birthday greeting and photograph from President and Mrs. Obama, that she treasured. Left to cherish her memory are a number of grand nieces and nephews, a host of friends, former students, members of St. Paul AME Church and admirers in the community.