Mrs. Alice Kinney Cox is 102 years young and looking forward to her 103rd birthday Dec. 28, 2006. However, she told a dinner group recently that when the Lord reaches down his hand for her, she is ready to take hold of it and let him raise her to a new life.  A sharp-minded, strong-voiced petite lady, Mrs. Cox was the star of the evening at a dinner hosted by the Viola Hilliard, Pearl and Dugan Carter Scholarship Foundation which had been providing scholarships for Denison High graduating seniors since 1993.

Mrs. Cox was crowned queen of the “Affaire Elegante” by Rev. Michael Braxton, a former student of Viola Hilliard and who now is pastor of the Bethel Community Baptist Church, and served as master of ceremonies.  Mrs. Cox entered the banquet room under her own power with only a walker to assist her. She sat with a large group of her family and talked freely with old friends.  Never one to be without words, this admirable woman, who passed the century mark two years ago, asked to speak after the crowning ceremony. Her advice to the group was to “Help One Another,” saying that’s what it will take to make this country great.

Mrs. Cox reminisced of the time many years ago during World War II when every Sunday morning those who lived in Denison would get up and go downtown to the Katy Train Station before going to church. They would meet the Troop Train that made a stop there.  She said the troops weren’t allowed to get off the train, but “we talked to them as they hung out the windows and we followed the train for about two blocks shaking their hands as they pulled away from the station.” While troop trains don’t come through Denison anymore, she instructed attendees to support our troops in the present conflict and to help one another.

“Support President Bush,” she said as she elaborated that he had done some bad things, but he had done a lot of good things too. “President Clinton was a good president, but his wife was the smartest one in the White House,” she said.
Mrs. Cox was born in Denison in 1903 and lived at the corner of Morgan and Rusk, diagonally across from the old peanut factory. She went to school here during the time of segregation, completing 11 years, which at the time was all that was required. The year after she graduated she went to Parsons, KS, here her uncle was principal and she had to attend the 12th grade, a requirement there. She moved back to Denison and married Ellis Cox and helped raise his daughter, Betty who was seven at the time. She has been a life-long member of Hopewell Baptist Church.

The program was titled the Viola Hilliard and Pearl and Dugan Carter Scholarship Foundation event, an “Affaire Elegante,” and an elegant affair the dinner and program were in Kohfeldt Hall of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.  The foundation has been providing scholarships since 1993 in the name of Viola Hilliard, teacher, whose strict, yet loving hand guided many youngsters to appreciate an education.  Rev. Braxton told the story of Miss Hilliard and her ruler, which she used as a paddle. He said his mother called him Mike, but Miss Hilliard insisted that he use his name correctly as Michael. Every time he began spelling Mike, she would pop him with the ruler by the time he reached the “k”. He finally decided his name was Michael.

When Miss Hilliard died in 1987, she named Marguerite Bradshaw in her will to head a foundation to provide scholarships to graduating seniors at Denison High School each year, continuing her goal of educating children even after her death. Board members said that she placed that responsibility on Marguerite, also a Denison teacher, because she knew that she shared her dream and would get the job done.

Miss Hilliard graduated from Anderson High School as Valedictorian, but her father had to learn of the honor at the local barbershop because she thought he wouldn’t want her to get the honor because she was a girl.  She worked for five years, went to Prairie View College where she received her BA degree, then her MA degree from Southeastern in Oklahoma. She also attended school in Colorado and USC in California during the summer. She began teaching in Clarksville, then returned to Denison public schools. She also taught in East St. Louis. During her last years of teaching she was head of the Wimms School.

D.D. McKnight told the crowd that $2,000 left by Pearl Hilliard Carter, who died in 1992, was used to start the foundation and Marguerite recruited the board. Thirteen academic scholarships have been given in Miss Hilliard’s memory and four music scholarships – two vocal and two instrumental – have been given in the name of James Henry “Dugan” Carter, who passed away in 1987, the same year that Miss Hilliard died.  Dugan grew up next door to an auto business and was driving, riding motorcycles and repairing cars and any other mechanical device before he was 11. He learned to play the saxophone in high school in Denison and continued to play at Houston Tillotsen. He played with several famous bands, including Stanley Turrentine. He made his living playing jazz all over the country.

James’ mother, Pearl Hilliard Carter, was a sister to Viola, who sent her to college to become an English teacher. She taught at Lincoln High School in College Station and in the Dallas Independent School District.
This year’s recipient of the $500 scholarship is Jianna Berry, a 2006 graduate of Denison High School, who will be attending Grayson County College with several majors, including sports medicine. Jianna follows her sister, Jamie, now a student at Texas Southern, as a scholarship recipient.

Funds to keep the scholarship program going are raised with special events, but primarily through donations which will be accepted by board members now or during the coming year. - Donna Hunt


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