Ollie S. Tyler
Civil Rights

Born the seventh of nine children in Blanchard, Louisiana, to Leroy and Ida Haley Spearman, Ollie grew up on a dairy farm where her father worked. In her childhood, which she describes as "difficult," because of an abusive father, she worked "in the fields" where she picked cotton. She also ironed and cleaned a house to earn lunch money. Ollie recalls her mother as "very quiet and gentle," and was confident her daughter would grow up to be a teacher. As a child, Ollie loved to read for pleasure and "to escape." She also excelled in the classroom. Often, however, other girls beat her for making straight A's in school. Nevertheless she graduated as valedictorian from Herndon High School, and earned a National Merit Scholarship to Grambling State College. After graduation she taught math courses at Eden Gardens High School. Meanwhile, integration began. She was selected to teach as one of the first African-American teachers at Youree Drive Junior High School. Because of people who didn't "believe in you because of your race," the early years there, were challenging, she recalls. Ollie remained at taught at that school for 23 years. In 1972 she married James C. Tyler, who is deceased. (She has one son, one step-daughter, and two grandchildren.) Ollie eventually was named as the school's first African-American and female principal. In 1994 she became director of middle schools, then deputy superintendent of Caddo Parish schools. In 2000, Ollie became deputy superintendent/chief academic officer for New Orleans schools, where she served three years. In 2003 she returned to Shreveport and became superintendent of Caddo Parish schools. "Every week in my office I fight the fight, but I fight for the kids," she says of her work.