Albertha Ballard Lewing
Civil Rights

One of 14 children, she was born in Opelousas, Louisiana, to Albert Lewis and Louvina Bentress Ballard. Her maternal great grandmother, who was born a slave, delivered her. Albertha's father worked for a syrup mill in Opelousas and farmed part-time. She picked cotton on the family farm and nearby plantations. After graduating from Holy Ghost Catholic School, she completed a three-year course of studies at Grambling State University. Albertha taught elementary school and served as a principal in Opelousas and Eunice. On October 7, 1945, she married McKinney Lewing, a World War II veteran. They would have three children, ten grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. The couple moved to Shreveport where they both attended a beauty and barber college. In February of 1946 they bought the house where they currently reside. McKinney began barbering while she "fixed" hair at their home. He would open his own barbershop in 1954. Meanwhile Albertha returned to teaching. By 1949 she was principal of a Caddo Parish school. She taught at Dixie School in rural Caddo Parish, and served as a principal. Many of the schools then were substandard. In one, teachers had to scrub floors, wash woodwork, cook for the children, and haul water from a nearby cistern. After integration, she was sent from all-black Union High School to Lakeshore Junior High School. When two white police officers beat her son and other boys, she filed suit. In another incident, police took her daughter off a local bus for sitting in one of the front rows. She was questioned at the police station but not arrested. McKinney passed away on April 29, 1961. Albertha earned her master's degree in 1965 from Indiana University. She retired in 1980 from Lakeshore Junior High School. Among other community endeavors, she serves as CEO for Hollywood Civic Club and teaches Sunday School at Paradise Baptist Church.