The Bush School of Government and Public Service is committed to public service. Two men who exemplify a life lived in service to others are O.W. Sadberry, Sr. And Oliver Wayne Sadberry, Jr.
One year ago today, February 21, 2022, Bryan ISD announced its new intermediate school would be named the O.W. Sadberry, Sr. Intermediate School. This school is named after a true Bryan, Texas hometown hero, a man who worked for decades as an educator, a mentor, and a leader in Bryan’s community, O.W. Sadberry, Sr., known in the community as Professor Sadberry.
This school name could not have been possible without the leadership of his son, Oliver Wayne Sadberry, Jr. (Wayne). This father-son duo dedicated their lives to helping others through education and community building. Hundreds of students in Bryan public schools can point back to Professor Sadberry as a mentor or teacher in their life. Thousands of people have knowledge of their family history because of Wayne’s work at the Brazos Valley African American Museum.
Professor Sadberry: An Educator
As a graduate of Prairie View A&M University, a public historically Black land-grant university and a member of the Texas A&M University System, and the University of Texas, Professor Sadberry became passionate about education which eventually led to him becoming a teacher.
Professor Sadberry was a longtime teacher and administrator of Booker. T Washington Elementary School, which was originally called The Bryan Public School for Colored. He worked there from 1949 – 1970, teaching classes as well as becoming Principal, overseeing all of the administrative functions of the school.
In 1971, Booker T. Washington Elementary School burned down, the cause remains unknown. Ultimately, this displaced hundreds of students and teachers, Professor Sadberry spent hundreds of hours getting both students and teachers integrated into neighboring school. This would be his last act of service, dying of a stroke just a few months later.
Professor Sadberry was also integral to Texas A&M’s desegregation, serving as an advisor and on the admissions committee in 1963. Many of his former Booker T. Washington Elementary students were part of the first cohort of Black students to attend and graduate from Texas A&M.
Outside of the classroom, Professor Sadberry was a leader of the Bryan community at large. During the 1950s, many of the renowned Tuskeegee airmen and other Black military officers were stationed at Bryan Air Force base. Due to the strict segregation laws in Bryan/College Station at that time, many of these men were not able find housing in the area. Professor Sadberry and many others gathered to help find these military families’ housing and other things they needed.
Wayne Sadberry: A Curator
Son of Professor Sadberry, and Texas A&M graduate (‘71) Wayne initially left Bryan to become part of the U.S. Air Force Strategic Command for six years. He wasn’t gone for long, coming back to the Bryan to become the Assistant Executive Director of the Brazos Valley Development Council and Area Agency on Aging.
The same spot where Booker T. Washington Elementary once stood is now the Brazos Valley African American Museum. Wayne followed in his father’s footsteps and began to serve the community through the museum. Beginning in 2006, Wayne served as a curator, oral historian, and historical researcher for the museum. He was critical to the museum’s opening the Family History Center, a genealogical records site where people can access the history of their own families.
The School Naming Project
In 2019, Wayne began to pursue a way to honor his father and his contributions to education in Bryan, by naming a school in his honor.
The committee was comprised of those who could best speak to Professor Sadberry’s impact as an educator, his former students. Led by Wayne, the core of the team was comprised of two former students of Professor Sadberry; George Vaults and Sunny Nash. Other partners were Burl Garrett, Jr., Joyce Ellis Newton, Johnnie Moten-Cunningham, Carl Bisor and Oswell Person Ph.D. Ambassadors are Karan Chavis (‘87), Dr. Adolph Johnson, Dr. Calvin Phillips, Dr. Dawn Lee Wakefield (’78) and Patricia Bradley.
Professor Sadberry was known for being an advocate and mentor to his students, sometimes driving them to Prairie View A&M to get them enrolled in classes, settling them into a new place to live, or helping them find a job, as he did for George Vaults and Burl Garrett.
The O.W. Sadberry, Sr. Intermediate School Committee was formed out of Wayne’s desire to honor a lifelong public educator, mentor, and leader of the Black community in Bryan.
Over the course of four years, from 2019 – 2022, Wayne and the rest of the committee worked towards the goal of making a name nomination to Bryan ISD’s Board of Trustees. Eventually, 251 community members signed the petition to name the school after Professor Sadberry.
A Legacy Worth Remembering
On January 11, 2022, Oliver Wayne Sadberry, Jr. passed away, less than six weeks before Bryan ISD voted unanimously to choose the naming of the Oliver Wayne Sadberry Sr. Intermediate School.
When asked about what goals she has for the school, committee member, Sunny Nash remarked about how important it is to know the story of Professor Sadberry, Sr. and Wayne Sadberry, Jr. When interviewed she remarked, “They were really good people, who lived valuable lives. Telling this American story is the new mission of The Wayne Sadberry Committee.”
By Paige Grande