Opal Pannell, Oral History, Part One of Two
This is part one of a two part audio recording of an oral history interview with Opal Pannell. The exact date of the interview is not known, but it was conducted between 2009-2010. The interviewers are Shannon Carter and James Conrad.
This interview focuses on Opal Pannell's memories of growing up in Neylandville, Texas and her experiences as a student and cafeteria worker at East Texas State University, now Texas A&M University-Commerce.
Opal Pannell grew up in Neylandville, Texas, an all-Black community near Greenville, Texas. Her parents Artie and Vivian Brigham were farmers. Pannell attended high school at St. Paul High School in Neylandville. She recalls that the school received quite a bit of support from East Texas State Teachers College. The university provided schoolbooks and football uniforms and allowed the school to use the stadium to play football games. Pannell graduated high school in 1948 and attended Jarvis Christian College. She later received a basketball scholarship to Butler College in Tyler, Texas. She left college before graduating to go to work.
Pannell moved to Commerce, Texas in 1954. She enrolled in East Texas State University (ETSU) in 1970. While attending the university, she worked in the cafeteria. Panell recalled an event from 1962 when cafeteria workers walked off the job, demanding better pay. The walk-out lasted one day.
Pannell was also one of the founding members of the Norris Community Club in Commerce, which was formed to improve living conditions in the local Black community. The organization fought for basic improvements, including indoor plumbing, street repair, and low-income housing. Aside from working to improve the infrastructure in the Norris Community, the Norris Community Club also worked to elect African Americans to the city council, the school board, and other civic bodies to ensure that the African American population of Commerce had a voice in the community.
Special Collections and University Archives
Pannell, Opal; Conrad, James; Converging Literacies Center (CLiC); and Carter, Shannon, "Opal Pannell, Oral History, Part One of Two" (circa 2009/2010). All Oral Histories. 81.
Neylandville (Tex.); Commerce (Tex.); African Americans -- History; East Texas State University -- Alumni and alumnae; East Texas State University -- Employees
Norris Community; Norris Community Club; Texas A&M University-Commerce; TAMUC; ETSU