The East Texas Research Center is the depository for the materials of the African American Heritage Project which was started by Birdie Wade. The ETRC is also in the process of creating an interactive and educational website for the African American Heritage Project.
Mrs. Birdie Belle Davis Wade was born in the Nat Community west of Nacogdoches in the 1920s. She was a loyal friend and a good family person. She interpreted "friend" and "family" in the broadest sense possible to mean more than her immediate relatives; Miss Birdie's "family" was her church, her community, her race, and in fact anyone who was in need of help in Nacogdoches. In addition to a long career as a homemaker and mother, Birdie had a distinguished career with the Texas Department of Human Services and the Nacogdoches Independent School District. As a humanitarian, she was instrumental in the establishment of such as the Harvey House, the Telephone Reassurance Program, the Nacogdoches Clean-Up Program, the Sharing Post, and served tirelessly on Parks Planning, Community Health, and Police Department Boards.
Birdie Wade founded and became the driving force behind Nacogdoches' African American Heritage Association and Project. The plans for what turned into the AAHP began in Mrs. Birdie's home around one of her famous suppers. (Birdie knew that getting everyone together to talk while they ate was a time-honored tradition in most cultures.) Birdie put together and ruled over a "salon" of people interested in preserving the Black Heritage of this East Texas area. She organized, managed, and inspired the project up until the time of her death in 2005.
The mission of the African American Heritage Project - to research about and bring into the public domain knowledge of the life and culture of the African American community - had to take a back seat to the collection of materials related to this interest. The Project had to begin with a search for documents, pictures, printed materials, and family archives that might relate to the subject. While the work of the Project has had some successes in the collection of documents, it has had to rely extensively on recording oral histories from all segments of the Nacogdoches community members regarding the historical aspects of African American life and culture. At considerable personal expense, Birdie kept the Project in the front of the community as a whole. She worked with the local Association of Black Ministers, the City Commission, the NISD, the Daily Sentinel, and planners of the Blueberry Festival to educate people in the region about the mission of the AAHP. She visited neighboring counties to enlist their support and lay out for them the possibility of getting a regional project underway. She helped to apply for grants to keep this project underway, but her efforts at securing grants did not bare much fruit during her lifetime. She did, however, secure the cooperation of many individuals. She also helped to secure the backing of the Nacogdoches County Historical Foundation and the City in efforts to preserve the Zion Hill Church building as a future home for a Black Heritage Museum. The collection of materials on African American Heritage now in the East Texas Research Center is Birdie Wade's legacy to the Project she founded. The best way to honor her memory is to continue her efforts to collect and preserve the heritage of the African American community in East Texas.
Born: Nat Community of Nacogdoches County March 8, 1921
Died: Easter Sunday, March 27, 2005 in Nacogdoches.
Parents: Henry Davis and Frances Ann Wade
Spouse: Leon Wade
Daughters: Mary Wade Fraction, Ona Faye Wade Gee, Jo F. Wade West, Betsy L. Wade
Sons: Grimes "Chip" Wade, Anthony Wade, Robert Wade
Bachelor of Science, in Sociology 1976; Mrs. Wade was not able to attend college when she was younger.
Texas Department of Human Services
Teacher with NISD
She helped organize:
The African American Heritage Association and Project in Nacogdoches County
The Nacogdoches Westwood Subdivision Home Owners' Association
The Nacogdoches Harvest House Committee
The Nacogdoches Westside Neighborhood Watch Program
The Nacogdoches Telephone Reassurance Program
The City of Nacogdoches Clean-Up Program
The Oak Hill Plaza Housekeeping and Child Care Skills Program
The Nacogdoches Sharing Post
The Center Point Quilting Club
She assisted in securing a grant for the Nacogdoches Soccer Field and Ritchie Park.
She also served with:
The East Texas Community Health Board
The Nacogdoches Police Department Board to Secure Resources
The Nacogdoches Master Parks Planning Committee
The Lanana Creek Trail Extension Committee
St. Paul's Methodist Church History Committee
HONORS AND AWARDS
2004 Woman of the Year by the American Association of University Women.
Received the Texas Volunteer Service Award during the Clements' administration.
Author: Information supplied by Dr. Jere L. Jackson, Center for East Texas Studies