By Mrs. Patricia Love, Special NDG Contributor
Editor’s Note: The staff of NDG could not agree more that Sis. Tarpley is a remarkable woman who boldly, and loving, shares her love of God with everyone. It is delightful to see her many accomplishments spotlighted and celebrated. We join the officials and members of Bethel Bible Fellowship and dignitaries of the City of Carrollton and the Carrollton -Farmers Branch I.S.D in saluting Sis. Tarpley!
This year Bethel Bible Fellowship decided to honor members of its congregation by highlighting their contributions to Black History. One of the members selected for honoring for her community service is Sis. Shirley Tarpley. On Sunday Feb. 22 the church will honor another member, Mr. Scott Hunter who lived in Selma, Alabama during the march shown in the movie Selma.
Although Sister Shirley Tarpley is a relatively new member of Bethel Bible Fellowship, I mentioned to Dr. Terrance Woodson, Senior Pastor of our church that she is so charming , he asked me if I knew she had been on the City Council of Carrollton. He pointed me to article written about her by the local NAACP. There I saw her many firsts and exclaimed to Pastor Woodson, “She is living history, what a great person for our children and congregation to hear from. A living witness of history.”
The presentation included a video interview allowing Sis. Tarpley to share her story to the church, family, and friends. Always a delightful storyteller. in the video Sis. Tarpley shared a story about what would happen if a teacher had to call her parents because she misbehaved at school:
“I only said, it would be very bad for you, but I didn’t say how it would be bad, now I want to say for all Demus children, if a teacher called our parents about bad conduct, we would get at least four beatings, the first was because had brought shame to the name “Demus”, acting a fool in school, we were always told that we were given that name as a privilege to be respected and worn with pride and honor, as if we asked to be born! (Many times I wanted to say, “Can’t I just give the name back? But, I did not want to die right on the spot!)
The 2nd beating was because we led the teacher to think that we had not been taught how to act in public, another big no, no!
The 3rd beating was we failed to show proper respect to those who had authority over us when we were not at home.
The 4th beating was because we lost our self-respect, you must respect yourself before others could respect you.
The 5th beating was because we had caused them to whip us and they were already tired from working all day making a decent living for us and this made our parents really angry.
And, maybe the 6th and last beating for the infraction in school was for just general principle (GP) they said.
Now keep in mind, these beating would last for two or more days, according to how tired out parents were.
Therefore, if we acted a “fool in school, as our parents would say, it was better to beg the teacher not to call home, we were more than willing to do anything they wanted us to do and to gladly take any punishment, just don’t call our parents!”
Born and reared in Dallas, Texas, Sister Shirley Demus Tarpley believes in a commitment to God, family, church, education and the community. She grew up in a home that consisted of her godly parents (Mr. Lloyd David and Mrs. Cedella Baker Demus), four sisters and three brothers.
Sister Tarpley was educated in segregated schools in Dallas; she attended elementary and middle schools, and in 1959 she graduated from Booker T. Washington High School (known today as Booker T. Washington Arts Magnet in North Dallas) which was one of only three African American High Schools in the Dallas Independent School District (DISD.)
She graduated from Prairie View A & M University, a Historical Black College & University (HBCU) in Prairie View, Texas, with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Business Education and a Minor Degree in Economics.
After graduation from college, she married and began working for Collins Radio Company (the name was changed to Rockwell International) as a Production Secretary. The company was contracted by the United States’ government to produce the communication system for our first space ship launched by the U.S. Space Program. This is one of the highlights in her life, because she received the highest security clearance from the federal government to work on the project.
In 1965 she and the late Mr. Lorenzo Tarpley moved to Carrollton, Texas, and purchased their first home, which at the time was a small suburban town of only 9,000 plus residents; today its population is approximately 130,000 and Blacks comprised of approximately two percent of its population; it was still geographically segregated, making the Tarpley’s the first Black family to integrate the “all-white” section of town.
Sister Tarpley integrated R. L. Turner High School (RLT), the only high school in the Carrollton-Farmers Branch I.S.D. (C-FBISD) at the time. With the exception of her first year of teaching at RLT, she was voted one of the Top 10 Teachers by each senior class until she transferred to the new high school. She integrated Newman Smith High School (NSHS) in 1978, the second high school built in C-FBISD; she remained at NSHS until her retirement in 1996.
She and her husband had two children, a son, Jarrell Edwin, a graduate of RLT and The University of North Texas University (UNT) in Denton, Texas. Jarrell was a standout, award winning football player and attended UNT on a full football scholarship. He had the honor of being on the prestigious and highly covered Texas All Star Football Team from the North; only 30 are selected from all of the high schools in Texas each year. He lives in Venus, Texas, with his wife, Cleo Spann Tarpley, they have one son.
Her daughter Sheila Donnise is a graduate of RLT and Texas Woman’s University (TWU) in Denton, Texas, was a standout cheerleader in Peewee, Junior High and Senior High Schools (she integrated all three cheerleading squads.) Sheila was honored by the RLT Football Team as their personal Sweetheart her junior and her senor years. She was the first Black and only cheerleader honored with this title two years in a row, and this honor stands today. Sheila attended TWU on an academic scholarship. She is married to William (Bill) Lott; they have three children, and they live in Carrollton, Texas. Sheila is also a minister in the gospel.
Sister Tarpley is the proud grandmother of four: Tyanna Donnise, David Edward, and Philip Immanual Lott and Deven Jaquan Tarpley.
In 1991 she became the first Black female to integrate and serve on the Carrollton City Council. In 1993 she ran unopposed for council and received the second highest votes in the history of Carrollton’s elections. This record stands to this day. In 1995 she became the first Black to serve as Mayor Pro Tem for the City of Carrollton.
Sister Tarpley received her Master’s Certificate in Dispute Resolution (Mediation, Negotiation, and Arbitration) from Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas.
In 2001 she became the first Religious Editor for the North Dallas Gazette weekly newspaper in Plano, Texas–“North Dallas” Weekly Paper of Choice.” She continues to serve in that position.
Her parents taught her to take pride in her heritage, to strive for the best in everything you do, to accept all people as they are, and to love and trust God above everybody and everything else. She continues to live by the teachings of her late parents and has always shared this philosophy with her children, her family, her church, school and her community.
A look back at the accomplishments and accolades of Sis. Shirley Tarpley
For over 40 years Sister Tarpley received many awards, accolades and “firsts” in her teaching profession and life and they include:
1. Personal Secretary for her Church Senior Pastor.
2. Church Announcer.
3. Sunday School Superintendent at church.
4. Sunday School Teacher at church.
5. 1993, KDFW-TV, Channel 4, selected Mrs. Tarpley as their first “Class Act” Teacher in the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) Metroplex.
6. First Black Board Member of Carrollton’s Park Board.
7. Executive Board of the City of Carrollton Bi-Centennial Commission.
8. Executive Board Member of Carrollton’s Peewee Football Association.
9. Executive Board Member of Carrollton’s Peewee Cheerleader Association.
10. Peewee Team Mother for many of Carrollton’s football and cheerleader teams.
11. Executive Board Member of the Parents, Teachers & Students Associations (PTSAs) at Central Elementary School, Dewitt Perry Jr. High School and R. L. Turner High School.
12. Senior Class Sponsor at Newman Smith High School (NSHS).
13. Junior Cheerleader Team Sponsor at NSHS.
14. PTSA Member at NSHS.
15. Co-Sponsor of NSHSs ACT-SO Organization of the NAACP.
16. Sponsor of Black History Programs in the Carrollton-Farmers Branch I.S.D.
17. Instrumental in bringing the first Black History Class to C-FBISD.
18. Instrumental in C-FBISD honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with the schools being closed for his federal holiday each year.
19. Executive Board Member of Carrollton’s Country Fair Committee
20. Honored for contributions to C-FBISD by Christ Community Connection (CCC), a non-profit community organization in Carrollton.
Patricia Love is the Church administrator at Bethel Bible Fellowship. North Dallas Gazette contributed to this article also.