Dorothy Inghram

Dorothy Inghram


Nicholas R. Cataldo (2008)

Dorothy Inghram, University of Redlands Graduate, 1936
Dorothy Inghram, University of Redlands Graduate, 1936

When I asked Dorothy Inghram to be the guest speaker at the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society last July [2007], she asked me "What should I talk about?" My response: "Dorothy, you've lived here more than a century---anything you want. You've seen it all!"

Dorothy Inghram (seated on the right) when she was principal of Mill School
This 1940s picture shows Dorothy Inghram (seated on the right) when she was principal of Mill School.
(Courtesy of Dorothy Inghram)

Dorothy Inghram may not have actually seen it all---but she's seen a whole lot---at least since the time of President Theodore Roosevelt's administration.

The youngest of seven children born to Henry and Mary Inghram on November 9, 1905, Dorothy's first home was on 6th Street, between Harris and "J" Streets---that was three years before Henry Ford started mass producing the "Model T".

The Inghram family roots actually began in San Bernardino in 1888. Dorothy's father, Henry, worked as a custodian in the Opera House on Court Street---one of many places where blacks normally weren't allowed to attend. Dorothy gives credit to her parents for being excellent role models for the children as far as their attitude toward racism.

In 1983, Dorothy Inghram published Beyond All This, a book centered on her family's drive and determination to succeed in a time period when blacks were not considered an integral part of the community. She recalled how her parents stressed not to carry any bitterness because of the racial tension and emphasized the importance of education and following their own ambitions in order to become successful. That advice seemed to have worked. Dorothy's brother, Henry Jr. was a printer for Sun newspaper. Two other brothers were highly successful: Ben worked as a chef at the Chocolate Palace---one of the finest restaurants during the 1920's and Howard---was the first black physician in San Bernardino. Dorothy's sister, Ruth, worked as a nurse.

Dorothy began school at Mt. Vernon Elementary in 1911. She later attended Sturges Junior High School and then San Bernardino High School. Dorothy was one of 123 to graduate in 1923.

Music has played an important role in her life. While attending San Bernardino Valley College, from 1928 through 1933, Dorothy wrote the hymn that was selected as the school's alma mater, which is still used today.

In 1934, Dorothy started attending the University of Redlands and graduated from there two years later with a bachelors' degree in music. After teaching music at Prairie View College in Texas, Dorothy returned to San Bernardino in 1939.

1940s photo of Mill School
The 1940s photo that you see here is of Mill School, located on the corner of Waterman Avenue and Central. The predominately African-American community was known as Valley Farms. and Central. The predominately African-American community was known as Valley Farms.
(Courtesy of Dorothy Inghram)

Dorothy earned an elementary teaching credential in 1939 after student teaching at an East Highlands school. During this time, Mill School District, a small one-school district at Central and Waterman Avenue, in what was at the time an unincorporated community in San Bernardino known as "Valley Farms", needed another teacher for its growing school population. And in 1942, Dorothy was hired to teach second grade at Mill School---the first African-American teacher in San Bernardino County.

Dedication of the new Mill School
The dedication of the new Mill School, as you can see in this 1951 photo, drew a big crowd. The new, much larger facility was well received as a place of pride and beauty.
(Courtesy of Dorothy Inghram)

Three years later she became a teaching principal---splitting her duties between the classroom and administration---and became a full-time principal in 1951, a job she thoroughly enjoyed.

Dorothy was promoted to District Superintendent of Mill School District in 1953---the first African-American in the state of California to hold that position, and somehow found time to earn a masters degree in education from the University of Redlands in 1958.

In 1963, Dorothy was appointed liaison principal for inter group relations for the San Bernardino District---a position she held until her retirement in 1971.

This amazing woman, for whom one of San Bernardino's library branches (corner of Highland and Western Ave.) was named in 1977, is also the author of five books:

"Dear Meg", "Improving the Services of Substitute teachers", "Beyond All This", "Incredible You" and "What's on Your Mind?"

At 97, she received an honorary doctorate degree from Cal State San Bernardino.

Dorothy Inghram
Dorothy Inghram
Dorothy Inghram
Photographs of Dorothy Inghram, at age 102,
by William Poindexter in Urban Lifestyles Magazine, November 2007 issue

Still going strong at 102, Dorothy Inghram was active with St. Paul's A.M.E. Church, having performed as a pianist and organist for 40 years. She was also an avid bowler.

[Read an excerpt from Dorothy Inghram's book "AS SEEN FROM WITHIN"]