Ada DeBlanc Simond Papers
An Inventory of the Collection
Ada DeBlanc was born in Lake Charles, La on November 14, 1903 to a creole couple, Mathilda and Gilbert DeBlanc. During these early years, the family was farming in New Iberia near the Olivia on the Bayou Teche. The oldest of six children, Ada, along with her siblings and mother, learned just enough English to read a prayer book and cathecism. While living in Lake Charles, she briefly attended a catholic boarding school, but had to leave after developing pellagra, a niacin deficiency common in the Southern United States during the early twentieth century. In 1941, when Ada was 11 years old, the DeBlancs moved to Austin where her father had secured a position as a porter for Murray Graham Drug Store, located at Congress Ave and 9th St. The family initially lived in the African-American community of Wheatville but, at the urging of friends, established itself in the growing African-American community of east Austin.
In Austin, the DeBlanc children learned English in the public school system. Ada went on to become the first person in her family to receive a formal education. By 1921, she had earned an associate's degree in business administration from Samuel Huston College. For 13 years, she worked in a variety of administrative jobs in Austin and Prarie View. She married Aubrey Askey and they had three children--Grace, Gilbert and Verna Jo. In 1934, after her children were in school, she earned a bachelor of science degree in Homemaking and Family Life. Two years later, she earned a master's in the same field from Iowa State University. From 1938-1942, she accepted a position as head of Home and Family Life at Tillotsen College. During this time, her husband, Aubrey Askey, died and she married physician Charles Yerwood. In 1940, at the age of 37, Ada found herself widowed for a second time. Nine years later, she married Luther Simond, a man 18 years her junior, who later served as principal at Ridgetop Elementary School. Inspired by Yerwood about the importance of health education, Simond went on to became a public health representative for the Texas Tuberculosis Association, in 1942, a post she held for 25 years. As a health educator, she traveled around Texas organizing community support for the development of health and disease prevention resources in under-served communities. Following mandatory retirement at age 65 from the Tuberculosis Association, she worked in a similar capacity until the age of 70 for the State Department of Public Health. Following a second mandatory retirement in 1972, she resumed working for a additional three years as a bailiff for the 53rd District Court at the request of her long-time friend, Judge Herman Jones.
In between jobs, the tireless Simond managed to publish an article in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly, "The Discovery of Being Black: A Recollection". It appeared in the April, 1973 issue. She also channeled her energy into civic and volunteer work for various organizations including the Austin-Travis County Health Department, the Model Cities Clinic project, a federal program started in the late 1960's to remedy health care access issues for low income residents, Meals on Wheels and, most significantly, Delta Sigma Theta (DST) Sorority, Inc, a community service organization founded on the campus of Howard University. It was through her involvement with the Black Heritage Exhibit, a project of the Austin chapter of DST, that her career as a children's writer was launched. The exhibit highlighted the history of the black experience in Austin beginning in 1839, the year the city was founded. As part of the committee tasked with outreach for the exhibit to school children, Simond agree to write a series of children's books entitled Let's Pretend about a young black girl, Mae Dee and her family living in early twentieth-century Austin. Although the stories themselves are fictitious, they are based on actual individuals, establishments and events. The six-book series, published locally by Stevenson Press, a division of Callcott Collinson, Inc., 1979-1981, was named "Outstanding Publication on a History Subject" by the Texas Historical Commission in 1979. Simond's writing career continued with "Looking Back", a weekly column that appeared in the Austin American-Statesman from 1983-85 and highlighted the historical roots of Austin's African-American community. The city recognized Simond's outstanding service twice. First, in 1980, when it's first female mayor, Carole McClellan (now Carole Keeton Strayhorn), presented Simond with a distinguished service award for "unselfish service to the city of Austin". Then, again, in 1983, when Ron Mullen declared November 16 Ada Simond Day and temporarily named Congress Ave and 11th Street "Ada Simond Avenue". Three years later, Simond was inducted into the Texas Women's Hall of Fame. She further garnered the NAACP Arthur B. DeWitty Award for "outstanding effort and achievement in human rights for Central Texas". Ada DeBlanc Simond died of heart failure on October 22, 1989.
The collection (1892-1979, undated) is comprised of manuscripts, narration scripts, correspondence, notes, printed material, legal material, illustrations, biographical information, photographs and negatives and is divided into two series, Let's Pretend and the Meroney Family. The Let's Pretend series (1892-1979, undated) constitutes the largest portion of the collection (.7 linear feet) and is composed primarily of manuscripts for all six books which date from circa 1977-1980. There are multiple copies (galley proofs, reading copies, and proof copies) representing the different stages of the writing and publishing phases for each of the six books. They are particularly well-documented for book two, Mae Dee and her family on a weekend in May. Material includes the original handwritten manuscript, written introduction and instructional words and concepts that appear in the "Did you Know?" sections of each book, a first typed draft, successive drafts with author's corrections, two copies containing further editorial corrections and a final reading copy with corrections included. Supporting material for Let's Pretend includes correspondence between Simond and Thelma Calhoun, Chair of the DST-BHE Committee for children's stories which outlines her intentions for the first manuscript as well as the series, and also between the publisher and Calhoun for assistance in developing the teacher's guide. Publishing contracts and releases, notes and printed material round out the Let's Pretend series. Most of the books also have a narration script for audio tape generated from the print manuscript and intended for use in the classroom. A second, much smaller series, the Meroney Family (1896-1913, undated; .3 linear feet), includes legal documents such as titles and deeds of sale for property at E. 6th and Trinity Streets (404 E. 6th St.) where Meroney's saloon, the Bowery, was located. There are also photographic prints of the negatives related to the Meroney family including Rufus and Charles G. Meroney. One image depicts Charles Meroney and three unidentified men standing in front of the saloon and another image of staff and customers, including William and Lura Isaacs (as indicated in Simond's hand on the back of the print), inside the saloon. It is unclear as to why Simond had these materials in her custody. It appears that the Meroneys were connected to the Collins Family (early settlers of Pilot Knob, a largely African-American community located in southern Travis County) by marriage and that the Collinses were friends of the DeBlancs.
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Open to all users.
Restrictions on Use
Collection material donated by Ada Simond.
Ada DeBlanc Simond Papers (AR.Z.006). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: DO/1960/054
Donation Date: 2001
Finding aid created and encoded by Susan Rittereiser/2011.
Detailed Description of the Collection