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Bertha Sadler Means, Austin civil rights pioneer, dies at age 100

The Bertha Sadler Means Young Women's Academy in Central East Austin is named after her.

AUSTIN, Texas — Bertha Sadler Means, an Austin civil rights pioneer, business leader and longtime educator, has died at age 100, according to KVUE's media partners at the Austin American-Statesman. Means' granddaughter confirmed to the Statesman she died on Tuesday afternoon but she did not provide a cause of death.

The Bertha Sadler Means Academy for Young Women in Central East Austin is named after Means. The Statesman reports in Means' obituary she was a civil rights activist who picketed and protested to end Jim Crow segregation in Austin. She was also among the first Black educators to teach in Austin's white-majority schools.

The Statesman reports Means was born in Waco in 1920 and she graduated from A.J. Moore High School in Waco before attending Tillotson College, now Hutson Tillotson University (HTU). She later received a master's degree in education from the University of Texas at Austin, according to a release from HTU.

In addition to being a civil rights leader, Means was also a faith leader in the community. In 1941, she and her late husband – James H. Means Sr., a mathematics professor, real estate investor and business leader – helped found the St. James Episcopal Church in East Austin, according to the Statesman.

The couple raised five children, several of whom also broke racial barriers and fought segregation in Austin. The couple also ran Austin Taxi.

According to Means' namesake school's website, she held several positions within the Austin Independent School District in both elementary and secondary education. She taught at both Prairie View A&M College and UT and delivered workshops in teacher education at HTU.

Means was also a member of many local organizations and ran for Austin City Council in 1981, according to the Statesman.

She is survived by five children, multiple grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

To learn more about Means' trailblazing fight against racism in Austin, as well as her accomplished career, read the Statesman's full obituary.


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