About Thelma Elizabeth Page Richardson
Thelma Elizabeth Page Richardson was a Dallas Independent School District teacher and the plaintiff in a groundbreaking lawsuit to equalize salaries for black and white teachers.
Born in 1911, Richardson attended public schools in Denver, Colorado. She studied modern languages and earned a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Denver and a Master of Arts at Southern Methodist University. She began her career teaching foreign languages in Dallas ISD, first at Booker T. Washington High School, followed by assignments at Lincoln and North Dallas high schools.
After teaching at Lincoln High School for eight years, Richardson became well known for her 1942 lawsuit against Dallas ISD leading to the adoption of a single salary schedule for white and black teachers. The suit charged that for years the school district maintained a policy of paying black teachers and principals less than whites with the same education, experience and duties–even though all Dallas residents paid the same property taxes, the source of teacher salaries.
The suit said that white teachers with similar qualifications and experience as black teachers were paid $1800 a year, while black teachers received $1260. Richardson was considered an ideal plaintiff in the case because she had studied only at integrated schools growing up in Colorado. The school system had argued that black teachers were less qualified because they had attended segregated schools.
Backed by the Negro Teachers Alliance of Dallas and the NAACP with major support from chief counsel Thurgood Marshall, Richardson’s lawsuit was settled out of court and the district equalized salaries. The accomplishment garnered national praise for Richardson from a variety of African American leaders who considered her a courageous trailblazer. Highly esteemed not only as an educator but also as a civil rights pioneer, Richardson is credited with breaking down the walls of teacher segregation in Dallas.
She died in 1996 in La Mirada, California.