AlumnaeJun 1, 2020
— updated Jul 14, 2021
Remembering Essie Harris Wade ’68
Our first Black Student Council President had a way of bringing people together at a time of sharp divisions and conflicts
Essie Harris Wade ’68 passed away on March 14, 2020, in Jacksonville, Florida.
Coming to Miss Hall’s as a sophomore for the 1965-66 school year, Essie, along with Janyce Jones ’68, was one of the first two Black students to attend the School. Essie, Janyce, Arlien Acevedo ’67, and Gloria Ortiz ’68 all came to Miss Hall’s that year through the School’s partnership with A Better Chance (ABC), a nonprofit organization that assists young people of color with access to educational opportunities. The organization was founded in 1963, and Miss Hall’s began participating in 1965.
At Miss Hall’s, Essie was active in the Glee Club and Spanish Club, was a representative to Student Council during her sophomore and junior years, and was Student Council President as a senior.
Recalls classmate Clara Read, “As many of you will remember, Essie was elected President of our Class (1968) our Senior Year and guided us through a most tumultuous year at Miss Hall's. Essie was a friend to everyone and always greeted you with a smile. She had a way of bringing our class together at a time when we were experiencing some sharp divisions and conflicts. She was so smart and graced us with a wonderful sense of humor. I learned about kindness and tolerance from Essie for she was a very nonjudgmental person. I am truly sorry she could not come to our 50th reunion in 2018.”
“Essie was an excellent student and a kind soul!” adds classmate Patricia Peters.
In 2019, Essie was noted in Heather Eyong ’19’s research project, “Black Excellence at MHS, which explored the history of Black students at Miss Hall’s. Heather’s presentation also featured Janyce, as well as Byron Walker ’76, who attended MHS when it was co-ed and known as The Hall School. Additionally, the report included background on the landmark 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling and on ABC.
After Miss Hall’s, Essie went on to Lake Forest College and Texas A&M University, then worked in telecommunications for most of her professional career, as noted by her obituary in the Salisbury Post newspaper. She was employed by Southern Bell in Salisbury, North Carolina, and then AT&T in Charlotte, North Carolina. She moved to Jacksonville in 1991, and continued to work for AT&T until she retired.