Killeen: Family, friends remember first black KHS graduate

KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) Days after her death, family and friends of Mildred Debose are remembering her life and the history she made in the city of Killeen.

Mildred Debose, at the age of 81, died Friday.

Back in 1958, when desegregation of schools was just beginning, she was the first African-American to graduate from Killeen High School. Her graduation, opening the doors for generations to follow.

"Very proud, very happy to know my sister was determined," said Ardella Nesbit, Mildred's older sister.

She added that graduating during those times did not come easy.

"You had to be kind of on your own if you wanted to progress, you had to dig for yourself because you know, there was still prejudice," Ardella Nesbit said.

Mildred's niece, Tina Nesbit, shared memories of her aunt -- always putting a smile of everyone's face and lighting up the room.

"When she talk, she didn't talk much, she was very quiet. But when she did say something it was OK, I need to listen, I need to listen, I need to pay attention and I need to take it to heart," Tina Nesbit said.

Her family also shared how Mildred Debose loved to shop and her collection of shoes.

Sarah Price, a longtime family friend and member of New Jerusalem International Baptist Church, remembers her way of helping others.

"You didn't have to tell her you were having an issue or going through something, it's like she sensed it. Her thing was she would just slide you a prayer, a note to read it when you got home. She did that for me," Price said.

Kennan Debose, Mildred's son and pastor of New Jerusalem International Baptist Church, says his mom led by example and with teachings from the Bible.

"She often said I am your example that you can do it," Kennan Debose said. "I thank God that pillar I lived under, her roof. She trained me and groomed me, I thank God for that."

Funeral services are planned for Saturday at 11 a.m. at New Jerusalem International Baptist Church in Killeen.