Charles Akins was the first black teacher in the district’s integrated high school and the first black principal.
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Editors Note: This story by Anne Marie Beyeler is being re-printed with the permission of Six Square, Austin’s Black Cultural District.
Early in the morning of March 29th, East Austin lost a great educator and one of its most vocal advocates for education equality. Dr. William Charles Akins was 84 years old when he passed. Raised in the heart of East Austin, he attended Blackshear Elementary, Kealing Junior High, and Old L.C. Anderson High School. Following his graduation in 1950, Akins remained in the community and pursued his Bachelor’s degree in History at East Austin’s own Huston-Tillotson University. Akins attributed his passion for education advocacy to the enthusiasm he saw exercised by his teachers throughout his own academic career.
His passion realized, Akins attended Prairie View A&M University for his Master’s degree and received his administrative certification from Texas State University, named Southwest Texas State University at the time. He returned to East Austin and in 1964, became the city’s first Black teacher in an integrated classroom at Johnston High School – today, Eastside Memorial High. During his fifty-year career with the Austin Independent School District (AISD), Dr. Akins served as school Dean, assistant principal, associate superintendent, as well as the first principal of the new L.C. Anderson High School. Dr. Akins supported integration efforts adamantly throughout his life, working to ensure the opportunity of equal education for all students throughout Austin.
His advocacy extended well past the day-to-day operations of AISD: Akins participated in Keep Austin Beautiful and the local Austin Area Urban League, in addition to facilitating AISD’s Adopt-A-School and Junior Achievement programs. Known for always keeping his door open – literally and figuratively – Dr. Akins offered aid to anyone who sought his advice. Memorialized forever in 1998 by the city’s creation of W.C. Akins High School, the life of Dr. Akins continues to remind students and teachers alike of the power of equality in education.