LANSING, Mich. — Olivia Letts, the first Black teacher and first Black principal to be hired by the Lansing School District, died on Monday at the age of 93.
Letts was hired by the district in 1951. She had to fight for her position, but soon fought to desegregate schools, not an easy task in the early years of the Civil Rights Movement.
“I’m sure there were issues for her, but she never let that take her eye off her goal and her goal was to do what’s best for students in Lansing,” said Lansing School District Superintendent Sam Sinicropi.
“She helped pave the way, because she stood up,” said Barbara Mason, the first African American in Michigan to be elected to statewide office.
Letts was involved in the community and an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She was viewed as a role model to people of all generations.
“If you have a dream and you feel like you can make a difference, go for it because it can and it will happen,” said community organizer Erica Lynn. “Her loss is so profound, because she’s made an impact on so many people in Lansing.
Her pride and joy was a her daughter, Eileen Letts, two grandsons and husband, Richard Letts, who was a Civil Rights Activist, star athlete and longtime human relations director for the city.
“She wasn’t in the limelight, he was. So, she did what she did very quietly,” Eileen Letts said. “That saying walking quietly with a big stick, that was her.”
While she’s gone, her legacy will live on.
“You legacy lives on in the work that folks are doing here in the community,” said community organizer Ozae Moore.
“She was such a treasure to so many people, that she will be truly missed,” Eileen Letts said.
Letts' family is still finalizing funeral arrangements.