Jackie Mae Townsell Elementary

Jackie Mae Townsell Elementary School, located at 3700 Pleasant Run Rd., opened in August 2003 as the 19th elementary school in the Irving ISD. It is named in memory of local civic leader Jackie Mae Townsell. Jan Miliara was the first principal. Other principals have included Linda Willett, and Angela Long. The current principal is Krystle Green. (2019)

Jackie Mae Howard Townsell was born April 7, 1936. She lived with her parents and sisters in West Dallas. Her father wanted to raise his three daughters in a rural environment, so, when Jackie was 13 years old, the family moved to the Bear Creek community near Irving. This was the era of segregation, and Bear Creek was an African American community. The drastic change from the conveniences of city life to the rustic life lived in Bear Creek, where residents drew their water from wells, used outhouses, and had little or no electricity, was difficult for a young woman. In spite of the hardships, Jackie found a home for life in Bear Creek. She graduated from Sowers Colored School #2 in Bear Creek. In 1951, she married Jimmie Townsell. They had one son, Aaron.

In 1959 Jackie and Jimmie Townsell opened a grocery store in Bear Creek. They operated the small store for 38 years. Jackie decided to serve lunch as part of the store’s business and by the 1980s the little grocery store had become a favorite lunchtime place in Irving. The menu was very simple—whatever Jackie happened to make that day. The typical beverage was red Kool-Aid served in a Mason jar. Banana pudding was also a signature dessert.

Always concerned with the betterment of the community, Jackie established the West Irving Young Adult Club in order to give the youth of the community a place to gather and activities to fill their time. During the 1960s, Townsell involved herself in the activities of the West Irving Improvement Association. Through the work of the association, African American residents gained access to the city’s libraries and swimming pools. The West Irving Improvement Association successfully worked for annexation of the Bear Creek community into the City of Irving in 1969. As a result, residents received access to city services such as water and sewer. During the early 1970s, she worked to help smooth community tensions during the integration of the Irving ISD.

In 1977, Jackie Townsell became the first African-American elected to the Irving City Council. She was the second woman to hold a City Council position. She was elected to nine consecutive two-year terms thus serving on the City Council from 1977-1995, the longest consecutive term served by any council member.

Jackie Townsell also served on the city’s Community Development Advisory Board, the Metropolitan Housing Finance Corporation, and the Board of the Irving/Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce. She established the Irving Black Arts Council, worked as an adviser to Irving’s Salvation Army and was a member of the City of Irving’s Centennial Celebration Committee. In 1971, she became the first African American to serve on a Dallas County Grand Jury. Mrs. Townsell served as a Dallas County election precinct chairwoman for nine years. She also held board positions with Irving Aid, Inc., West Irving Improvement and Day Care Center, and the Democrats for Responsible Government.

The City of Irving created the Jackie Townsell Bear Creek Heritage Center in recognition of Jackie’s years of work bringing a better life to the people of the Bear Creek area. This center and park consists of three history museums, open green space, and two picnic pavilions. Mrs. Townsell died on October 17, 2002. At the time of her death, Joe Putnam, Irving Mayor at that time, was quoted as saying; “She wasn’t one of our finest citizens. She was our finest citizen.” She is buried in Shady Oak Cemetery in Irving.


Research from the following: Dallas Morning News, October 21, 2002, Irving Morning News, October 22, 2002, Irving Archives and Museum documents, Irving: A Texas Odyssey by Joseph Rice, and Irving Heritage Society Historical Marker 1995 “Jackie Mae Townsell” in Jackie Townsell Bear Creek Heritage Center.

This web page was created July 2019 by the Celebrating Irving Committee of the Irving Heritage Society. Photos used with the permission of Irving Archives and Museum.

The Irving Heritage Society’s vision:

A diverse community that values its past, celebrates its present, and embraces its future.