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Sunday, February 2, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #5 Willa Mae Bryan Dudley

No Story Too Small

I don't have as many photographs of Dad's sister, Willa Mae Bryan Dudley, as I did of his other sisters. However, she did seem to make it in the newspaper more often than her other siblings.  Here is her story. 

Willa Mae was the fourth child of Myrtie Hairston and Redic E. Bryan. She was born on April 16, 1910 in the Levelview community of Baylor County, Texas.

Willa Mae Bryan wasn't always "Willa Mae." Her parents named her Willie May.
I have seen her name written as Willie May, Willie Mae, and Willa Mae. 

Willa Mae's family lived in Levelview and Seymour in Baylor County, Texas for most of her childhood. 

There is no date on this clipping as it was found in the Bryan family bible. This speaking contest could be be a church or school contest. Willa Mae earned first place. I have seen Willa Mae speaking or reading at various events in newspaper articles. She is the only young child in several of the events. In March of 1922, the Parents and Teachers Club of Seymour opened with the "singing of America which was followed by a prayer by Supt. J. F. Kemp and a reading by Willie May Bryan." From the Wichita Daily Times in 1923, at a Texas Day Program in Seymour (at the home of Mrs. J. T. Lively), "Little Miss Willie May Bryan dressed attractively in red, white, and blue bunting, gave a reading of "The Lone Star State."  In May of 1950, the Phillip's Garden Club sponsored a fashion show and Willa Mae Dudley gave the commentary for the show. This was found in the Amarillo Daily News, May 16, 1950. 

I assume that Willa Mae attended Seymour High School, but according to the class rolls, she did not graduate from that school. Her mother was very ill and died in the spring of 1927, the year that she turned 17. In the fall of 1927, Willa Mae was living in Borger with her sister, DeRay. Could she have gone to school in Borger?

Willa Mae was very talented. I was told that she wrote well and that she sang in
church  and school programs and at weddings. She was a talented seamstress and I am fairly certain that she made most of the beautifully crocheted Barbie clothes that I received as Christmas gifts. 

In 1930, Willa Mae was on a train wreck while on the way to visit her brother, Hairston "Buster" Bryan in Wichita Falls. She was 21 years old and still went by the name Willie May. It was written that she was a teacher in Borger; however, I think that at that time she actually worked at a drug store in BorgerTo see what Willa Mae said in a brief interview click on the link to my clipping at  I clipped the entire page so you will need to enlarge it to read it. 

Willa Mae married, and later divorced, James Hamilton Dudley, also of Borger. They had one daughter, Jacqueline "Jackie" DeRay Dudley. I do not know where Willa Mae was married, but Jackie was born in San Diego on July 22, 1932.  Photo of Jimmy Dudley with Jackie. 

Willa Mae with her daughter, Jackie, and my father,
Whit Bryan in Borger, Texas - 1943. 

Willa Mae worked in Borger department stores. Those that I know of were 
Dunlap's, Cartwright's, Anthony's, and KC store.

Willa Mae and Jackie - December 28, 1956. Jackie married John "Jack" Skinner and eventually moved to Denver, Colorado where she lived until her death in 2003.  

Willa Mae Bryan Dudley died on May 25, 1991 in Borger, Texas. She is buried with her sisters, DeRay and Marie in Westlawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Borger. 


© 2014


Family photographs and documents from the collection of Diana Bryan Quinn.

"Garden Club Has Spring Luncheon." Amarillo Daily News [Amarillo] 16 May 1950. Web. Accessed 10 Aug. 2013.

"Levelview." Baylor County Banner [Seymour] 22 Apr. 1910: Microfilm.

"Parent and Teachers Club" Wichita Daily Times [Wichita Falls] 5 Mar. 1922. Web. Accessed 1 Feb. 2014. 

Salt pork to sirloin: the history of Baylor County from 1878 to present. Wichita Falls, Tex.: Nortex Press, 1977. Print.

"Sidelights on Sunday's Disastrous Wreck Near Oklaunion Show Freaks of Fortune That Seem Impossible."The Vernon Daily Record [Vernon] 4 Aug. 1930. Web. Accessed 2 Feb. 2014.

Stanley, Edith Guynes . "Find A Grave - Millions of Cemetery Records and Online Memorials." Find A Grave - Millions of Cemetery Records and Online Memorials.  Web. 17 Jan. 2014.

"Texas Day Program." Wichita Daily News [Wichita Falls] 30 Apr. 1923. Web. Accessed 1 Feb. 2014. 

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