Last summer, Nacogdoches ISD opened the new Emeline Carpenter Elementary, the latest NISD campus to bear the late educator’s name. Funded by a bond election from 2018, the Emeline Carpenter Elementary is the newest campus in NISD and replaces an aging school that first opened back in 1964.

But Emeline Carpenter’s contribution to public education in Nacogdoches goes back well more than a century.

Born in 1884 in rural Nacogdoches County in the Post Oak Community, Carpenter began teaching in that community after attending Bishop College (then located in Marshall) and Prairie View College, the university now known as Prairie View A&M. 

Carpenter left the school in Post Oak and moved to a position in Nacogdoches, teaching Black students 41 years in the classroom before retiring. Carpenter died in 1967 at the age of 83. Her portrait is displayed in the main lobby of the new Carpenter Elementary.

Archie Rison, a Nacogdoches native and graduate of E.J. Campbell, then the Black high school in Nacogdoches, researched Carpenter’s history as well as NISD’s decision to name an elementary school for her.

In 1954, when the E.J. Campbell High School (now an NISD administrative facility) on Shawnee Street opened for Black students in Nacogdoches, school leaders needed to rename the elementary campus that served the southeast area of the city.

Since E.J. Campbell’s name was also attached to the elementary school, the NISD board selected Carpenter as part of the renaming of the campus that was located across Shawnee Street from the new high school. That took place Sept. 14, 1954, Rison said. He nailed down the date by poring over old copies of NISD board minutes from the era.

In 1964, a new elementary school opened at its Leroy Street location at a time when Nacogdoches schools remained segregated. Carpenter’s name was moved to that campus.

Fast forward to 2018 when NISD began examining facility needs within the district. Carpenter Elementary was identified as requiring either an extensive renovation and expansion or construction of an entirely new campus. The district chose the latter, and voters supported the decision with strong backing of the bond election.

The new Emeline Carpenter campus is located on SE Stallings Drive, across from McMichael Middle School.