LABC Update – Thursday, March 31, 2022
March 30, 2022
Many of you will remember Katharine as the wife of Rufus Watson. I find this post from the Berkeley School of Theology where her daughter-in-law, Yvonne, is the CFO, to be a fitting way to end Women’s History Month.
Katherine was born on June 19, 1913, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Katherine graduated from Tuskegee Institute at the age of 19 and went on to receive her Master’s degree from the University of Michigan. After graduation, she returned to New Orleans, where she taught mathematics for more than fifteen years. Katherine retired from the school system in 1943 and enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps and was awarded the rank of First Lieutenant. This was a trying time for women in the military, especially Black women. She often told stories of going to rescue her fellow women enlisted from troubled areas in the South. She received an honorable discharge in 1946 and relocated to Oakland to join her husband, Rufus Watson. They had two sons.
Katherine returned to teaching in the Oakland Public School system and served as an educator and administrator. During her tenure with OUSD she served as a teacher and counselor at Lowell Middle School; Vice Principal of Westlake Middle School; Principal of Lowell Middle School and finally as Principal of Oakland High School. She retired in 1979, but continued her philanthropic efforts.
Katherine was active with the American Red Cross, served on the governing board of Wheatridge Foundation and a Lifetime of the NAACP.
Katherine attended Beth Eden Baptist Church and later moved her membership to Bethlehem Lutheran Church. While at Bethlehem, Katherine was instrumental in starting a tutorial program and serving on the Church Council and the Sunday School.
Yvonne remarks of her mother-in-law, “I look to you as you set the standard for me and others to follow. May we be the leaders you taught us to be.”