Doris Hall Evans-Curry dreamed of being an English teacher, but she was the wrong color.
“If you want to teach, you will have to go down South,” someone told her in the late 1930s. “Colored” people could not be English teachers in the Pittsburgh Public Schools at that time, she says.
So she went back to being a secretary and eventually became the first black female manager with the Pittsburgh Housing Authority.
Mrs. Evans-Curry celebrated her 100th birthday last week with family and friends at the Hill House Kaufmann Center in the Hill District. She was born on June 1, 1914, in the Hill District, the oldest of 12 children born to Marguerite and Sellers Hall, a pitcher for the Homestead Grays of the Negro Leagues and a jazz promoter.
She attended Watt Street School, which was later renamed for a family friend, Robert L. Vann. She graduated from Schenley High School in 1930. After graduation, she went to work as a stenographer at the Centre Avenue YWCA. She enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh and, after two years of study, became a secretary for several department administrators in the City-County Building. While working full time, she continued to attend evening classes at Pitt and received a bachelor’s degree in secondary education in 1935. When she found she could not be a teacher in Pittsburgh, she continued to work as a secretary to help support her younger brothers and sisters.
In 1944, she took a job with the Pittsburgh Housing Authority, eventually becoming manager of several communities. She retired in 1979 after 35 years. In 1945, she married Staff Sgt. Robert Evans, and three years later, they had a son, Robert Jr. Both are deceased. In 1983, she married William Curry, also now deceased.
Mrs. Evans-Curry has been a member of the Junior Debs, which later became the Modern Grandmothers Club, and Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. For many years, she was a volunteer at Vintage, a senior citizen facility, where she performed in numerous plays. She has been a lifelong member of Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Homewood, formerly in the Hill District.
Adept with a computer, she is known for driving a sporty Toyota and for her stylish clothes. She and her sisters go to lunch and movies every Wednesday. She has four sisters and two brothers: Wanda Jackson of Penn Hills, Nedra Miller of Oakland, Marilyn Austin of Freeport, N.Y., Elizabeth Waters of Beechview, David Hall of Miami and Dr. Darryl Hall of Rockville Centre, N.Y. Brothers Malcolm Hall and Ronald Hall are deceased. Three others died in infancy. She also has two stepsons, Robert and William Curry Jr.; one grandaughter, Anasa Washington of Los Angeles; and three great-granddaughters. At her birthday party, she received a card from President Barack Obama and was honored by a niece, Tracy Lynne Austin, who said:
“Our family is deeply rooted. Its branches are strong. They bend but do not break. They bloom in the sunshine and grow in the rain. Our family is beautiful and flourishing with love because of you, Aunt Doris!”
If you or a friend or a relative recently turned 100 or will soon do so, the Post-Gazette would like to hear from you. To be included in Century Club, send the honoree’s biographical information and your phone number to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Century Club, Attn: Kevin Kirkland, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222. Fax: 412-491-8452. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.