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Gladdie Fowler remembered as education champion, advocate for children in need

Gladdie Fowler, a longtime educator and champion for those with mental illness, has died.

Spindletop Center announced Fowler’s passing Friday afternoon. She served on the center’s board of trustees for 20 years and was chairperson of the board for 12 years, according to information from the Spindletop Center.

Jefferson County Commissioner Michael Shane Sinegal learned the news earlier in the day and was shocked. Sinegal had spoke with her not long ago when he asked if she would be willing to be reappointed to the Spindletop board, to which she said yes.

He called her a public servant and a beautiful person who, along with her family, gave so much to this community to make sure children were educated and cared for.

Port Arthur Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Mark Porterie said Fowler served in different positions in the district, including principal at DeQueen and Dowling (now Port Acres) elementary schools and as District Elementary Curriculum Specialist.

“On behalf of the Port Arthur Independent School District Board of Trustees and employees, we send our condolences to the family of Mrs. Gladdie Fowler,” Porterie said. “The news of Mrs. Fowler’s passing spread quickly throughout the PAISD.  As the news traveled, the atmosphere became somber. Mrs. Fowler never actually retired. She continued to teach, care for her family and was always willing to assist when and wherever needed. It took a while to digest the news of her death.

Gladdie Fowler at Royal Ambassadors Academy. From left: Jake Williams, Jarred Chapman, Gladdie Fowler and Cedrick Wilson. (Cassandra Jenkins/The News)

“I think Mrs. Fowler must have had a hand in every area of the district. She was not afraid to take on tasks that were challenging and when she completed her task the challenge was no more. She had won!”

The Spindletop Center, in a news release, called Fowler a champion for people with mental health conditions, substance use disorders and intellectual and developmental disabilities. She also served as the Chair of the Texas Council of Community Centers Board, and she was known statewide for her passion, tenacity and faith.

Gladdie Fowler was a retired educator with 44 years of service. She served in a variety of roles in the Beaumont and Port Arthur school districts, including as a teacher, department chair and principal. Over the years, Fowler has been recognized by many organizations, including being named the Martin Luther King, Jr. Support Group Woman of the Year at the 34th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Brunch.

She also received the Richard E. Hopkins Community Leader Award at the 2018 Central Texas African American Family Support Conference, the news release stated.

“Gladdie always had a smile on her face when confronted with any difficulty or challenge, and she always reminded us ‘HE is in charge,’” Holly Borel, chief executive officer of Spindletop Center, said. “She was dedicated to our causes and tireless in advocating on our behalf. She has earned her rest. Her loss will be felt in ways we can’t even yet fathom.”

Fowler was the topic of a Port Arthur Newsmedia story during Black History Month in February.

At that time she said her calling for education came at an early age.

“I went into education because I felt that I could be a change agent to help students excel and learn,” Gladdie Fowler said in February 2020. “I wanted to be a change and help kids believe in themselves. I love children, I love education and my one goal in life was to be a change in someone’s life.”

During her time as an esteemed educator, Fowler came to be known as the “Turn-Around Principal.” She brought Dowling Elementary from a low-performing school to receiving state distinctions in just one year.

Fowler contributed the end results to teamwork.

“No. 1 is I had to believe in God,” she said. “No. 2 is you have to have staff buy in. We worked hard. It wasn’t just me, it was a team and because of that, we were successful.”

Gladdie Fowler, left, and Nakia Crockett, center were named the Martin Luther King Jr. Support Group Woman and Man of the Year in January. At right is Crockett’s mother Bernadine Crockett. (I.C. Murrell/The News) 1-20-20