Longtime Port Arthur ISD educator providing scholarship in honor of husband, sons killed in crash

Published 12:38 am Thursday, June 29, 2023

A longtime Port Arthur educator who lost her two sons and husband in a fatal crash more than two decades ago is looking to breathe new life into a scholarship in their honor.

Mary Lathan is executive director of the Lathan Memorial Scholarship, which was established to commemorate the lives of her husband Anthony Sr., 44, and sons Anthony Jr., 19, and Andre, 18, who were killed in a car crash in July 1997. 

Anthony Jr. was a student at Lamar State College Port Arthur and Andre had just graduated Lincoln High School and was going to attend LSCPA when they died.

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George Davis grew up with the “Lanthan boys” and was classmates with the elder son. Davis and the boys attended Sacred Heart Catholic Church together and took part in church activities together.

Mary Lathan was an English teacher at Lincoln when he attended the school.

The Lathan Memorial Scholarship began in 1998, when PAISD had three high schools. Subsequently, her parents became ill and she was unable to take care of her parents and tend to the scholarship responsibilities. Later she had medical issues of her own. 

Hurricane Harvey and COVID made the road to the scholarship program bumpy.

Then in 2021 she gave a $1,000 scholarship and that student is nearing graduation and “doing very well,” she said. 

After skipping a year she began to call out to students, friends, family, church and others to reestablish her steering committee and board of directors.

Davis said the committees and Lathan got together this past weekend to present a scholarship to Wilson Early College High School graduate Kaci Randals and talk of the future of the scholarship program.

“Every time the award was given it was money out of her pocket,” Davis said, adding the committees don’t want the scholarship to be a financial burden on her. “We looked at different examples of fundraisers. One example was a jazz concert and someone suggested a golf tournament so this (scholarship) is not coming out of her pocketbook.”

Pictured are Andre Lathan, left, and Anthony Lathan Jr., and Anthony Lathan Sr., whom the scholarship is in memory of. (Courtesy photo)

 Who were they?

Anthony Lathan Sr. was a Port Arthur native, military veteran and retired PAISD substitute teacher. He was a lector in his church and was leader of the Junior Knights of Columbus. 

Anthony Lathan Jr. was a 1996 graduate of Lincoln High School and his brother a 1997 graduate.

“I prayed for ordinary, healthy, well-rounded sons and that’s what I got,” she said, adding they were active in church activities but that’s not to say they were perfect. They had many friends.

Mary Lathan comes from a family of teachers and her mother, Roberta Moss, was a PAISD school board member.

The family traveled a lot, she said, having lived on the east and west coast of the U.S. while her husband was in the military. They were married for 20 years when he died. 

 Reasons for continuing scholarships

Lathan said she wants to continue the scholarship for several reasons saying she still feels her sons’ presence and the joy she saw as they graduated from Lincoln knowing they had a plan for the future.

“We helped them formulate a plan,” she said. “So many children just need a hand up and I do want my family memorialized that way. I don’t think I’m selfish. I just feel I should (continue). I have no reason why I should not.”

The educator said she could do other things instead of overseeing the scholarship such as flying around the work or just taking care of her dogs. 

“I could do something other than accumulate but it’s not about me. Life’s not about me. Life’s about what you do for others,” she said.

Instead of lamenting an ache or pain she’d rather help others.

“My mother was that way and instilled that in me, to reach out and do for others.”

Davis said continuing the scholarship means a lot to him.

“I remember the exact day the accident occurred. I can tell you where I was and who told me. I know the impact of Mrs. Lathan and the entire family has on the community,” Davis said. “It’s something I feel I must do.”

Davis said he feels honored to be a part of the scholarship because it is coming from the heart.

“This is someone who poured into us,” he said of Mary Lathan’s influence as an educator. “Everybody remembers the type of teacher she was, the type of guys her sons were, her husband was a good father. It’s something I have to do.”

 Lathan Memorial Scholarship

The Lathan Memorial Scholarship is offered to seniors in PAISD. The application period for the current scholarship is closed.

Applicants must submit an essay, letters of recommendation, SAT/ACT test scores and grade point average of 2.0 or higher plus other criteria.

For more information about the scholarship or to make a contribution, email LathanScholarship@gmail.com

The scholarship was founded by Gail Davis and Doris Hayes.