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OAAE Honors Lee Virgil Patterson Sr. ‘Heart Of A Teacher

Behind every great man is a great woman! As we celebrate Violate Alford Patterson today, we also acknowledge the accomplishments of her husband the late Lee Virgil Patterson, Sr. who was inducted into the Oklahoma African American Educators Hall of Fame, Inc. on September 27, 2019.

OAAE Honors Lee Virgil Patterson Sr. ‘Heart Of A Teacher

By F Jones -September 13, 2019

The Oklahoma African American Educators Hall of Fame, Inc., (OAAE) announces the posthumous induction of career Tulsa educator and coach Mr. Lee Virgil Patterson as a member of their 2019 class of the OAAE Hall of Fame Inductees. The induction ceremony was be held on Friday, September 27, 2019 at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City.

Lee Virgil Patterson, Sr., born to Charley and Mary Patterson on November 15, 1926, in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, experienced unfortunate circumstances in a family of thirteen children. Despite the obstacles, the children grew up in the State Home of Negro Deaf, Blind and Orphans, known simply as the DB&O in Taft, Oklahoma. Patterson and his brother Alfred believed in an education, therefore; they moved to Tulsa to attend school. They supported themselves as tailors. He graduated high school and went to college on a football scholarship at Shaw University in North Carolina. He missed being at home, so he transferred to Langston University. He suffered an injury which ended his athletic career at Langston University. However, he rebounded with a job as a student coach, and graduated with a B.S. degree in Industrial Arts.

When duty called in 1951, he honored his country by serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Mr. Patterson received the Korean Service Medal, two Bronze Stars and the United Nation’s Service Medal.

In 1954, Mr. Patterson began his career in education as a teacher at the Oklahoma State Training School for Boys in Boley, Oklahoma where he taught tailoring, math, woodshop and coached boys’ basketball. He later moved to Tulsa where he was hired to teach at Carver Junior High, then McLain High, followed by Hale High in the Tulsa Public Schools where he taught for more than twenty years. His assignments included arts and crafts, drafting and printing.

Mr. Patterson was the consummate educator. He exemplified the “Heart of a Teacher” as described by Paula J. Fox in her book by the same name. “The child arrives like a mystery box with puzzles pieces inside, some of the pieces are broken or missing and others just seem to hide. The heart of a teacher can sort out the puzzle and help the child to see the potential for greatness from within.” He would put the pieces together for many young students who entered his woodwork class. His goal was not just to impart knowledge, but also to create a work of art. He understood that the process would be painfully slow at times, but he knew the students would be successful.

In addition, he was from the old school where women were respected; he opened doors and pulled out chairs. He honored family, he wore suits or well-tailored and pressed work clothes to class, and he welcomed new teachers and taught them the ropes. He never shied away from an opportunity to share his craft.

Mr. Patterson’s awards and accolades included: Destination Discovery Inc.’s Volunteer Service Award and the 25th Anniversary Achievement Award; the Outstanding Service Award-Industrial Arts Award, the Tulsa Public Schools Department of Vocational Education and Industrial Arts Award; the Certificate of Recognition – Vocational Industrial Arts Clubs of America; Langston University Alumni Association Outstanding Service Award, the Mid-Western Region Award, and he was a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

A loving husband, Lee Virgil and his wife Violet, (2015 OAAEHOF recipient) celebrated sixty wonderful years of marriage shortly before his death. His legacy of education is seen in the numerous accomplishments of his children and grandchildren. He was a member of the Morning Star Baptist Church of Tulsa for more than seventy 70 years where he faithfully served as Trustee, Deacon, Sunday School and Vacation Bible School teacher and the Brotherhood Ministry.

Lee Virgil Patterson Sr. prided himself on being a gentleman and a role model for all students, but especially for young African American men. And, although he was known as being a disciplinarian, he also had a wicked sense of humor. Above all, he possessed “The Heart of a Teacher.”

The Oklahoma African American Educators Hall of Fame, Inc. President, Dr. Donnie Nero Sr., encourages the public to attend this prestigious annual event, especially former students of this inductee. For more information about the 2020 inductees and tickets, phone 918-698-6037 or access their web page at

**Lee Virgil Patterson, Sr. is the husband of Violet Alford Patterson; who is the daughter of Emily & Wesley Dow Alford; and granddaughter of Lucy & Matthew Solomon Alford.

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