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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Saying goodbye to ‘the little girl from Leggett’

Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley’s family and closest friends follow the coffin out of Broadway Baptist Church after her funeral.Photos by Katelyn Townsend/The Collegian
Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley’s family and closest friends follow the coffin out of Broadway Baptist Church after her funeral.

Photos by Katelyn Townsend/The Collegian

She has truly been larger than life, and we owe it to her to remember what she shared, what she stood for and what she gave to us all.

Kay Granger
U.S. Representative

By Audrey Werth/ tr news editor

Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley’s family and closest friends follow the coffin out of Broadway Baptist Church after her funeral.Photos by Katelyn Townsend/The Collegian
Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley’s family and closest friends follow the coffin out of Broadway Baptist Church after her funeral.
Photos by Katelyn Townsend/The Collegian

Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley was known by many as a community leader, but mourners said she characterized herself as simply “the little girl from Leggett, Texas.”

She was remembered affectionately by hundreds at her funeral service Oct. 10 at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth for always having the last word. To commemorate this, her service ended with a video of her last remarks looking back on her life.

Hadley, who died Oct. 1 of pancreatic cancer, grew up in rural East Texas with a deep curiosity and thirst for knowledge that stuck with her throughout her life and career.

Board president Louise Appleman speaks on Hadley’s impact at TCC.
Board president Louise Appleman speaks on Hadley’s impact at TCC.

Hadley said her memories went back to the age of 4 because that was when she started school. At that time, she had been walking for a year with her mother to take her older sister to school.

“My mother says I cried every day because I wanted to stay in school,” she recalled in the video. “The second year, my sister was 6, and I was 4, and the teacher told my mother to just leave me there because they had seen me crying every day […] I have been like a sponge ever since trying to soak up everything.”

The video mentioned a time during segregation when, as a teacher in Prairie View, Texas, Hadley was on a jury with one other black man. When jurors were given coupons to eat at a local diner, Hadley looked at him and said, “We are going to walk through the front door like everyone else.”

Without a doubt, Erma Johnson Hadley was the right chancellor at the right place at the right time.

Louise Appleman
TCC board of trustees president

The man was hesitant.

“Come on, are you chicken or what?” she said to him.

U.S. Rep. Kay Granger says her friendship with Hadley ran deep. They often spoke about TCC’s involvement with the community.
U.S. Rep. Kay Granger says her friendship with Hadley ran deep. They often spoke about TCC’s involvement with the community.

Together, they strode through the front door. Hadley refused to go around back before seeing the manager. Eventually, the two were seated at a table in the diner.

Her impact was evidenced by the friends, family and community leaders who showed up to commemorate her life with their presence and the words they spoke about her.

“I especially remember her as a mentor. She didn’t know she was my mentor, but she was,” State Rep. Nicole Collier of Fort Worth said. “I knew it the first moment that I met her that she was going to have an impact on my life.”

Hadley was remembered for her joyous nature, determination and desire to learn.

Board member Gwen Morrison says that everyone was better for knowing Hadley.
Board member Gwen Morrison says that everyone was better for knowing Hadley.

“She has truly been larger than life, and we owe it to her to remember what she shared, what she stood for and what she gave to us all,” U.S. Rep. Kay Granger said.

The commemorative service was truly one of celebration filled with laughter at personal anecdotes and memories of Hadley.

“Where Erma was, that’s where the action was,” said Gwen Morrison of the TCC board of trustees.

Morrison said Hadley had friends everywhere and showed everyone how to live.

“People were her vocation and her avocation,” she said. “Our chancellor always wanted not only to meet people but to know them, their beliefs, their dreams. She believed that given time she could find common

Hadley’s son-in-law Spencer Gould laughs remembering meeting his mother-in-law for the first time.Photos by Katelyn Townsend/The Collegian
Hadley’s son-in-law Spencer Gould laughs remembering meeting his mother-in-law for the first time.
Photos by Katelyn Townsend/The Collegian

ground with anyone.”

Hadley’s reach extended far beyond the walls of TCC and even beyond Tarrant County stretching out across the globe through her efforts with a diverse range of boards and organizations.

Hadley was a member of the Texas governor’s Committee on Volunteerism. She was appointed by two Texas governors to the Trinity River Authority and was a spokeswoman on U.S. congressional delegations and Texas legislative delegations to countries including Spain, Taiwan and Brazil.

In 2010, Hadley was inducted to the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame.

Spencer Emery Gould stands up to say she loved her grandmother.
Spencer Emery Gould stands up to say she loved her grandmother.

Speaking on behalf of the family, Hadley’s son-in-law Spencer Gould elicited laughter from attendees.

“When I first heard about Erma Johnson, my friend Robin, who introduced me to my wife, talked about them together, she said, ‘Spencer, I want you to meet Ardenia, but oh my God — her mom!” Gould said.

He said when he met her, he didn’t meet TCC’s future chancellor but the little girl from Leggett.

“If you love this woman, I encourage you, in her honor and in her name, keep building,” Gould said.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price remembered Hadley as a dear friend who could provide strong advice and engaging conversation about her favorite books and as someone to share stories of grandkids with.

Shirley Pace performs “Run Until I Finish,” a song about finishing the race of life, during Hadley’s funeral Oct. 10.
Shirley Pace performs “Run Until I Finish,” a song about finishing the race of life, during Hadley’s funeral Oct. 10.

“She was always well-spoken, particularly well-dressed and always a smile on,” Price said. “I get called the Energizer bunny often. Erma made me look tired.”

Hadley was remembered as an icon whose influence will live on.

“Without a doubt, Erma Johnson Hadley was the right chancellor at the right place at the right time,” TCC board of trustees president Louise Appleman said.

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