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Furgerson, Betty Jean, 1927-



  • Existence: 1927-


Betty Jean (B.J.) Furgerson, teacher, social worker, human rights commission director and university regent, was born on March 10, 1927. She was the second of five children of Lee B. and Lily Furgerson. Her father, Lee Burton Furgerson, practiced medicine in Waterloo for twenty-one years until his death in 1948. He was active in many community groups and was also the president of a savings and loan company at the time of his death. Lily Furgerson taught fourth, fifth and sixth grades in the Waterloo school district from 1952 to 1971, the first African American allowed to teach in that system. Betty Jean Furgerson graduated from East Waterloo High School in 1945. She began her college life at Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama, in the autumn of 1945. Furgerson transferred first to the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa) and then to Iowa State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Iowa) where, in 1952, she earned her B.A. in secondary education with a concentration in art. Eighteen years later Furgerson entered the University of Kansas School of Social Work and acquired an M.S.W. in 1972. Growing up, Furgerson developed a great appreciation for jazz. She and her family often traveled to Chicago and other locations to see various jazz bands. They developed lasting friendships with some of the members of the Duke Ellington Orchestra. The musicians often visited the Furgersons' home when they performed in or near Waterloo and exchanged correspondence with Betty Jean, her mother and her brother Lee while they were on tour. Betty Jean Furgerson's work experience included several positions that drew on her abilities as an educator, social worker and leader. She first found employment as an instructor of adult crafts and children's art at the Waterloo Recreation Center. For two years she worked as an assistant in the health education department of the Waterloo YWCA before becoming a district advisor to the Conestoga Council of Girl Scouts in Waterloo, Iowa, from 1958 to 1967. She served as the director of Homemaking/Home-Health Aid Project with the Family Service League during the six months of the project's funding in 1967. Furgerson also directed parent education for the Black Hawk County Head Start program, including four and a half months as the acting director of education from 1967 to 1970. Upon returning to Waterloo following her graduate work at the University of Kansas, Furgerson served as the administrative coordinator for the Community Consortium, a group formed to provide support for the Waterloo school system's desegregation plan, for a year. In 1974, she became the director of the Waterloo Human Rights Commission, a position she held for the next eighteen years. As a leader Furgerson has served her local community and state on several boards in various capacities.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Betty Jean Furgerson papers

Identifier: IWA0111

Teacher, social worker, human rights commission director, and university regent from Waterloo.

Dates: 1921-2010

Frances Hawthorne papers

Identifier: IWA0473

Des Moines educator whose materials include You Can't Go Back to Buxton and African Americans in Iowa: a Chronicle of Contributions, 1830-1992.

Dates: 1906-2000

Additional filters:

African American churches 1
African Americans 1
Burlington (Iowa) 1
Buxton (Iowa) 1
Cedar Rapids (Iowa) 1