Elizabeth Duncan Koontz

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Elizabeth Duncan Koontz
Elizabeth Duncan Koontz.jpg
6th Director of the United States Women's Bureau
In office
President Richard Nixon
Preceded by Mary Dublin Keyserling
Succeeded by Carmen Rosa Maymi
Personal details
Born June 3, 1919
Salisbury, North Carolina
Died January 6, 1989
Salisbury, North Carolina

Elizabeth Duncan Koontz (June 3, 1919 – January 6, 1989)[1] was a national figure in education, civil rights and the women's movement. She was the first African-American president of the National Education Association and director of the United States Department of Labor Women's Bureau.

Early life and education[edit]

Born Elizabeth Duncan in Salisbury, North Carolina to educators Samuel E. and Luna Bell (Jordan) Duncan in 1919. She was the youngest of seven children in a family of educators and learned to read by seven years old.[2] Her father was a high school principal; her mother an elementary teacher; her brother Samuel later served as president of Livingston College in Salisbury; and her other brother, John, was the first African-American commissioner of the District of Columbia.[3][4] Koontz attended segregated schools in Salisbury and graduated as salutatorian from Price High School in 1935.[5] She graduated with a BA in English and elementary education in 1938 from Livingstone College. In 1941, she earned her master's degree from Atlanta University.[1] She also studied at Columbia University, University of Indiana, and North Carolina College.

Elizabeth Duncan married fellow teacher Harry Koontz in 1947.[1]


Koontz' first teaching job was a fourth-grade teacher at Harnett County Training School in Dunn, North Carolina working with special needs students. The school owned a boarding house for teachers and staff, but Koontz discovered that the principal was charging too much for board. She organized teachers to protest and was fired from that position.[6] She later became a special education teacher at Price High School in Salisbury, North Carolina.

She was a lifelong member of the National Education Association and served as President of its largest department, the Association of Classroom Teachers during the 1965-66 school year.[3] In 1968, she became the first black president of the National Education Association. During her presidency, she took the conservative and rural-oriented organization in a more liberal direction, notably establishing the Human and Civil Rights Division of the NEA.[2] The Division was responsible for a variety of issues affecting minority education.[7][8]

She was a member of the national Advisory Council of the Education of Disadvantaged children in 1965, during President Lyndon B. Johnson’s term and served as Assistant Secretary for the Coordination of Nutrition Programs in the North Carolina Department of Human Resources.[3] In 1969, she was appointed by Richard Nixon as the first African-American director of the United States Department of Labor Women's Bureau.[9] As the head of the Bureau, Koontz helped to: share research and expertise with women abroad; address and eliminate discrimination against women and minorities in the workforce; identify discriminatory provisions in State statutes; support and fight for passage of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).[10] In advocating for equal pay for women, she stated, “I believe that what women must have is freedom–the freedom to choose different life styles, the freedom to fulfill the best that is in them. A philosopher once said: ‘The great law of culture is: Let each become all that he was created capable of being.’ I do not think we ask for more than that. I am convinced we cannon settle for less.”[2] She was a U.S. Delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in 1975 and counselor to the Secretary of Labor on women's programs.[3]

Koontz was the assistant state school superintendent in North Carolina in 1975 until she retired in 1982.[8] She served on various boards including as vice chairman of the Commission on North Carolina Year 2000, as a trustee Educational Testing Service in Princeton, N.J., the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and Pfeiffer College.[11]

She died from a heart attack in her home on January 6, 1989.[8]

Awards and honors[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Mancini-Knight, Candice (2003). "KOONTZ, Elizabeth Duncan ("Libby")". Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Thematic Series: The 1960s. New York: C. Scribner's Sons via HighBeam Research. ISBN 9780684314495. Retrieved April 20, 2012. (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c Ware, Susan (2004). Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary Completing the Twentieth Century, Volume 5. Harvard University Press. pp. 351–352. ISBN 067401488X. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Honoree: Elizabeth Duncan Koontz". Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  4. ^ "GUIDE TO THE JOHN B. DUNCAN PAPERS, 1932-1989". Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  5. ^ Frederik Ohles; Shirley M. Ohles; John G. Ramsay (1997). Biographical Dictionary of Modern American Educators. p. 195. ISBN 0313291330. 
  6. ^ "A Fighting Lady for N.E.A.". Time. July 12, 1968. p. 51. 
  7. ^ "Answering the Call: The History of NEA, Part 4". Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c "Elizabeth Koontz, Aide to President Nixon, Dies". Jet Magazine. 23 January 1989. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  9. ^ "North Carolina International Women's Year Coordinating Committee, General Records, 1975 - 1978". Archived from the original on 18 September 2013. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  10. ^ "United States Department of Labor: An Overview 1920 - 2012". Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  11. ^ "A TRIBUTE TO NORTH CAROLINA'S ELIZABETH KOONTZ". February 2, 1989. Retrieved 28 April 2015. 
  12. ^ "Commencement Speakers & Honorary Degrees". Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  13. ^ "Bryant College Commencement and the Inauguration of Dr. Schuyler Goblet as President of the College". June 21, 1969. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  14. ^ "Browse by Name". North Carolina Award Recipients. State Library of North Carolina. Retrieved April 20, 2012. 
  15. ^ Lee, Holly Fesperman (November 6, 2006). "Educators, students recall Koontz's kindness, love at school dedication". Salisbury Post. Retrieved April 20, 2012. 

Further Reading[edit]