Supporting youth & sports since 1942.

Willie Stewart
2019
All

    WILLIE STEWART

    By Gail Wood

    Throughout his life, Willie Stewart has followed a desire to help, to make a difference in a community. That drive today, even as he's entered his 80s, is still burning.

    "I am so grateful for so many good things that have happened in my life," Stewart said. "I feel obligated to serve. If I have energy, if I have talent, if I have money, I want to share it."

    That desire to help shined brightly during Stewart's time in the Tacoma School District. From 1960 to 1996, he was employed as a teacher, an assistant principal, a principal and assistant superintendent. He was also a Tacoma School Board member from 1999 to 2005.

    Stewart, who grew up in Texas, was hired as Lincoln High School's principal in 1970 and worked there in that position for eight years.

    "He has a heart as big as Texas," Jim Walton, a former Tacoma city manager, said in a Tacoma News Tribune story several years ago. "He understands what leadership is all about. He is one of the true local heroes." Walton praised Stewart's leadership and kindness.

    In 1960, Stewart was hired by the Tacoma School District and assigned to Gault Junior High to teach life science and physical science. Stewart taught at Gault until 1966, when he was promoted to assistant principal. He stayed at Gault for three years until he was hired at Lincoln High School as assistant principal. A year later in 1970, he became the principal at Lincoln, making him the first black principal in the Tacoma School District.

    In honor of Stewart's 36 years in the Tacoma schools as a teacher, principal and district administrator, the Tacoma School Board named an education building in downtown Tacoma after him in 2015. The building - now called the Willie Stewart Academy - is a re-engagement center. It's recognition of his years of commitment to the Tacoma schools.

    Dan Barkley, a former assistant superintendent, praised Stewart for his years of commitment to the Tacoma schools. "I can't think of anybody who has been more of a supporter for and advocate for the Tacoma School District than Willie," Barkley said in a TNT story.

    Growing up in Texas, Stewart worked picking cotton while in high school and he had goals of doing something no one in his family had ever done. He wanted to go to college. Stewart graduated from Texas Southern University and Pacific Lutheran University and received degrees from the University of Washington.

    A reflection of Stewart's lifelong passion to help in a community has been his commitment to coaching youth sports. From 1957 to 1975, he coached, which included coaching football at Gault from 1961 to 1966, and then football at Eastside Boys Club for ninth graders for a year and then baseball for the City of Fircrest youth teams from 1974 to 1975. Stewart, who graduated from Columbus Colored High School in 1953 and then Texas Southern University in 1957, has been a member of the Tacoma Athletic Commission from 1971 to today and is also on the Board of Directors for the Shanaman Sports Museum of Tacoma-Pierce County. He's been a strong supporter of sports throughout Pierce County since 1966.

    That support was obvious to coaches at Lincoln. Dan Watson, who was the Abe's track coach from 1966 to 1986, praised Watson, complimenting him for the support he gave coaches and athletes.

    "Willie supported, challenged and encouraged all Lincoln athletes to do their very best as a student-athlete and to be good citizens," said Watson, whose teams' won six state championships in track between 1969 and 1977.

    Another reflection of Stewart's commitment to education is his family. His wife, Faye, taught for 31 years. Their son, Willie Jr., and daughter, Collette, are also teachers.