Ross, Merrill Ray(born: Dec. 28, 1919 - died: Feb. 15, 2012) Merrill R. Ross was the first African American school principal of a predominately white school in Topeka, KS. He was born in Flat Lick, KY, and his family later lived in Pineville, KY. He attended Kentucky State University for two years, then transferred to Pittsburg Teachers College in Kansas [now Pittsburg State University], where he earned a pilot's license and undergraduate degree.
Ross was working on his master's degree during the early part of World War II, while he was a schoolteacher in Kansas. He was just starting his teaching career when he left to serve in the military as a Tuskegee Airman. He had entered the service late, November 18, 1944, and the war was almost over, so he did not serve overseas.
With an honorable discharge, Ross returned to Kansas and returned to teaching, also serving as coach of the Ramblers basketball team at Topeka High School, a segregated African American School. In 1954, he became the first named school principal. In 1962, he was named principal of the predominately white Avondale West Elementary School. Ross retired in 1985, and in 1992 he was inducted into the Kansas Teachers Hall of Fame. The following year, the Highland Park South Elementary School was renamed in his honor, Ross Elementary School.
Merrill Ross died February 23, 2012, in Hemphill, TX. He was the son of Richard and Tama P. Ross. [Sources: Merrill Ray Ross' World War II Draft Card in Ancestry; U.S., Obituary Collection in Ancestry; Tim Hrenchir, "History Guy: Groundbreaking Topeka educator was born 100 years ago this month," The Topeka Capital-Journal, 12/11/2019; "Interview with Merrill Ross," an oral history recording within the World War II: the African American Experience Collection at the University of Kansas Libraries]; "Merrill Ray Ross" on the Find a Grave website; and his obituary at the Topeka Capital Journal website.