From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Ross, Merrill Ray

(born: 1919  -  died: 2012) Merrill R. Ross was the first African American school principal of a predominately white school in Topeka, Kansas. 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. Merrill R. Ross was working on his master's degree during the early part of WWII, and he was a schoolteacher in Kansas. He was just starting his teaching career when he left to serve in the military, and he became a WWII Tuskegee Airman. He had entered the service late, November 18, 1944, and the war was almost over; therefore, he did not have to serve overseas. With an honorable discharge, Merrill R. Ross returned to Kansas and became a teacher and he also coached the Ramblers basketball team at Topeka High School. It was an African American School, the schools in Topeka were segregated. In 1954, Merrill R. Ross was first named a school principal. In 1962, he was named principal of the predominately white school Avondale West Elementary. Merrill R. 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 R. Ross died February 23, 2012, in Hemphill, TX. He was the son of Richard and Tama P. Ross. [Sources: Merrill Ray Ross' WWII 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].

Kentucky County & Region

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Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Pineville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
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Outside Kentucky Place Name


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: The Topeka capital-journal (newspaper)

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Ross, Merrill Ray,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed October 30, 2020,

Last modified: 2020-02-22 13:54:46