As the first African American woman mayor of Shreveport, Ollie Tyler is a strong- willed, God-fearing woman. She is a catalyst for change in education and in the community.
Tyler was a poor girl from Caddo Parish on an academic scholarship when she embarked on her educational journey at Grambling State University. She said she was influenced by the dynamite professors at GSU to become an educator.
“I don’t believe you can do much in life without goals and dreams,” she said. She also has a master’s degree from Louisiana State University.
Throughout her 40 years in the education system, Tyler has been a pioneer to women and African Americans. She was the first African American to serve as superintendent of schools for Caddo Parish Public School System and state deputy superintendent of education for Louisiana in August 2007.
She was also the acting State Superintendent of Education for Louisiana in 2011. She retired from the Louisiana Department of Education on Jan. 19, 2012.
While her accomplishments are pivotal, she never intended to be “first” at anything. As the opportunities expanded, so did her dreams. As a budding student, her desire was to be the best teacher she could be. Now as the mayor, the concept remains to same: to be the best possible.
“Shreveport (is) gaining a professional who cares about all the people and would have no problem working as long as needed to finish an objective or project,” said Neari Warner, a good friend to Tyler and the first woman interim president at GSU.
Warner and Tyler capped off their education at GSU together, both on academic merit scholarships. They would spend nights studying and would eventually go on to join Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority together in fall 1966.
Warner said Shreveport will be better because of Tyler.
“So many times, women have hurdles they have to cross and she has been a success at getting through all the roadblocks,” said Warner, who is a visiting professor in the executive Ph.D. program at Jackson State University.
While Tyler is ready for the challenge, she knows her focus is different from other political figures. She said the decision to run for mayor took a lot of thought and prayer. From the start, she wanted to avoid any political connections and wanted her focus on serving the people of her community.
“I am the mayor for all of our people,” she said. “I want to make a difference. Sometimes people may take on things because they have other political aspirations, and there is nothing wrong with that.”
The road to the mayoral seat was a rocky and messy one, like most campaigns. The media discovered that Tyler shot and killed her first husband in 1968 during a domestic violence incident. She shot him in the chest in her mother’s bedroom in Shreveport. They had been married for 11 months and she reported that she was repeatedly beaten.
Back then, Tyler was arrested and released. No further action was taken in the case, according to the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s office.
Reliving the situation in the public eye was difficult, and Tyler said there was several days she wanted to give up.
“I wanted to serve this city, otherwise I would have walked away,” said Tyler, who decided to join the race on May 20th. She was officially elected on Dec. 6.
Tyler’s key to staying in the race was her team of friends and family who supported her and her dreams. She was married to the late Rev. James C. Tyler, and is the mother of one son, Tony Tyler, and stepdaughter, Wanda Tyler Kimble. She also has two grandchildren, Kayberlyn and Larry Jr.
“If God gives you something to do,” she said, “he will give you the strength, the courage and the wisdom to get it done.”
Tyler said that you must surround yourself with people of character, integrity, honesty and fairness.
“God will put those people around you,” she said. “Don’t quit. You stay the course.”
Tyler said her philosophy is to empower people to live up to their potential.
“I don’t believe you can do much in life without goals and dreams,” said Tyler.
Tyler admitted she never met a person—young or old—who wanted to be a failure. Instead, they lacked the vision of what they wanted to become.
“If you have goals in life, go for them,” she said. “Don’t let anyone stop you from fulfilling your dreams.”
Tyler suggested that you first determine what it is you want to be, take the first step and someone will notice and be willing to help push you toward your goals. She said with that leap of faith will come sacrifice, discipline and the opportunity to learn.
“What we do with out lives is up to us,” she said. “Do it because you want to serve, and you want to make a difference, and you will be successful.”
This is an updated verision of a story that ran on March 26 in The Gramblinite printed edition that included an error. The corrected edition appears above. The Gramblinite apoglizes for this error.