Willie Joe Allen, along with his seven siblings, was born February 22, 1943, at his home in the Black Creek Community of Medina County to Jim Ellison Allen and Elsie Lula (DuBose) Allen. A poignant memory as a child was when Willie was only six years old and his mother, whom he called his “closest friend,” was diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, he witnessed her suffering and lost her when he was only eight.
Shortly after Willie’s mom’s passing, the family moved to Yancey leaving the Black Creek School, part of the Devine ISD school system. Eventually, after his father moved back to Black Creek several years later, Willie and his younger sister, Elsie Faye, moved in with Clarence and Jessie Mae (Allen) Wiemers at the end of Faseler Lane in Yancey, where he lived until graduation from Yancey ISD in 1961.
Willie was a member of 4-H and FFA, and he was one of four members of Yancey High School’s Land Judging Team, consisting of Leslie Earl Brieden, Fred Martin, Charles D Moore, and Willie. This group won second place at the state meet at Texas A&M University in College Station in 1960 and earned the chance to attend the International Land Judging Meet in Oklahoma City, where they scored in the top ten. In both state and international, Willie was high point individual, winning a gold watch and a trophy at state.
A member of the Zion Primitive Baptist church in the former community of Zig Zag, Willie was ordained as a Deacon at age nineteen. The church had no baptismal, so most members were baptized at the nearest pond, which happened to be the Paul Haas farm pond. It was at this church setting that Willie and some of his siblings learned to sing gospel music. At the age of twelve, Willie had taken some voice lessons from the high tenor of the Stamps Quartet who had come to San Antonio to give lessons at Harlandale High School; later, Willie became the bass singer in the Medina Valley Quartet for several years from 1958 to 1961.
Willie began college at Southwest Texas Junior College in Uvalde where he made the Dean’s Honor Roll on a full academic scholarship for his first two years, graduating in 1963 with an Associate in Arts in Agricultural Science. He then transferred to Texas A&M University in College Station his junior year where he was a member of the Cotton Club and several other groups. Willie graduated with a degree in Crop and Soil Sciences in 1966, and immediately he accepted a job with the USDA Soil Conservation Service as a Soil Scientist. He mapped soil types in twelve counties of East Texas.
In 1965, Willie met “the love of my life” in Devine, Miss Patsy Carol Abbott. They married on June 11, 1965, in San Antonio. Their only child is Debbra Gail Allen Vogel, a 1984 DHS graduate. Willie’s new father-in-law, Clyde Abbott, asked him to help on his farm, which consisted of coastal hay and a registered swine operation. So, after two years with the Soil Conservation Service in Bryan, Willie went to work maintaining and overseeing the workers who assisted on Mr. Abbott’s farm. He remained there as farm manager until 1969.
At this time, Willie and his wife had been working as youth directors for Natalia First Baptist Church, and he thus felt the need to transition to education. He heard about a teaching job opening at Devine Elementary School, so, in October of 1969, Willie Allen was to start a career in education that would last for 45 years. He taught in elementary for 15 years at John J. Ciavarra Elementary, starting his career on a Contingency Plan, and completing his certification in elementary at Our Lady of the Lake University in 1972. In 1984, he completed his Masters in Science in Mid Management and accepted an Administration Position with Medina Valley ISD in the Intermediate School at La Coste. He was later called in 1989 to take the Elementary Principal position at George West ISD. His latest public education position was high school assistant principal at Dilley High School, from which he retired from public education in 1997.
Willie Allen’s long career included many accomplishments. He was instrumental in helping to establish and maintain a strong University Interscholastic League at the grassroots level in elementary, which helped lead to Devine’s amazing reign as district champs for years to follow. He states, “Along with a strong group of teachers and great administrative leadership, Devine has faired well in preparing its students for an array of different careers, thanks to [good] teachers and strong parental support.”
Some of Willie’s additional contributions to education and students included occasional Arts presentations. He fondly recalls that Mrs. Eunice Hundley, Devine Junior High Art Teacher, painted the backdrops, and other staff would volunteer as stage crews to assist during presentations. Also, Willie was assigned as the bilingual teacher for the fourth grade in 1982. There are many other contributions that Willie – Mr. Allen – made during his tenure as an educator: He was instrumental in establishing an innovative computer lab at Medina Valley to enhance language arts and math; he added hundreds of new library books to update the school’s library; he added tumbling, scooter boards, and other exercise equipment to the physical education department; he added playground equipment; he initiated campus landscaping and updating buildings and grounds under Chapter I, Special Education; and he established a UIL program “second to none,” he boasts. And, he adds, “In fact, my UIL team scored 286 points higher than the second place team at district in Bandera in 1988.”
In addition, while principal at George West and as team instructional leader, Willie, with his site-based team and using federal funds, established a class-room unit capable of serving the needs of all At-Risk students. It was named the Content Mastery Center, and other schools came there to study it as a model. He also took his team of teachers in math to visit Lockhart ISD for in-depth training in Saxon Math.
Following his retirement from public education, Willie substituted briefly for several districts near Devine in 1998 before accepting an administrator/teaching job in 1999 at Sendero Christian Academy in San Antonio. He would spend seven years as teacher in junior high, grade school, and high school, using the ABeka textbooks, a Pensacola Christian College publication. In 2005, he became Co-Superintendant with Mr. Robert Lara. When the Academy became a charter school in 2007, Willie took a position with Faith Christian Academy in Devine, where he remained for two years.
Willie’s next stop would be a move to Spring, Texas, where he accepted a teaching job at Oak Ridge Christian Academy in The Woodlands. Three of his writing students had their work published in a national private school publication. After two years there, Willie moved back to Devine and taught part-time at Faith Christian Academy until 2014, while truck farming on the side.
Meanwhile, Willie took Texas A&M University’s Process Canning Courses in October 2011. He and Carol built a Certified Kitchen where they processed salsa, pickles, jams, jellies, and preserves. As members of South Texas Farmers Market, Willie sold produce, processed products, and baked goods in San Antonio and Hondo. One of his specialties was vine-ripened tomatoes. Willie grew a variety of other crops as well, and what he did not sell, he often donated to Devine Food Bank or to individuals.
Willie and Carol sold their farm in 2015, and they and their daughter, Debbra, and son-in-law, Larry Vogel, bought a beautiful home near Magnolia, Texas. Larry works as manager of operating practices for Union Pacific Railroad in the Greater Houston Area. Debbra has been teaching English for several years at Sam Houston State and Lone Star College. She specializes in fundamentals of writing, doing content writing professionally. Debbra graduated with honors from Sam Houston State with her Masters in English. The Allen’s have five grandchildren and three granddaughters-in-law, and nine great-grandchildren.
Willie says he has lived a rewarding life. He continues to be an avid outdoorsman, and he and Carol are active members of Magnolia’s First Baptist Church, where Willie sings in the choir. He is Chaplain for the Austin-Waller Gideon Camp and a substitute teacher for Waller ISD. Even though he agreed with the family decision to sell and move, Willie often refers to Devine as home because of his long legacy there. He’s connected with many friends, colleagues, and former students and cousins in the area, especially on social media.