OKLAHOMA CITY - An icon in Oklahoma City's public school system is no longer with us. Thelma Reece Parks died early Wednesday morning at the age of 96. 

Parks was one of the first black teachers to integrate schools in Oklahoma City, and she kept fighting for equality the rest of her life.

Throughout the civil rights movement, Thelma Parks was fighting on the education front, teaching for more 30 years, then serving as a school board member for more than 20.

“Without it, we run the risk of not being successful, and not being profitable to the society or the world in general, and she understood that at an early age,” said friend and NAACP Oklahoma City President Garland Pruitt.

Pruitt said Parks continued that cause through into old age, even getting involved in the Pathway to Greatness talks by attending board meetings last year.

Pruitt said she was, “still supporting, encouraging, pumping up and juicing up and gearing up folks to try to make a difference.”

The Parks family tells me their matriarch’s battle ended after a brief illness. Her namesake elementary school, which broke ground in 1995, survived consolidation and is now a testament to a spirit that lives on.

Mayor David Holt remarked, “She was feisty and engaged really until the end. Just a few months ago, she was calling me with suggestions about education in Oklahoma City.”

Holt said he had Parks's support, and she had his ear. He wants to ensure leaders like her are not forgotten.

“Every time we lose one, we want to make sure we, as a city, really mourn that loss,” the mayor said.

“She was an icon,” Pruitt added. “In addition to being an icon, she was an activist. She understood a long time ago that teaching and education was a thing that we all need.”

Parks’s family said her memorial service is happening next Wednesday, Sept. 18 at Fairview Baptist Church at 11 am. All are welcome to pay their respects.