Helen P. Cole

Helen P. Cole

Ms. Helen P. Cole was born on May 11, 1926 in Texarkana, Texas (Bowie Co.) to the parentage of the late Helen V. Cole and Otha Perry and not long after her birth, she and her mother moved to Denison, Texas (Grayson, Co.). She attended Anderson School and later moved to the original Terrell High School where she graduated with the Dragon class of 1943. At the age of 17, shortly after graduation she enrolled at the Prairie View College (now Prairie View A&M University) where she pursued a degree in business with a major in accounting. She then became a member of the Prairie View College Coeds and was referred to as part of the "Terrell Contingent" having been from Denison which formed the backbone of the all-female musical and touring group. By 1946 the group disbanded and Helen decided to take a leave of absence from school and pursue her career interests in music as a master drummer.

For the next 25 years she traveled all over the United States and to as many as 14 foreign countries touring with the likes of the Duke Ellington orchestra, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and Tiny Davis' Hell Divers. She even made an appearance at the famed Apollo Theater in New York City, New York. The last years of her performing career were spent in a group headlined by Helen and her band mate Maurine Smith. Upon the death of Maurine in 1971, Helen moved back to Denison and took a position as the switchboard operator at the Memorial Hospital (now Texoma Medical Center). Soon after this, she was able to complete her last year of college and earn her business degree in accounting. She then accepted a position as an accountant with the Citizens National Bank (now Chase Bank of Denison) from which she retired in 1986.

Ms. Cole received both state and national recognition for her pioneering efforts in the music and performing arts industry during a time when blacks were often looked upon as uneducated second class citizens. In 2002 the Texas House of Representatives presented her with one of the state's highest honors the Dream Maker award. Not long after in 2007, she was presented the U.S. Army's Commanders Award, given in recognition of her efforts during WW II both in the U.S. and Europe. And most recently, she was presented and recognized as a living legend by the Terrell High Alumni Foundation during their reunion weekend in July 2011. She was due to receive the Legacy Award as a musician and black history legend at the black history family and friends day to be held at the Bethel Community Baptist Church on February 23, 2014 but due to her unfortunate death this recognition has been given posthumously.

Ms. Helen was a lifelong member of the Mt. Zion Baptist Church of Denison and a past member of the Texoma Business and Professional Women's Club. She leaves to cherish her memory beloved and special daughter Karlotta Swinger-Hunt (Wesley), special grandsons Randon Swinger of Denison and Corporal Tyrin Swinger of Ft. Bragg, NC along with special great-grandson Kanye Swinger of Denison as well as a host of friends and believers in Christ.

Services for Ms. Helen Cole of Denison will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, February 22, 2014 at the Mt. Zion Baptist Church, pastored by Reverend Alonzo McLean, and located at 530 West Walker in Denison, Texas. Her eulogist will be the Reverend Michael G. Braxton Pastor of the Bethel Community Baptist Church in Denison. Public visitation will be from 10-10:45AM at the church on February 22, 2014 and under the direction of James E. Smith, Scoggins Funeral Home located in Howe, Texas.

Funeral Home

Scoggins Funeral Home - Van Alstyne
637 W Van Alstyne Pkwy Van Alstyne, TX 75495
(903) 482-5225

Published in The Herald Democrat from Feb. 22 to Feb. 23, 2014