Biographical / Historical
Dr. Nannie May Tilley was a History professor and department head at East Texas State Teachers College. She was born in Bahama, Durham County, North Carolina, on May 29, 1899. She obtained her B.A. at the Woman's College of the University of North Carolina (later the University of North Carolina at Greensboro) in 1921, and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Duke University in 1931 and 1939, respectively. While a student at Duke, she also served as the Director of the Manuscripts Department of the Duke University Library. She specialized in Southern history and the history of the tobacco industry, the latter of which was the topic of her dissertation.
Before accepting a position at East Texas State in 1947, Dr. Tilley taught in public schools in North Carolina (between her B.A. and M.A.), at Western Carolina Teachers College (between her M.A. and Ph.D.), and at Duke University. At East Texas State, she became acting chair of the History Department in 1950 and chair of the department in 1951.
In 1958, after openly criticizing the General Education Program and being demoted from her position as department chair because of it by President James G. Gee, Dr. Tilley left East Texas State. She was then hired by Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, where she taught for just one year. Between 1959 and 1964, she worked as the historian for the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.
She was a member of the American Association of University Women (where she served on the National Committee of Standards and Recognition), the American Historical Association, the North Carolina Historical Association (where she served as Vice President), and the Texas State Historical Association.
Dr. Tilley published three books: The Bright-Tobacco Industry, 1860-1929 (1948), Federals on the Frontier: The Diary of Benjamin F. McIntyre, 1862-1864 (1963), and The R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (1985). She also had several publications in historical journals (including Agricultural History, American Historical Review, and the Journal of Southern History) as well as numerous book reviews.
Dr. Tilley maintained a home in Commerce after leaving East Texas State in 1958, where she lived until her death on October 4, 1988.