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Ethel Sayles was born on this date in 1922. She was a Black biostatistician and administrator.
Born in Kilmichael, MS., Ethel Mae Baines and her sister, Corrine, were daughters of Elva Lee Sanders Baines and Shed Hill Baines. As a young girl, she and her sister attended St John's Methodist Church in Natchez, MS, and spent their summers with their grandparents. Mama Cora (her mother's side of the family-Sanders) kept their toys in a blanket, which she took down each time they visited.
While visiting, their cousin would take them on walks in the woods, teaching them the names of all of the flowers and plants. Mama Cora was very active in the Baptist church. Her father's side of the family was Methodist Episcopal.
Ethel and Corinne were A students in school. Both worked in a doctor's office to help save for college. In 1943, Ethel graduated from Alcorn State University. She was the more adventurous and glamorous of the two and, from there, began working with the federal government in several areas. From 1943 through 1946, Sayles was an office administrator for the Tuskegee Airmen in Alabama.
She moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked as an accounting clerk and held similar positions at Lockbourne Air Base, 1946-49, Mira Loma, 1951-52, and Port Embarkation Brooklyn, 1952-53. She moved to Minneapolis as a physician’s receptionist and real estate broker in 1954 and eventually retired from the Minneapolis Health Department as a biostatistician.
Active socially and in civic circles, she was a Minneapolis Urban League Guild member and the Pragmatea Sorority. She maintained a sense of her Southern tradition in all that she accomplished both in her career and private life. Sayles honored the ability to finish endeavors of academia and professional projects. She married and became the stepmother of Sharon Sayles Belton, mayor of Minneapolis, from 1994-2002. Ethel Sayles died of cancer in Minneapolis on June 13, 2001.
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