Vivienne Malone-Mayes was born on February 10, 1932. She was the fifth African American woman to get a Ph.D. in math. Malone-Mayes was born and raised in Waco, Texas. She graduated from A.J. She was only 16 when she went to Moore High School. Even though she went to a separate high school in Waco, she did well and moved right away to Nashville, Tennessee, to attend Fisk University.
Dr. Evelyn Boyd Granville, one of the first two African American women to get a Ph.D. in mathematics, taught her at Fisk. Dr. Evelyn Boyd Granville made Malone-Mayes want to get more education in math. Malone-Mayes got both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Fisk University. She got her bachelor’s in 1952 and her master’s in 1954.
Malone-Mayes then went back to Waco and worked as the head of the math department at Paul Quinn College from 1954 to 1961. She tried to go to Baylor University in Waco, but because of her race, she was not allowed to. Malone-Mayes was instead accepted into the graduate programs at the University of Texas in Austin, which had ended segregation in the early 1950s.
In 1966, she went to the university and got her Ph.D. in math. She was the second black person and the first black woman to get a Ph.D. from the University of Texas in any field.
Malone-Mayes moved back to Waco in 1966. She became the first African American professor at Baylor University, which had turned her down as a graduate student five years earlier. Malone-Mayes worked at Baylor University for the rest of her life, until she got sick in 1994 and had to quit because of it.
As a woman of color who worked at Baylor, Malone-Mayes had to keep fighting for her civil rights the whole time she was there. In the 1970s, federal officials came to the campus to check if her salary and promotions were the same as those of her coworkers. Malone-Mayes told federal officials that she was happy with how she was treated and didn’t think she was treated unfairly.
In the 1980s, however, when the Reagan-Bush Administration took over, civil rights agencies and their work were severely cut. Malone-Mayes said that she felt less respected as a professor without the federal government keeping an eye on her.
Malone-Mayes was the first black woman chosen to be on the Executive committee of the Association for Women in Mathematics. She did this outside of Baylor University. She was also on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Mathematicians, which works with the black community, and other mathematical groups. She also worked with groups in the Waco area and was on the Board of Directors for Goodwill Industries, Family Counseling and Children, and New Hope Baptist Church, where she led the youth choir and played the organ from 1960 to 1975.
On June 9, 1995, Vivienne Malone-Mayes died of a heart attack in Waco, Texas. She was the fifth African American woman to get a Ph.D. in mathematics. As a result, she had a huge impact on many groups that work to solve problems that affect women and people of color.