Grace Lea Stiles, one of seventeen children born on a farm in Luling, Texas to Hermon Stiles and Iona Spears-Stiles. She began her schooling in a two room school house. In 1953 she received her diploma from Ball High School in Sequin, Texas. Later, in 1968, Ms. Stiles began assisting teachers at Smiley Junior High School while completing her degree. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education in 1972 from Metropolitan State College, Denver, Colorado. Though she held many types of positions, she began teaching in Denver Public Schools where she taught grades fourth, fifth, sixth and programs for Pupil Assistance-counseling and assisting the principal.
In 1978, Ms. Stiles received a Master of Arts degree in Educational Administration from the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley. She assisted the principal, teachers and counseled pupils. She also volunteered on numerous committees including Affirmative Action, Black Educators United and Denver Classroom Teachers Association. Ms. Stiles was a facilitator for the original court-ordered integration in the Denver Public Schools and in 1991 she self-published a booklet she wrote on human relations titled “The Roadrunners Discussion Program.” In 1992 she retired from Denver Public Schools.
In 1994, Ms. Stiles founded African American History on Wheels. She would load her car with educational materials and take her knowledge to various schools (including Colorado University), businesses, churches, social clubs and nursing.
Ms. Stiles felt her dream was yet unrealized, so in 1995 she purchased two abandoned houses in the Five Points area of Denver, located at 2607 Glenarm Place and 517 26th Street. In 1998, Ms. Stiles founded the Stiles African American Heritage Center, Inc. With her personal savings and the help of countless volunteers she restored one of the dilapidated buildings into the modest house that it once was. Instead of a living room and parlor on the main level of the house, these rooms were transformed into classrooms, offices, and a gift shop. One of the bedrooms was restored to look as it may have when the original owners lived there back in 1895. The center has an inventors room where portraits and copies of patents are displayed. Additionally, there are displays of Egyptian artifacts, Buffalo Soldiers, antique furnishings and areas dedicated to distinguished people in the community such as Zepha Grant and Ruth Holly. There are also displays depicting many current sports personalities as well.
Ms. Stiles continues reaching her goal of teaching African American history in a historical setting where youth and adults can learn history and actually see replicas of the inventions and other memorabilia. The center is open for visitors offering guided tours Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, to facilitate diversity workshops and to serve as a community meeting place.
Ms. Stiles has received numerous awards and recognition in and from the Denver Post, the Rocky Mountain News, The Urban Spectrum, the Denver Weekly News, the United States Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation: Centerline Office News, the American Association of University Women newsletter and Walkin’ The Distance News. She is a life member of the Urban League as well as numerous other community and social organizations.