Arthur M. Gaines, Jr., a longtime educator, school administrator and Houston Independent School District trustee, has died after a long bout with cancer, according to his family.

Gaines was sometimes called the “Dean of HISD” because of the 60 years he spent serving the students of Texas’ largest school district. District officials said they were mourning the loss of a “pioneering servant and leader.”

Among his accomplishments were a magnet program at one high school and special program for students with disabilities at another. In addition to his work as an educator, Gaines helped break color barriers outside the classroom.

In a 2007 Houston Chronicle interview, Gaines recalled the time he and his wife Jean sat down at a restaurant that had never before served customers who weren’t white. Gaines graduated from Wheatley High School and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Texas Southern University, where he was later an adjunct professor.

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