Saturday, June 26, 2004

Memorial to Gloria Maddox Murry Herron

Published on the Amsterdam News website:

In memoriam of Gloria Maddox Murry-Herron
Originally posted 12/18/2003

Even in her transition from the physical realm to the spiritual realm, my sister, Gloria Maddox Murry-Herron was steadfastly committed to education in the spirit of her mother, N.S. Maddox. In lieu of flowers to celebrate her life, Gloria requested donations to the Powell Chapel School Restoration Project, in memory of our mother, to preserve a critical piece of history evidencing the Black struggle in Coweta County, Georgia, for education.
Like most Black schools, Powell Chapel School started after the Civil War, in a church, the Powell Chapel Church, in the late 1890s. Fire destroyed the church in 1917 during a period of great racial strife. It was rebuilt in 1920. By 1937, the church had secured enough building materials and Black labor to construct a one-room schoolhouse during a period when Blacks were suffering from an economic holocaust.
In 1942, the church was able to add another room to the school and hire my mother as a second teacher. Local government would eventually and meagerly subsidize the Black teachers while giving white teachers full salaries. Whites preferred for Black children to pick cotton rather than to read books.
White children rode school buses to government-built, brick buildings. Black children, on the other hand, had to negotiate dirt roads and walk through wooded areas for miles to reach makeshift school buildings. The legacies of the sumptuary laws not only still continued to prohibit Blacks from owning luxury cars and fine clothing, but also from building decent school buildings, notwithstanding the “separate but equal” doctrine.
All of this history about Blacks in Coweta County is being gathered by Cynthia Rosers, an energetic and committed woman of African ancestry, who hails from Harlem and now resides in Coweta County. She has established the African American Alliance, Inc. which has oversight responsibilities over the Coweta County African American Heritage Museum and Research Center.
It was established in May 2003 and its first project is the restoration of the Powell Chapel School. The school is already registered on the Georgia and National Register of Historic Places, a first for a building built and maintained by Blacks in the county.
In pursuing this project, Rosers is losing the blouse off of her back.
Rosers asked me about the schools I attended in the county. My first school was Walter B. Hill Industrial School, in Turin, Georgia. I attended it in the first and second grades. She immediately asserted that Walter B. Hill was a “Rosenwald” school. Julius Rosenwald supported Booker T. Washington.
While I was aware of the Julius Rosenwald Fund, I never knew that my first school was funded, in part, by the Julius Rosenwald Fund, arising from the superb craftsmanship of a Black man, Alvah Roebuck of Sears Roebuck. It is reported that he was ousted from a company he established and which was destined to become a major corporation.
This building program required matching funds. With respect to the Hill School, Blacks contributed 32%; the Julius Rosenwald Fund contributed 30%; whites contributed 19%; and local government only contributed 19%, even though Blacks had to pay taxes.
It was the first of six Rosenwald-inspired schools built in the county and it was, at first, and for many years, the only vocational school in the county. Only a handful of these schools are still in existence in the country. The Hill School is still standing in Turin, and any change to it is subject to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act......
Like mine, Gloria’s formal education started in a Black-funded school. She always wanted to be a teacher like her mother. After her retirement as a school principal, she served as a consultant for the Georgia Department of Education......
Gloria will be missed and, more importantly, remembered. She was my only sibling. Although she suffered a major medical setback on December 6, she was able to hold on until I arrived at the hospital late on December 8, due to a snowstorm, to join her beloved husband, Julius, by her bedside. She made her predawn transition on December 9 and died at the same age and of the same type of cancer as her mother.

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