I felt it was fitting to honor a woman who made a difference in the lives of thousands of residents of the 9th Congressional District of Georgia. Beulah Rucker Oliver was born in 1888 in Banks County to poor sharecroppers. As a little girl she taught herself the ABC’s by reading the newspapers plastered on the walls for insulation in the small cabin where she lived. Her parents recognized her deep desire to get an education and sent her off to high school in Athens, Georgia where she earned her room and board by milking cows and cleaning the principal’s house. She went on to attend the Knox Institute where she earned her teaching degree, graduating with high honors in 1909. Have I mentioned Beulah was African American? This makes her success in turn of the century Georgia that much more impressive. At a time when few children graduated from high school, let alone a young woman of color in post-antebellum, segregated Georgia.
After graduation Miss Rucker worked numerous jobs teaching school, making hats, and giving music lessons all in a quest to save money to one day open a school of her own. In 1914, just five years after graduation from the Knox Institute she had saved enough money to purchase the land that would one day be the site of her Industrial School. Along the way she met and married the Reverend Byrd Oliver, they had three children, a boy and two girls, giving deeper richness to this woman’s accomplishments, as she continued to teach, study at Savannah State College through correspondence and summer courses raise her children and become a fixture within her community. Rucker eventually received her degree from Savannah State College in 1944 at age 56, showing her determination to reach her goals.
Despite objections of a black woman being in charge of a school facility, Rucker opened her first school on Norwood Street in Banks County. After having two schools in the city, she moved her facility out to the country, where she proved to be an excellent fund-raiser and educator for the African-American community. Her Industrial School eventually merged with the City of Gainesville school district in the 1950s. Rucker achieved a number of firsts for an African-American woman of her time including being the first woman to establish a school in Gainesville. She also was responsible for educating hundreds of African-American children and adults alike. In recognition for contributions to the community and with the guidance of her two daughters
The Educational Foundation and Museum in Gainesville was established at 2101 Athens Hwy. — Melissa Teague, 2016