Black History Month: Strong Women

Black History Month: Strong Women

The next person I give honor to is Josie Tayor Fulton who worked with my mother, Susie Bell Smith, at Hall Moody College now known as UTM – one of the fastest growing universities in the nation.

They worked together for five or 10 years. Both of them were known as top cooks. Mama Joe, as she was called by her children, worked for the dean Paul Meek’s family. Dean Meek’s daughter Ann speaks fondly of her. Every time we talk Ann says she remembers all her kids especially James Rufus. James was a small boy. This is why he was nicknamed “Tater Bug” by the well-known sweet potato and strawberry farmer Walter Travis. 

At 10 years old, James was a child prodigy who would help Mrs. Linnie Travis pay the workers their wages. Mrs. Travis was a fine and well-respected person by all who knew her and Birdie Clemons worked for the Travis family for many years. Whey they got too old to work, they were given a nice home and also a team of fine horses by Mrs. Linnie and her husband Walter. This kind of love and dedication between white and black will never be forgotten and as long as I keep my mentality and am able to use my pen I’ll tell it wherever I go.

Mrs. Lula Martin and her husband were at our Weakley County Training School. After he became ill Mrs. Martin stayed on. As a small woman, she could carry two scuttles of coal to the second floor. Sometimes she would get help from our teachers. If some boy did wrong his punishment was to bring the coal in for her. Other boys were sympathetic and would help also. Thanks for the scolding you gave us when we did wrong.

Mrs. Fanny Crockett was mother of Mr. Ruby Williamson and grandmother of Edd Crockett the famous Bingo caller at the Martin Senior Citizen’s game room. Mrs. Fanny was our No. 1 cook at our school. She was very kind to all the kids who were unable to pay for their hot lunch.

She would let the boys sweep and mop. The girls would wash the tin pans and pots and this is how they earned their meals. She was also active in raising money to help McCabe United Methodist Church over at the log yard picnic ground across from Miles Chapel Church. 

As a streetwise kid, I knew all the ways to earn the things I needed. I would meet Mrs. Fanny at the corner of Jackson Street and Warren to pull her little red wagon to the log yard picnic. The wagon was loaded with charcoal buckets, charcoal and a large iron skillet that would keep the fire hot for the cooking. The ice freezer was already frozen and a huge tray of hamburger meat would be made into patties. 

For helping my reward was a hamburger and an ice cream cone. Her tender heart could not stand to look into the eyes of a hungry child wanting a sandwich. 

She would find something for the child to do. She taught me the intelligence of working for what you need. Parents teach your kids the importance of “your own wagon.” She taught be not simply good at whatever you do. 

The mother of Mrs. J.B. Cauldwell was a courageous worker in the Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church, our school and all of Weakley County’s social events. She was a serviceable delegate to all church conference conventions. She sang alto like a nightingale on a spring night. She served as Oak Grove’s Homecoming program coordinator for many years and worked for UTM professor John Paul Phillip and his wife Myrtle for 20 years. 

When Mrs. Phillip died she left a will for Mrs. Johnnie to have some of her fine antique furniture and a nice sum of money and a lifetime endowment for the rest of her life. 

Young folk, I’m sending the kind of love God wants us to have for our world today. 

Thanks to Mrs. Cauldwell for the many young boys and girls you have inspired to become the men and women that we need in our world today.  

wcp 2/15/11

Leave a Comment