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Plan on the move to name Gainesville intersection for Beulah Rucker

POSTED: March 23, 2013 12:30 a.m.

Beulah Rucker Oliver knew she wanted to be a teacher when she was 5 years old.

A Senate resolution in the Georgia General Assembly would honor the African-American leader for her work in education in the Hall County-Gainesville area.

It’s expected to be considered soon by the Georgia House of Representatives. Rucker’s grandson, Rojene Bailey, hopes it will become law.

The resolution would dedicate the intersection of U.S. 129 and Athens Street as the Beulah Rucker Oliver Memorial Intersection.

“She did so much for education,” Bailey said. “She loved education.”

He is also the volunteer executive director of the The Educational Foundation and Museum of Beulah Rucker just down the road from the intersection.

Rucker was a dedicated educator who established the Industrial School for the people in her community in 1914 and ran it until it consolidated into Gainesville city schools in 1958. Bailey said he starting writing letters to state leaders and lawmakers in 2006 to get a local road named after her. State Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, was the first official to do something, he said.

“A man of his word,” Bailey said of Miller.

Miller is vice chairman and Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. Together, the two put together a resolution recognizing Rucker and seven other “remarkable and distinguished” Georgians by dedicating intersections in their honor, Miller said.

It was approved in the Senate and passed out of the House Transportation Committee. The next stop is expected to be the House floor to have all members vote on it.

Gooch didn’t return a phone call for comment.

Rucker was inducted into the Georgia Women of Achievement Hall of Fame last year.

“I think she is a significant figure in our community,” Miller said. “Not only in the African-American community, but Gainesville-Hall County in general. I thought it was an appropriate thing to do.”

Rucker was born in 1888 in Banks County as the daughter of illiterate sharecroppers. She learned the alphabet by reading newspapers plastered to the walls of her home. She worked odd jobs to earn her education and raised the money to start her school.

Martha Zoller, vice president of museum’s board of directors, said Rucker raised the money through holding wrestling matches and trained workers with Sears Roebuck & Co. through a public-private partnership. She was an independent woman who was able to accomplish amazing things with little or no resources, Zoller said.

“I was so drawn to this woman, I couldn’t imagine spending my time anywhere else,” the radio talk show host said, referring to when Bailey asked her to serve on the board.

Bailey said the museum staff are all volunteers, and a paid, full-time executive director is being sought. He said he wants the museum to be open every day rather than by appointment. He also has plans to add an amphitheater, recreational center and botanical garden.

“It just takes time and money,” Bailey said.


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