There is a peacefulness, grace and old Southern charm at the property that is home to the Educational Foundation and Museum of Beulah Rucker Inc.
Everything on the tree-laden grounds off Athens Highway in Gainesville reminds visitors there is a rich and lasting history to its old buildings. A bust of “Grandma Beulah” centrally located on the grounds reminds visitors of the woman born during the Jim Crow era and who passed away shortly before Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in the nation’s capital 54 years ago.
The inscription beneath the bust of Beulah Rucker tells of her passion and sense of duty to the community around her: “I have had to sacrifice time both day and night to light a torch of instruction which I hope will cause the public to see the purpose of this much needed institution. ...”
Rucker’s descendant, Greer Rucker Peters, has lived at the Rucker property, knows its history and is eager to make everything associated with the matriarch’s mission statement more relevant to future generations in Hall County.
Peters is slowly transitioning into the role of executive director of the educational complex that bears her family’s name. She is taking over for her uncle, Rojene Bailey, who stepped away last month after a 12-year stint as the organization’s volunteer executive director.
Peters recently told The Times that she always had a premonition that she would one day be undertaking such a leadership role.
A product of the Gainesville city school system, Peters recalled the days spent at the Rucker compound.
“I feel compelled to take on the role more than anything,” Peters said. “For three years, I lived there and we remodeled my grandmother’s home that’s on the property. I did a lot of events when I was there. I kind of felt that one day I may have to take on this role.”
Peters said her education at Florida A&M, where she earned an MBA degree, and her work with nonprofits — primarily with the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society — has prepared her for this moment. She recently gave up a similar role with Urban Perform, a nonprofit that provides exercise and nutrition to communities on the west side of Atlanta, so she can devote more time to the Rucker cause.
One of Bailey’s last acts as volunteer executive director was to represent the organization a few weeks ago in Washington at an event held at the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture. Bailey said the Beulah Rucker Museum was selected out of hundreds of museum from across the county to make a presentation about the organization.
Bailey feels confident that his niece will help take the organization to greater heights.
“We need new leadership,” Bailey said. “Sometimes we have to step back and let someone younger take over. I think she’ll do a fantastic job. I had no problems stepping back and letting her take over. She’ll take us to new and better directions. I know it’ll be really great.”
Peters, 40, a wife and mother, is ready to put to good use the fundraising and nonprofit skills she’s honed over the years.
“I understand the importance of having programming,” she said. “We definitely would like to increase our youth programming. That is the focus because Beulah was focused on building the community by building the youth.”