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Hall education pioneer to be honored today
Beulah Rucker to be inducted into Georgia Women of Achievement
0307rucker-Beulah rucker
Beulah Rucker

2012 Georgia Women of Achievement

Sarah Randolph Bailey (1885-1972): Brought 15 troops of African-American girls into the Girl Scouts of America from 1945 to 1948
Ethel Harpst (1883-1967): Took in children orphaned by parents' illnesses, leading to establishment of the Murphy-Harpst Home for severely abused children
Beulah Rucker Oliver (1888-1963): Opened the Industrial School on Norwood Street in Hall County; after having two schools in Gainesville, she moved her facility out to the county, eventually merging with the City of Gainesville school district in the 1950s

Georgia Women of Achievement

Hall County education pioneer Beulah Rucker Oliver will be honored today as one of three 2012 Georgia Women of Achievement, joining the likes of former President Jimmy Carter's mother, Lillian, and Girl Scouts founder Juliette Low.

"We are so happy and so thrilled," said Rojene Bailey, volunteer executive director of the Beulah Rucker Museum and Education Center.

The induction ceremony is set for 11 a.m. at Wesleyan College in Macon, followed by a luncheon.

Bailey, also Oliver's grandson, said he plans to attend, accompanied by other family and members of the museum's board of directors.

The daughter of black sharecroppers, Beulah Rucker worked her way through school with the dream of becoming an educator.

"She often didn't have the means to pay tuition, and in one instance returned to school with an empty pocketbook," according to a news release announcing the honor from the Macon-based Georgia Women of Achievement.

"When it came time to pay the principal, she offered out her hands instead. ‘Here are my hands; they can work,' she told him."

Rucker went on to earn her degree and work in several jobs, all the while dreaming of opening her own school.

"Between teaching public and private school, giving music lessons and making and selling hats, Rucker also began to work toward her college degree at Savannah State College through correspondence and summer courses," according to the women's group.

She received her degree in 1944 at age 56.

"Coming to Gainesville in the early 1900s, Rucker established a school for African-American children that continued in various forms until the late 1950s," according to the museum's website.

She married the Rev. Byrd Oliver during the time she operated her first school. She died in 1963.

Her daughters, Carre N. Bailey and Dorothy B. Rucker, and a former student, Laura M. Whelchel, founded The Educational Foundation and Museum Beulah Rucker Inc. to memorialize her life and work.

The museum and educational center is south of Gainesville off U.S. 129/Athens Highway.

Bailey said he was surprised when he learned his grandmother had been selected for the honor, especially "when you look at the history of some of the women who have been inducted."

Also, "it's not a simple application," he said. "It's not hard; it's just that you have to think it through. You have to have some history behind it."

"She really deserves it," said Ruth Bruner, the board of directors' chairwoman and a Gainesville City Council member. "She did so much for education in Hall County, so we think it's great she's getting this honor."

Also being inducted Thursday are Macon's Sarah Randolph Bailey, who worked to bring 15 troops of African-American girls into the Girl Scouts of America from 1945 to 1948; and Cedartown's Ethel Harpst, who took in children whose parents had died from illnesses, an effort that led to the establishment of the Murphy-Harpst Home.

The only other Gainesville woman inducted since the recognition program began in 1992 was Helen Dortch Longstreet, who was honored in 2004.