After seven years of effort, the sign for the Beulah Rucker Oliver Memorial Intersection was unveiled on Tuesday.
Members of local government, Sen. Butch Miller, family members and former students of the education pioneer gathered at the Beulah Rucker Museum and Education Center for the unveiling.
“This is a very historic day today,” said Rucker’s grandson Rojene Bailey. “In 2006, I thought it would be a good idea to have something named for Ms. Beulah Rucker Oliver so I started writing letters.”
Bailey wrote letters to elected officials and members of the Department of Transportation for approximately six years with no response. Last year, Miller responded to the inquiries and soon after put together a resolution to name the intersection of Athens Highway and Athens Street after Rucker.
“Mrs. Rucker’s legacy and impact on this community is very significant,” said Miller. “I think it is appropriate that we honor those who have given of themselves for the betterment of the entire community.”
Rucker knew she wanted to teach from a young age and literally worked her way through school.
In 1914, she realized her dream when she started the Industrial School to educate African-Americans who were often denied access to other schools. She allowed many students to work at the school to pay their tuition, operated the first night school for war veterans in Georgia and canvassed local communities for children in need.
Despite its name, students of the Industrial School received more than job training and basic education. Rucker taught her students geography, history, science, religion, literature and penmanship. Students would also participate in plays, oral presentations, spelling bees, physical activities, social events and public speaking.
“The only thing she liked more than education was more education,” Bailey said.
Hundreds of people received their education from the Industrial School until it closed in 1958 due to the consolidation of the city and county school systems.
In 2012, Oliver was inducted into Georgia Women of Achievement, an organization dedicated to honoring important women of Georgia’s history.
The Beulah Rucker Museum and Education Center was started with the purpose of preserving the history of the Industrial School and promoting education in the community.
Generation Inspiration, a youth leadership academy, is one program that is sponsored and hosted by the museum. The 8-year-old program consists of an eight-week course on community involvement and service that is offered to students from Gainesville High School who are in the top of their class.
During those eight weeks, students meet with public leaders, participate in community service and compete for scholarships.
“Generation Inspiration gives me that thrill of watching how a human heart is built and how a legacy can be built to make sure all of us are contributing members of our community,” said Myrtle Figueras, the program’s co-founder and Gainesville city councilwoman.
The museum also hosts a Back to School Rally that provides school supplies to students and promotes the value of staying in school.
The next step for the museum is to to further preserve and rebuild some of the structures that have fallen into disrepair as well as continuing to offer educational programs. Other long-term plans include a parking lot for museum visitors, a 200-seat ampitheater, a community garden along Athens Highway and new after-school programs, Bailey said.
“It’s a slow process but Rome wasn’t built in a day,” he said.
In the meantime, Bailey wants to show his gratitude for the community and officials responsible for the Beulah Rucker Oliver Memorial Intersection.
“It has been wonderful and we want to thank the community for all of the support given to us. We will make you proud.”