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  • Tribute to Donella Brown Wilson

    by Representative James E. Clyburn

    Posted on 2016-05-24

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    CLYBURN of south carolina in the house of representatives Tuesday, May 24, 2016 Mr. CLYBURN. Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay tribute to Mrs. Donella Brown Wilson, a trailblazing educator and community leader. Today is her 107th birthday.



    Born May 24, 1909, in Fort Motte, South Carolina, Mrs. Wilson grew up on the land where her great-grandparents had worked as slaves. As a young girl, she realized that she wanted to teach others to read. She started by teaching herself, studying the pages of the Sears & Roebuck catalog by the light of an oil lamp.

    Mrs. Wilson achieved this goal in 1933 when she earned her teaching credentials from Allen University in Columbia. She embarked on a long teaching career, mostly in rural parts of the state, retiring in 1971.

    In 1931, she married Reverend John R. Wilson, Sr., who was also an educator. They purchased a home in the historic Waverley community of Columbia, where they became community institutions. Mrs. Wilson is a life member of the NAACP, South Carolina Education Association, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and Union Baptist Church. She is a past national superintendent in the United Order of Tents, Inc. In recent years, Mrs. Wilson has become the unofficial historian of Waverley, and her willingness to recount her life experiences has enriched many of us of subsequent generations.

    The changes Mrs. Wilson has seen over the last 107 years have been remarkable. She played a big part in bringing them about when she was involved in the landmark case Elmore v. Rice in 1947, which successfully challenged the legality of the whites-only Democratic primary in South Carolina. Treasuring this victory and fully understanding the crucial importance of the ballot, she has voted in every election since. Six years ago, I honored Mrs. Wilson's request that I accompany her as she cast her first vote for me after turning 100. She said in 2012, ``Those of us that live to see how you graduated from and came up the ladder makes us feel that our days, that our prayers and our working in the fields and what not, was not in vain.'' Mr. Speaker, I ask that you and my colleagues join me in wishing Mrs. Wilson a very happy 107th birthday. It is a remarkable milestone befitting a remarkable woman. I wish her good health and Godspeed.

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