Today: Oseola McCarty and her extraordinary life-changing gift.
Oseola McCarty was a black woman who lived in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, a place that for most of her life was deeply segregated.
Blacks could not attend “white” schools, live in “white” neighborhoods, eat in “white” restaurants or stay in “white” hotels. Government officials, judges, juries and police were white.
Voting rights were almost exclusively “white.” And for blacks that wanted to challenge the system, White Citizen’s Councils, comprised of community leaders, could eliminate their jobs and cut off their home and business loans.
And the Ku Klux Klan would threaten or even kill “uppity niggers,” as police were sometimes Klan members or looked the other way. This was Oseola McCarty’s world.
Born in 1908, she lived in a tiny 700 square foot home, an only child in a household comprised of her grandmother, mother and aunt. They supported themselves by long hard hours hand washing and drying laundry. Oseola dropped out of school in the 6th grade.
The years passed and by 1967, her grandmother, mother and aunt had died and she lived alone.
As Oseola lived frugally, she saved most of her income and it earned interest. Her uncle gave her the house so aside from taxes and upkeep, her costs were few.
Oseola had no television and for years no telephone. Instead, she became an avid reader, often reading her bible. Her social life was buying groceries and going to church. She was very lonely and wished she could be involved in the lives of others.
But it seemed it wasn’t to be. She was all alone in the world. In 1995, she turned 87 and with her small five foot one inch body stooped and her arthritic hands misshapen from so many years of hard labor, this little old washerwoman decided it was time to retire.
Oseola met with her banker, who knew her secret. That from a lifetime of hard work and spending nothing on herself, this lonely elderly woman had saved a quarter of a million dollars!
With so much money, she could travel and entertain or buy nice things for herself. But she only wanted one thing: It had come to her in prayer and she felt it was inspired by God.
“I want to help somebody’s child go to college,” she said. “I just want it to go to someone who will appreciate it and learn.”
With her banker, she set up an irrevocable trust and directed the bank to carry out her wishes. A total of $100,000 would be donated to her church and to two of her relatives.
The remaining $150,000 would go to the University of Southern Mississippi, which for most of her life had been a “white” school, no blacks allowed. She asked the school to please give preference to bright African-American students who lacked the funds to otherwise attend.
This extraordinarily kind act and racially forgiving gift from a woman who worked so hard all of her life stunned people and brought her global media attention.
Suddenly, soft spoken Miss McCarty as some called her was lonely no more. The University selected Jewel Tucker, the administrative assistant to its president to assist her, as invitations to speak pored in from all over the world.
Jewel, who is also African-American, became the daughter Oseola never had. For the next four years she traveled with her, advised and assisted her as Oseola met President Clinton and had lunch with Hillary Clinton.
Oseola was on the Oprah Winfrey Show, the Letterman Show and numerous other TV and radio shows and spoke at many gatherings, her travel paid for by the groups that invited her. It was the first time she had ever been on an airplane, stayed in a hotel or had room service.
And true to her kind and humble nature, Oseola would clean her hotel room and make her bed so others would not have to do it.
“You’ve got to have a TV,” Jewel kept telling her because of all the media attention. When Oseola finally agreed, a 32 inch color TV set was donated to her.
What were some of Jewel’s memorable moments with Oseola?
“When we traveled we always had separate rooms,” Jewel said. “One day I came into her room and she was reading the stock market page. She laughed and said, ‘You didn’t know I knew how to read this did you.’ I said ‘no I didn’t.’ We both laughed and she kept reading.”
In another memorable moment, “she registered to vote for the first time when she was 90,” Jewel said. “She walked into the precinct and everyone started applauding.
“She was a simple woman,” said Jewel softly, “that God raised up to do great things. She did them with grace, finesse and a smile. She became the conscience of a lot of people and changed many lives because she gave freely, with no strings attached.”
In 1999, at the age of 91, Miss McCarty peacefully passed away in the little house where she had lived and worked most of her life. For her the last four years had been so rewarding and joyful.
What became of her Oseola McCarty Scholarship Fund?
“Right now 27 students have received her scholarships,” replied Jewel. “Three are doctors, one is an engineer, one is a CPA,” and the list went on. All lives profoundly uplifted by Miss McCarty’s remarkable donation and nearly 10 years after her death, more lives are being uplifted.
Their educational opportunities coming in part from her life savings earned a few dollars at a time in back breaking work to give them the schooling she could never have.
Success Tip of the Week:
If you would like to contribute, the Oseola McCarty Scholarship Fund is located at The University of Southern Mississippi, 118 College Drive, #10026, Hattiesburg, Miss. 39406-0026. Even with a small check, you could make a real difference today in the life of a poor deserving student.
Thank you to Jewel Tucker for her assistance in telling Oseola McCarty’s story.
In the next KazanToday:
A valuable lesson from Chipper and Bud.