Sad News

By Ronald Court

Sadly, I must report that Mother Theora Richards, the 1st recipient of the BTW Society’s Wright award for long and dedicated service in keeping the flame of Booker T. Washington alive, passed away Saturday morning.

I went to her home with Bill Craft in August ’06 to present her with the award personally. Though she was in her 90’s, I was struck with her clarity of mind, sparkling eyes and strong, forceful disposition.

I wasn’t prepared for the sense of loss I felt when her son called me Saturday afternoon, for I had only met her just that one time and spoke with her by phone only a few times after. But it hit me that if it were not for Mother Theora, the Booker T. Washington Society might never have come about.

It never ceases to amaze me to see the Lord work in surprisingly and incredibly unforeseen ways. Several years ago, Bill Craft, a Bronx resident and a long ago graduate of Norfolk Virginia’s Booker T. Washington High School, happened to tune in to a New York City evening talk show. The guest, “Sister” Theora Richards, talk about the “Booker T. Washington Appreciation Circle” and the many good things BTW had dedicated his life to bring about. Founding Tuskegee University was just the beginning.

Years later, when I met him, Bill Craft told me he was amazed and then angry when he realized that no one at his own high school (“named for Booker T., for goodness sakes”) had even mentioned him or a single thing he did to help so many people. It was as if he did not exist.

As a result of Sister Theora’s appearance on that show, Bill went to the NY Public Library to research Booker T.’s life and discovered out-of-print book by BTW, Character Building. He took it upon himself to publish it. That book and Bill’s friendship continues to inspire and motivate me for the good of the BTW Society and the students we endeavor to help and encourage.

I hesitate to think how much less my life would mean if Sister Theora hadn’t gone on that radio years ago. Now she has gone on to be with the Lord… to be embraced as warmly by Him as she embraced so many of us here.

3 thoughts on “Sad News

  1. linda tart

    By today’s standards, BTW would be considered an Uncle Tom. I have read quite a few articles and quotes and I am inclinded to feel as Ida B. Wells at BTW’s death. She Stated that his demise “closed the dark ages of civil rights.” There was one thing that always puzzled me about BTW and that was: He believed in industrial education for Negros but his children were kicked out of northern, liberal arts schools. It has been said that toward the end of his life, he was sorry about some of his decisions regarding industrial education. May the likes of Booker never return to this earth.

  2. Ronald Court Post author

    Actually, by today’s standards, Dr. Washington would be considered a courageous conservative who sought reconciliation between the races.
    He correctly foresaw that it would take decades for whites and blacks to adjust to a “new world order.” Were it not for poor Southern (primarily) whites fighting economic equality ‘by any means necessary’ – and, later (even today), for liberal Northern black ‘elites’ continuing to maintain and augment a racial divide, chances are, a reconciliation to be desired by all responsible parties might largely already have taken place.
    Sadly, our current President hasn’t yet acted like the figure of “post-racialism” so many have hoped for.

  3. Tanesha Jenkins

    Hi Ronald,

    Aunt Theora Richards was my great great Aunt. I was going through somethings and ran across her obituary which brought back a lot of memories of when she came to visit her nephew (my grandfather) William Jenkins down in Hawthorne, Florida. I of my fondest memories of her was always making use proper English and to always give more than 100% in school. I was a teen the last time I seen her but I am grateful for the memories..
    I am really enjoying reading up on what she has done throughout her life and how she has helped so many people..

    I wish you the best..

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