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.