Ola Mae Mathis was a phenomenal woman who was dedicated to education, community service and Black History.
Mathis was born on December 30, 1929 in Crockett County, Tenn. The United States was suffering economically during The Great Depression. African Americans experienced the depression hardest. According to an online report from Britannica, blacks were the first to be laid off from jobs and suffered from an employment ratio two to three times that of whites.
Mathis’ father was determined not to allow such circumstances interfere with her growth and development of being successful and also educated. Her father made the decision to move their family to Jackson, Tenn. He wanted her to pursue her educational endeavors further, particularly at Lane College. Lane College, an institution of higher learning for African Americans was her choice and she graduated receiving her bachelor’s degree in Education.
While at Lane, Mathis began developing her social skills more and became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. The A.K.A. Sorority was founded in 1908 and was the first intercollegiate sorority for African American women. In this sorority, she developed her love for community service while developing love for her sorors in the sisterhood.
Her early career demonstrated her love for education. Her first teaching job was at Fruitvale Elementary School, which was a two-room school. She taught grades 5-8 and not only did her students rec
eive instructions on reading, writing and arithmetic but also lessons about black history. During her times as a teacher, she endured hardships during segregation as well as integration. She did not allow being paid less or receiving hand-me-down books stop her from teaching or furthering her education.
In the midst of adversity, she utilized her faith and attended Memphis State University, where she later received her master’s degree. Her daughter, Giovanni, often accompanied her in travel while she attended Memphis State. This time with her mom exposed her to lessons that would make her a stronger woman when she grew up and it exposed her to higher learning.
When Mathis received her masters, she became a supervisor in Crockett County Schools and later in Humboldt City Schools. She retired from HCS as a supervisor for Special Education.
Mathis was married to John H. Mathis, a teacher at an elementary school in Gadsden, who later became the preacher at Morning Star Baptist Church in Humboldt. He was the pastor for 47 years. They had three children and one died at a young age.
Mathis was a gracious host and welcomed others into her home. She treated everyone like family and no one left her home hungry. She inspired so many people and especially her daughter. Her daughter was thankful to have received the life lessons including cooking, cleaning, taking care of herself and money management.
Mathis was instrumental in black history and taught it everywhere she was. She was involved with the celebration of MLK day events in Humboldt and hosted memorable programs. She never settled for mediocrity and always looked for opportunities to make things better.
This Black History salute honors Ola Mae Mathis, a trailblazer for education, a supportive wife and mother, and Black History champion.