As Benjamin and I began high school, our parents purchased encyclopedias and dictionaries for us. Daddy kept his college textbooks which provided us with additional reference material. We were financially poor but there was never a shortage of books or reading material in our home.
During our high school years, Daddy who was especially good at math supplemented his income by preparing other people’s income taxes during tax season. He had taught me to do fractions in elementary school and now as high school students, he often quizzed us. His favorite question was “What is the hypotenuse of a triangle?” Of course, after a while we were able to answer that question by rote. Later, we were even able to recite the formula for determining the length.
In 1963 our family was completed with the birth of Jonathan, our youngest brother. By this time Benjamin and I had already set our goals for future careers. He had decided that he wanted to be a doctor and I had decided to be his nurse. Walt and Bobbie were students at Fair Street Elementary School.
Our teachers at Fair Street and E.E. Butler High School were instrumental in motivating us to achieve to our full potential. I recall being in a couple of math classes taught by Mrs. Ivey Hughey with my brother, Benjamin. Although we sat in the same classes, we did not study or do homework together. We never shared our homework. We were always too proud and too competitive to ever do that. Benjamin was always a better math student than I and consequently, made better grades.
Our parents did not have a lot of money but if we needed school supplies they were willing to sacrifice to see that we got them. Once, my sister Bobbie had a science project to do. She chose to do a project that involved the reproduction of hamsters. This project required not only the cost of the hamsters but their cage and other supplies as well. The project was somewhat expensive. Nevertheless, our mother somehow managed to purchase the hamsters, the cage, and all of the other necessary supplies out of her meager household budget.
Our parents’ rules of mandatory school attendance and completing homework assignments were enforced throughout high school. Unless we were really sick, we attended school daily as was evidenced by the large number of perfect attendance certificates we received throughout those years. Momma and Daddy did a good job of indoctrinating us with the idea that education was the path to upward mobility.
Both parents instilled a solid work ethic in us. While we were in high school, Daddy worked at J.D. Jewell’s Poultry and Momma worked in the laboratory at Hall County Hospital. Later, after Benjamin and I entered college, Momma too worked at J. D. Jewell. Upon reaching the age of fourteen, we obtained jobs. Bobbie and I began working as domestics, ironing and cleaning in private homes. Benjamin’s first jobs were doing yard work on Green Street and washing dishes in the dining room at Hall County Hospital (now Northeast Georgia Medical Center). Walter also did yard work on Green Street. When we reached the age of sixteen, we began working on public jobs during summer vacations. I worked at the hosiery mill as a dye boarder. My sister Bobbie worked with my mother in the cut-up department of J. D. Jewell’s. Daddy got jobs for all of my brothers at J.D. Jewell’s from the time that they turned sixteen until they finished school. They didn’t have to fill out an application. Every summer their jobs awaited them. They worked on the live dock hanging live chickens. This was the filthiest job in the plant. Our daddy would tell them; “If you don’t go to school, this is what you will be doing for the rest of your life.” My brothers very eagerly returned to school each year. We bought school clothes and supplies with our earnings. Later, we used our money to help pay college tuition and other expenses.
I graduated from E. E. Butler High School with honor on my birthday, June 6, 1966. My parents suggested that I attend Gainesville Jr. College (now the University of North Georgia, Gainesville campus) which was scheduled to open in the fall of 1966. I honored their wishes and enrolled in the college in the fall of 1966. I became the first African-American student to graduate from Gainesville Jr. College in June, 1968. During the two years I spent at Gainesville Jr. College, I changed my major to Education. I was accepted and enrolled in classes at the University of Georgia in the fall of 1968. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Education from UGA in June, 1970. I was immediately hired by the Gainesville City School System where I taught for 30+ years. While teaching at Fair Street School, I earned a Master’s degree in Education from North Georgia College (now the University of North Georgia, Dahlonega campus). I am currently retired.
My brother Benjamin graduated from E.E. Butler High School in June, 1967 as class valedictorian. He enrolled in Gainesville Jr. College in the fall of 1967 and graduated in June, 1969. He transferred to the University of Georgia and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in June, 1971. He entered the Medical College of Georgia in the fall of 1971. In June, 1975 he fulfilled his childhood dream by receiving his degree as a doctor of medicine. After a year of internship and two years of residency at Talmadge Memorial Hospital, Benjamin joined the Medical College faculty for two years. In July of 1980, he began a private practice of 36 years duration. He is presently semi-retired.
My sister, Bobbie graduated from Gainesville High School in June, 1970. She too attended Gainesville Jr. College. She also studied accounting at Lanier Tech. Bobbie worked for Commercial Credit for two and a half years. She then worked for Liberty Mutual Insurance for 31 years. Bobbie enrolled in a number of insurance courses during her tenure at Liberty Mutual. She obtained an Associate in Principals of insurance (AIS) degree and became a Property Rater Specialist. In 2013, she officially retired from Liberty Mutual and graduated Summa Cum Laude from Walden University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and Health Sciences. She currently volunteers as a Medicare Counselor with Georgia Cares at Legacy Link in Oakwood, Georgia.
Walter (Walt) graduated from Gainesville High School in 1973. Walt enrolled in courses at Gainesville College and transferred to Savannah State College. He graduated from Savannah State with a Bachelor’s degree in 1978. Walt was accepted and entered the University of Georgia, School of Law in 1979. He graduated from law school and passed the Georgia State Bar Exam in 1982. Shortly thereafter he began practicing with Thurmond, Thurmond and Miller of Athens, Georgia. In 1992, he partnered with Curtis Miller to bring his practice to Gainesville. Walt established his own law practice of Rucker and Associates in 1994. He continues to practice law in Gainesville, Georgia.
Jonathan, our youngest brother was an honor graduate of the Class of 1982 of Gainesville High School. He entered the Georgia School of Technology (GA Tech) in the fall of 1982 and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. Jonathan began his career with Atlanta Gas Light Company. Other companies he has been employed by include CH2M Hill, Khafra Engineering, Jordan, Jones, and Goulding and AECOM. In 2008, Jonathan established his own engineering consulting company, Engineered Systems and Services. He is registered as a professional certified engineer in the states of Georgia, Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Ohio. Jonathan’s business is thriving and he has been able to hire several employees in recent years.
The third and fourth generations appear to be following in the footsteps of the second and continuing the legacy of the first generation. Thus far all of our children have completed high school as scheduled. They have chosen to engage in a wide range of careers including medical assistant, computer technology, business informatics, banking and finance, and teaching. In addition, Erika Rucker is pursuing a medical degree at the Medical College of Georgia; Jasmine Rucker graduated from Hampton Institute and is enrolled in law school in North Carolina and Nicholous Benjamin Tyler Rucker graduated from Cabarrus County High School in North Carolina as the valedictorian of his 2016 Class of 300+ students. He and his first cousin Alyssa Archey who also graduated high school with honors are presently attending college.
I believe that “Mr. Bennie” who died in 1996 and “Miss Johnnie” who died in 1989 would be delighted with and proud of the success of the family that they worked so diligently to rear, nurture and support.