From the Lodge…..I did not anticipate writing another blog so soon. However, sometimes life doesn’t care about my intentions and since things have changed so quickly, I am left in the position of writing not only to recall the wonderful attributes of a friend, but to give myself some comfort. I learned of her passing this morning.
Georgia Eugene and I first became aware of each other when we both were on a crusade to have schools built in two areas of Louisville. It was the early 1960’s. Georgia was campaigning to have an elementary school built in an area just west of Downtown. The school was Coleridge-Taylor Elementary. At the same time I was expending my energy convincing the Louisville School Board to keep their promise to build a new Shawnee High School for the West End. We were both victorious.
As time passed, Georgia was hired to work in the Human Relations Department and some time later I, too, became a member of that department. We found ourselves becoming embroiled in the court-ordered desegregation of our Jefferson County School System.
Georgia was without a doubt the most amazing woman I had ever met. She was responsible for developing hundreds of workshops for school personnel and diverse groups of community activists. Workshops were held daily, often there were several a day. Georgia also trained facilitators to work with groups both for and against the court order. Georgia did not like to speak before large groups so I became the person at the microphone directing the agenda.
Over the course of many months, Georgia’s staff and my staff trained thousands of parents, community leaders and school staff. Our workshop’s agenda was to bring people with broad ranges of opinion together to find common areas of cooperation–to keep our schools open for instruction and, especially, to keep all of our children safe.
There were so many areas that Georgia and I, along with other dedicated staff, worked side by side in. At the height of the most anxious time, at the beginning of the school year, we found ourselves, with a cadre of wonderful volunteers manning the school system’s Hot Line, where all complaints, happenings, wild scares, and reports of violence came through our switchboard. There was a period of days when Georgia and I were there 24 hours a day straight. We never went home until things improved. Both of us had children at home and both of us worried as any parent would.
Georgia was very scared of most any kind of bug or varmint and, especially, of mice. Our offices were just across the hall from each other. One morning I heard screams coming from Georgia’s office. I immediately went across the hall to find Georgia ascending her desk and screaming “Mouse, Mouse.” I calmed her down and she told me where the little mouse was. I found it hovering in a corner much more scared of Georgia then she could have been of it. I picked the little fellow up by the tail. She wanted it out of her office, out the window. I put it on the window sill, but she wanted it gone. I said, “Georgia I can’t drop him down twelve stories, I would have that on my conscience..” “Yes you can June– I’ll put eleven of those stories on my conscience and you can have one.” So I gently pushed the little fellow off the ledge with a pencil.
One Saturday our phones were ringing off the wall. We had a room of volunteers helping us and we received word that a number of groups were planning on storming our office building and stopping our phone banks. We were told the KKK, the Black Panthers, and other assorted unhappy groups were expected. Georgia and I were very protective of our volunteers, so we decided we would head this mob off and not allow them in the Brown Office building. We went down to the Broadway side of the Brown and were met by the KKK. There were also a great many policemen on the sidewalk. Soon the Black Panthers arrived and things got a little dicey, however, Georgia and I stood our ground. A bit later one of the policemen asked what we were doing there and we explained about our volunteers and how we were protecting them. Looking back, I am sure that officer looked at the angry mobs and looked at the nice African-American lady and the little white grandmother and had a few laughs when they told the other officers about us.
You may wonder why I am going back in history. You have to understand personnel like Georgia at that time probably calmed the fears of more parents then staff higher up the ladder did with much more impressive titles than Georgia Eugene’s. But I know the good things this Lady did for our community and our School System. Talented, intellectual and caring–and a lady I loved like a sister. We were a good team, this young African-American woman and this older white woman. I shall miss you my dear, but will never forget you. You filled a void for me: the sister I never had. Love you and may peace and rest be yours.