Buena Vista remembers Irma Thompson

Published: Feb. 26, 2020 at 6:47 PM EST
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Irma Thompson never stopped educating, not at the Buena Vista Colored School she attended as a child, as a teacher at the Parry McCluer Middle School or at age 101, with students at a summer workshop.

“We used to have a library for whites,” she explained to one group of teens in 2018. “And I decided I was going in. And I went in and the lady looked at me and said, 'What do you want?'”

She didn’t see her age as a barrier, as she hadn’t seen segregation as a barrier.

“She managed to get an education, a college education," remembered her friend and local historian Francis Lynn. "When I think it was at that time unheard of that a black child growing up in Buena Vista would get an education past the seven years at the colored school.”

After retiring from teaching, well into her 90s, she made it a cause to preserve that Colored School to educate later generations about segregation.

“Very interesting person," said Dennis Hawes, the Planning Commission Chairman. "She’s the type of person you just, you talked to her, you just felt good after you talked to her. I never heard her say a mean word to anybody. She’s pleasant, very knowledgeable too."

She spent over a decade on Buena Vista’s planning commission, and Hawes thought she deserved a tribute worthy of her place in the community.

“I brought it up at planning commission, and the members voted unanimously to make a recommendation to both the school board and the city council," he said, "Who also, it’s still school board, but city council could also recommend to the school board that one of the two schools, Parry McCluer Middle School or Enderly Heights Elementary be renamed in honor of Irma Thompson.”

Allowing her to continue teaching, in a way.

Copyright 2020 Gray Television