Five set for Rural Black Women hall induction

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

ALBANY, Ga. -- Five women who helped shape the course of Southwest Georgia history will be honored Friday during an induction ceremony into the Southern Rural Black Women's Initiative for Economic and Social Justice's Women's Hall of Fame.

Sallie Mae Coney of Pineview, Annie Jackson-Willingham of Camilla, Grace Miller of Newton, Daisy Newsome of Albany and Dr. Linda Walden of Cairo will be honored at the 7 p.m. ceremony, which will be held at Albany State University's HPER Gymnasium.

Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and Alabama attorney Rose Sanders will be the featured guests at the induction ceremony.

"These five women are certainly deserving of this honor," Southern Rural Black Women's Initiative for Economic and Social Justice State Coordinator Linda Riggins said. "It's an exemplary group."

The five Georgia nominees were recognized in March at a ceremony in Montgomery, Ala., during which hall of fame members from Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi were honored.

Coney, who taught school for two years before leaving the profession to raise her family, became a voting rights advocate in Wilcox County when she went to court to challenge the literacy test forced upon blacks who registered to vote. Shortly after being granted the right to vote by a jury in her community, she assisted a number of African-American citizens in registering and casting ballots.

Jackson-Willingham taught science in the Mitchell-Baker School system for 29 years, helping her students pass the state high school graduation test at a 98-99 percent rate. Jackson-Willingham also worked extensively with special needs students, with prison inmates and in helping students obtain college scholarships. Even in retirement, she continues to teach, tutoring students during the summer months.

Miller became one of the unofficial leaders of the Baker County Civil Rights Movement when her husband was killed in a hate crime in the early '60s. She worked to bring social, political and economic change in the community and became unofficial coordinator of offshoot movements in Mitchell, Terrell and Lee counties. Miller recently received an award for her more than 20 years of service on the Baker County Board of Education.

Newsome fearlessly gave her time to voter registration and civil rights efforts in Albany, even going to jail for the cause she so strongly believed in. In addition to educating and registering voters in Dougherty, Terrell, Baker, Lee and Sumter counties, she housed and fed Freedom Riders and members of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee that came to town.

Walden, who was the first female to establish a medical practice in Cairo, was elected by her colleagues at Grady General Hospital as the first African-American chief of staff. She has been named Physician of the Year by the National Medical Association and is the only south Georgia/north Florida recipient of the National Jefferson Award for outstanding public service, an award founded by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Hall of fame honorees are nominated for induction by women in their home counties and are considered by an independent panel.

Tickets to Friday's ceremony, titled "Passing the Torch on to Future Generations: From Their Hands to Ours," are $30 for adults and $15 for students. For tickets or additional information, call (229) 430-9870.