ALBANY, Ga. -- Five area women, including the late Jane Austin-Taylor of Albany, will be inducted into the Southern Rural Black Women's Hall of Fame Saturday in a ceremony at Albany State University's HPER Gymnasium.
The inductees, who were nominated for inclusion in the hall by their peers for their courage and leadership in Southwest Georgia, were previously honored at a regional ceremony in Tougoloo, Miss., at which hall inductees from Mississippi and Alabama were also recognized.
"We identify these women as unsung heroes," Linda Riggins with the Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education said of the inductees. "They are the women who rose up and overcame whatever obstacles were in their way to become leaders in their communities.
"I believe it's more meaningful to the honorees that they were nominated by their peers. The nominees are reviewed by a regional panel that makes the decision on which will be inducted into the hall of fame. We have the ceremony every two years."
In addition to Austin-Taylor, who with her husband Barry Taylor owned and operated Austin and Taylor Funeral Home in Albany and served one term as Dougherty County's coroner, the inductees who will be honored Saturday include Judy Belinda Hall of Sylvester, Hattie Mae Burrows of Abbeville, Charlie Lee Rodwell of Fitzgerald and Vivian Gervin-Smith of Camilla.
Hall, an ASU graduate, is the founder and pastor of Jesus Christ Tabernacle of Deliverance church in Sylvester and is CEO of the nonprofit Family Visions Outreach. McBurrows, the first licensed cosmetologist in Wilcox County, owned and operated a beauty shop in Rochelle for 11 years. She later became the first black supervisor in her department as a dietitian/nutritionist at Abbeville Nursing Home and was the first black, and only woman, to serve on the Wilcox County School Board.
Rodwell was an educator and a civil rights activist in Ben Hill County who also served as a deaconess at her church. She is the only woman selected to serve on the board of the Ben Hill County Civic League, for which she held the office of secretary. Gervin-Smith taught homemaking and music for 25 years in Baker and Mitchell counties and worked 12 years as the first black welfare caseworker for the Mitchell County Department of Family and Children Services.
Saturday's induction ceremony begins at 6 p.m. Keynote speaker for the evening will be broadcasting executive and noted civil rights activist Xernona Clayton.
The Southern Rural Black Women Initiative for Economic and Social Justice/Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education Inc. is a multiyear project sponsored by the Ford Foundation to create new economic opportunities in the "Black Belt" of Southwest Georgia, Alabama and the Mississippi Delta. The Hall of Fame promotes a sense of pride among Southern black women and preserves inductees' local legacies and histories.