April 1998

Beatrice Rice Thompson

Educator

Beatrice Rice Thompson

As the eighth of nine children born to poor tenant farming parents in the segregated South, the prospects for Beatrice Rice Thompson did not look good, however, because of her intense determination to succeed and her parents’ unflinching support, “Bea,” as she was affectionately known, accomplished her goals of becoming a respected teacher and an active community leader. When times were difficult, she would recall her mother’s belief that “winners never quit and quitters never win.” Born in the Fork community of Townville, South Carolina, Thompson is a glowing example of a woman who did not quit. Thompson’s childhood dream was to advance as far as she could educationally. Beginning at Mount Pleasant Elementary School, she earned her high school diploma from the Reed Street School, the Anderson County high school for African-American children. She received a B.A. degree in English and French at South Carolina State College in 1955, and then returned to Anderson to teach at her former high school. She subsequently completed two masters’ degrees, in English at Howard University and in guidance and counseling at Atlanta University. She later taught at Westside high School. Her dream of reaching the top in education came in 1978 when she earned a doctorate in educational psychology at the University of Georgia. Her career as a teacher, a guidance counselor, a school psychologist and a coordinator of psychological services has been a blessing to Anderson School District Five, with which she was associated for 38 years. Thompson has also excelled in the world of politics. In 1976, she became the first African-American elected to the Anderson City Council, a position that she still maintains. In 1980, she was elected to the South Carolina Municipal Association, serving as president between 1988 and 1990. At the national level, she has been a delegate to the Democratic Party’s national conventions and longtime member of the party’s national committee, representing South Carolina. Always a supporter of projects designed to advance education and community facilities, Thompson worked for the passage of the Education Improvement Act, was a member of the Advisory Board of Wintrop College, spearheaded the development of the Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Program in Anderson District Five, and served on the Board of Regents for Leadership South Carolina. Additionally, she is an advisor and consultant to the Anderson-Oconee Headstart Program. She was president of the South Carolina Personnel and Guidance Association from 1982 to 1984. The success of the Westside Community Center is, in large part, a result of Thompson’s determination to use her influence and energy to help others. She helped mobilize community sentiment to make the center become a reality and currently serves as president of the center, which houses a health center, several social service agencies, and programs for adult education, parenting, mentoring and neighborhood recreation. Many honors, recognitions and awards have been bestowed on “Bea” Thompson. They include the South Carolina Headstart Association Award, the Omega Fraternity Citizen of the Year and the South Carolina Party Service Award. The Beatrice Thompson Municipal Park in Anderson is named after her. Despite her many honors, Thompson considers her role as a wife and mother to be the most rewarding part of her life. She continues to live by the philosophy instilled in her by her parents, who stressed, “Give to the world the best that you have and the best will come back to you.”