December 2008

Josephine Helen Wood

Educator

Josephine Helen Wood, granddaughter of slaves and daughter of sharecroppers, was born and reared in Cherokee County. Despite limited educational opportunity, she excelled academically and earned admission to Spelman College and Allen University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in elementary education. Except for a brief period as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), she spent her professional career teaching first grade in the Cherokee County School District until her retirement in 1980.

Her life is characterized by her humanitarian efforts in her school, church and community. As a teacher, she used her own money to purchase shoes and clothing for children in her class, tutored children after school and worked in the adult education program. Before integration of the schools, she helped raise money to purchase a bus to transport African American children to school, an action that subsequently convinced school officials to provide transportation for all children. Because of her concern for the citizenry of the county, she joined the Literacy Association to help eliminate illiteracy and served as a poll worker during elections to ensure that all citizens understood voting procedures. Through her church, Shady Grove Baptist Church, and the Ladies Progressive Club of Gaffney she continued to serve the needy and various charitable organizations.

Her energetic work resulted in an invitation to join the American Red Cross Board receiving recognition and numerous awards from church, education and community organizations. At the ripe age of 91, she remains active in her church and the Ladies Progressive Club of Gaffney, and is recognized in the community as one of the matrons of black history. Before her health began to fail, she would dress in costumes to recite black poetry and share stories about slavery, sharecropping and little known community traditions with school children every year during Black History Month.