Alberta Tucker Grimes

President Lyndon Johnson wanted change. As part of his Great Society program, Johnson in 1965 ordered the creation of a Head Start project to help preschool children from disadvantaged homes. in Greenville, a school counselor name Alberta Grimes heard of the program and tried to discover more about it. At her own expense, she went to Washington, DC, where she received the information she needed. The result of her initiative was the first Head Start program to be funded in South Carolina. Grimes received a grant to educate 450 preschool children in Greenville County. To secure federal funds, she had to organize a bi-racial committee, a task which was difficult and dangerous. “There was a lot of opposition to the plan,” said Grimes. “At that time South Carolina was still fighting desegregation.” Of her many outstanding achievements, Grimes considers this to be her most significant. “The need for preschool education was so urgent,” she noted. “I always resented discrimination; all children should have the same opportunities.” Her proposal for the initial grant application was subsequently used by 15 other counties in the state to establish Head Start. Thousands of underprivileged children received an opportunity for education that they could never have had without her efforts. Although born in Oberlin, Ohio, her outstanding public service has been performed in South Carolina where she has lived and worked for the past 60 years. She graduated from Southern University in Louisiana and earned a master’s degree from Columbia University. Her career began at Sterling High School where she became a biology teacher. In 1952, Grimes became the first black school counselor in Greenville County and soon afterwards she became the first full-time African-American counselor in the state. Through her counseling position, she motivated hundreds of young people to pursue college degrees. She raised funds for needy students by asking co-workers and her family for contributions. Grimes was responsible for the establishment of “college nights,” which allowed students and parents a preview of more than 20 colleges in the Southeast. Later, she served as a counselor at the Clemson University Branch and the College Transfer program at Greenville Technical College. She explained, “I wanted to do everything I could to make young people realize the importance of worthwhile goals to become productive citizens in a world with its changing demands.” Following her official retirement in 1977, Grimes continued to help students complete admission forms and financial aid applications. She also worked as a administrator with Jesse Jackson’s EXCEL project, a student motivational program. As a leader and organizer of numerous national and local organizations, she has held various positions. She was the first African-American woman to serve as a member on the Board of Trustees of the University of South Carolina. She was a charter member of the Greenville Urban League, President of the Democratic Women of Greenville County, and founder of the Greenville Chapter of Jack and Jill of America. In 1980, Grimes received the prestigious Jefferson Award, which is granted to individuals with high ideals and achievements as volunteers in public service. In 1992 she received the Lifetime Service Award from the Greenville County Human Relations Commission. These and her numerous other awards are testimony to the outstanding public service she has rendered to South Carolina.