In recognition of Black History Month and to honor a Harlem native for her decades-long commitment to the area's schools, Columbia County commissioners on Tuesday named Feb. 17, 2004, as Mary Elizabeth Sanders Day.
With family members and friends in the audience, the 90-year-old Sanders accepted words of praise from county officials and former colleague and a proclamation outlining her contributions.
"There are a number of people who have made Columbia County what it is, but Mary Sanders is a giant," said former Superintendent Tucker Vaughn.
Sanders began teaching in 1932 in McDuffie County. In 1954, she taught at Pollard Academy and became principal of the elementary school in 1958. She then relocated to George T. White Elementary School when it was built, and became principal at North Harlem Elementary School where she held the position for 17 years.
During her tenure, she also arranged for night classes at Pollard Academy in the 1950s for veterans.
"Her record of service is 55 years that she dedicated her life to the boys and girls and youth of this county and surrounding counties," said current Superintendent Tommy Price, who first met Sanders in 1973 when he moved to Harlem. "That's unprecedented."
After retiring in 1988, Sanders ran for a seat as a school trustee and became the first black member of the Columbia County school board.
"I appreciate this proclamation, and I realize what it means," Sanders told the audience. "I will continue to do my best to live up to what you expect and what God expects of me.
"I really didn't know I had worked 55 years. I just worked it because I enjoyed it."
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