​​Bertha Sydney Williams Stewart

Bertha Sydney Williams Stewart was born in York, South Carolina on August 27, 1925 to Jeff and Minnie Robinson Williams. Growing up as the youngest of 10 children, Mrs. Stewart owned her own pig and rode the family’s horse bareback until her father insisted she should have a saddle! She grew up in a tight knit community and learned at an early age how to care for others with her mother sending her to take food to ladies homebound after childbirth or other challenges.

When she was old enough, Mrs. Stewart began school, attending Jefferson Elementary School.  (In those days, there was only one school, and coursework ended in 11th grade.) Upon graduating from Jefferson in 1943 as valedictorian, Mrs. Stewart entered Barber-Scotia College in Concord, North Carolina where she finished cum laude in 1947 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a minor in English.   She matriculated in a master’s program at Columbia University in New York City for a year, and she returned south and accepted a teaching position at Saxon Elementary School in Columbia, South Carolina.   After teaching at Saxon for 12 years, she moved to Burton Elementary and then to Sarah Nance Elementary, where she was selected Teacher of the Year in 1975 and rose to the position of Assistant Principal.

 In 1953, during her time at Saxon, Mrs. Stewart met and married Claude Ceazar Stewart, Jr., a firefighter with the Columbia Fire Department who retired from the department as Assistant Chief. They were married for 46 years until Chief Stewart’s death in 1999. To their union, two children were born: Claude David in 1960 (he passed away the next year) and Evva Claudette in 1962.

Mrs. Stewart retired from teaching in 1980 after 36 years, 5 months and 14 days of dedicated service. Somewhere along the way, she learned Bunka (Japanese embroidery), crocheting, knitting, became a Girl Scout leader and learned to love line dancing and exercise. To this day, at 91 years old, an important part of her regimen is an exercise class at Greenview Park that she attends three times per week. 

Born a Methodist, after marriage Mrs. Stewart followed her husband to his church, Second Calvary Baptist, where she was baptized and became a member.  Deacon Stewart and his “bride” were very active and dedicated church members, and she remains so today as a member of the Deaconess Ministry, Pulpit Aid Ministry, the Golden Eagles Ministry and a Four Score member.

For a number of years, in addition to working with the youth while running Claudette back and forth to church activities, she led the baptism committee and worked with the deaconesses setting up for 1st Sunday communion.  She began the practice of serving meals following Vacation Bible School to enrich the fellowship of that event.

Doing good things for the church is always at the forefront of Mrs. Stewart’s mind.  In celebration of the life and legacy of Deacon Stewart, at the time of his passing, a memorial fund of contributions received along with funds given directly to them was created by the family. They used those funds to purchase the marquee at the front of the church grounds and hang a large chandelier in the church’s foyer.  The Japanese Embroidery of the Lord’s Supper displayed on the wall in the James M. Hinton Hall was crocheted by Mrs. Stewart.

On January 23, 2017, Mrs. Stewart was presented a Resolution from the South Carolina House of Representative. This prestigious award was presented by Representative Leon Howard at the State House.

In addition to her amazing role as Claudette’s mom, Mrs. Stewart is the proud grandmother of one grandson, Terrance Claude Hampton, a loving mother-in-law to Roger Anthony Parham, a dedicated aunt to her nieces and nephews, and a loyal and loving friend to many.

​​​​Bertha Sydney Williams Stewart

Otha Holmes Gipson was born in Plantersville, South Carolina, A very small town in  Georgetown County. At an early age, her family moved to Conway, South Carolina. She attended public school in the Horry County School System.  After graduating from Whittemore High School, Otha was accepted into the Conway Medical Center School of Medical Laboratory Technology. As the only African-American accepted into the school, she was racially profiled and challenged at every level. However, she persevered to graduate in the top 2% of the class before the program was abolished in the 70’s.  She worked full-time and went to school full-time while completing the program. 

Following graduation, Otha was employed by Conway Medical Center as a Medical Laboratory Technologist for 14 years. During her tenure at CMC she was recognized as the best of the best in working with pediatric patients.  While employed at Conway Medical Center she initiated the effort and successfully integrated the staff dining room. She also single-handedly integrated a Pediatrician Office by peacefully refusing to use the “colored only” waiting room. 

Otha relocated to Columbia, SC in 1980.  She was then employed by Moncreif Army Hospital (Ft. Jackson, SC) for 11 years. During her tenure at Moncrief Army Hospital she was recognized for exceptional performance in Hematology & Microbiology. 

After the birth of her second child, Otha realized that there was a need for excellence in child care facilities, and returned to school to complete the required certification to own/operate a Child Development Center. 

In 1990, she opened Woodfield Girl & Boy Land Child Development Center. In 1997, the name was changed to Woodfield Enrichment Center, Inc.  Otha is the current President/CEO of Woodfield Enrichment Center, Inc.  A full-service child development center that serves children ages 6 weeks -12 years.

 Otha is  currently a Personal Touch Volunteer with Palmetto Health Baptist where she has diligently assisted the medical staff in various capacities since 2009.  She has been a member of Second Calvary Baptist Church for more than 30 years, and has served on various committees  and ministries.  She enjoys traveling, spending time with family friends, and shopping.  Otha has 2 daughters, Tonya and Candace who both currently resides in Columbia, SC.

Patricia Roberts Harris

Patricia Roberts Harris was dedicated to public service, civil rights and the promotion of social justice. A woman of many firsts, she was the first African American woman to serve the nation as Ambassador, the first African American woman to become dean of a law school, and the first African-American woman to serve in a Presidential cabinet.   

Patricia Roberts Harris was born on May 31, 1924, in Mattoon, Illinois, the daughter of a Pullman car waiter.  She was raised by her mother after her father left. Roberts excelled academically and won a scholarship to Howard University, graduating in 1945.  She married in 1955, and at her husband’s urging entered law school.  She earned her law degree from George Washington University and was admitted to the District of Columbia Bar and to practice before the United States Supreme Court.

In the 1950s, Harris worked at Delta Sigma Theta, a national African-American sorority, as a director. Encouraged by William Beasley Harris, her husband and a lawyer himself, she decided to go to law school.  

Harris attended George Washington University’s National Law Center and graduated in 1960 as the top student in her class.  After graduating, Harris spent a year with the Department of Justice.  Then she returned to Howard University as a lecturer and later a professor. Outside of class, Harris was an activist for many social causes.  She was appointed by President John F. Kennedy to co-chair the National Women’s Committee for Civil Rights. The committee oversaw approximately 100 women’s organizations across the nation.

In 1965, Harris broke new ground for African-American women when she was appointed U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg by President Lyndon B. Johnson.  She held the position for two years and then returned to her teaching at Howard where she again proved to be a trailblazer.  In 1969, she became the dean of the law school there, making her the first African-American woman to do so.  She didn’t stay in the position long, however. 

In 1970, Harris became a corporate attorney at a large law firm.  Along with her legal work, she served on the boards of such companies as IBM, Scott Paper Company and Chase Manhattan Bank—hoping to encourage corporations to help foster social change.  Harris left her law practice in 1977 after being selected by President Jimmy Carter for his Cabinet as secretary of Housing and Urban Development—making HUD the first Cabinet department to be headed by an African- American woman.  She fought for fair housing and employment practices under the Carter Administration as the secretary of Housing and Urban Development.  At her confirmation hearing, she was queried as to her ability to represent the interests of the poor. Her response was: “I am one of them. You do not seem to understand who I am.  I am a Black woman, daughter of a dining-car worker.  I am a Black woman who could not buy a house eight years ago in parts of the District of Columbia. I didn’t start out as a member of a prestigious law firm, but as a woman who needed a scholarship to go to school.  If you think that I have forgotten that, you are wrong.”

Sometimes described as blunt and tough, Harris demanded the best from her staff and herself while serving as secretary.  She was an able administrator who reshaped the agency, which was in disarray when she took over the post.  Harris worked hard to rebuild urban neighborhoods and to encourage businesses to invest in troubled areas.  Encouraged by her success at HUD, Carter later made Harris the secretary of what is now known as health and human services.  Harris left the position after Carter lost the 1980 election to Republican Ronald Reagan.

 Harris ran for mayor of Washington, but bowed out after losing the Democratic primary to incumbent Marion Barry. She then left politics and returned to teaching. Harris served as a professor at George Washington University Law School until the time of her death.  She died on March 23, 1985.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Congresswoman Maxine Waters is considered by many to be one of the most powerful women in American politics today. She has gained a reputation as a fearless and outspoken advocate for women, children, people of color and the poor.

Elected in November 2014 to her thirteenth term in the U.S. House of Representatives with more than 70 percent of the vote in the 43rd Congressional District of California, Congresswoman Waters represents a large part of South Central Los Angeles.

Congresswoman Waters serves as the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Financial Services. An integral member of Congressional Democratic Leadership, Congresswoman Waters serves as a member of the Steering & Policy Committee.  She is also a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and member and past chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Prior to her election to the House of Representatives in 1990, Congresswoman Waters had already attracted national attention for her no-nonsense, no-holds-barred style of politics. During 14 years in the California State Assembly, she rose to the powerful position of Democratic Caucus Chair. She was responsible for some of the boldest legislation California has ever seen: the largest divestment of state pension funds from South Africa; landmark affirmative action legislation; the nation’s first statewide Child Abuse Prevention Training Program; the prohibition of police strip searches for nonviolent misdemeanors; and the introduction of the nation’s first plant closure law.

As a national Democratic Party leader, Congresswoman Waters have long been highly visible in Democratic Party politics and has served on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) since 1980.  She was a key leader in five presidential campaigns: Sen. Edward Kennedy (1980), Rev. Jesse Jackson (1984 & 1988), and President Bill Clinton (1992 & 1996). In 2001, she was instrumental in the DNC’s creation of the National Development and Voting Rights Institute and the appointment of Mayor Maynard Jackson as its chair.

She is a co-founder of Black Women’s Forum, a nonprofit organization of over 1,200 African American women in the Los Angeles area. In the mid-80s, she also founded Project Build, working with young people in Los Angeles housing developments on job training and placement.

Throughout her career, Congresswoman Waters have been an advocate for international peace, justice, and human rights. Before her election to Congress, she was a leader in the movement to end Apartheid and establish democracy in South Africa. She opposed the 2004 Haitian coup d’état, which overthrew the democratically-elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti, and defends the rights of political prisoners in Haiti’s prisons. She leads congressional efforts to cancel the debts that poor countries in Africa and Latin America owe to wealthy institutions like the World Bank and free poor countries from the burden of international debts.

Expanding access to health care services is another of Congresswoman Waters’ priorities. She spearheaded the development of the Minority AIDS Initiative in 1998 to address the alarming spread of HIV/AIDS among African Americans, Hispanics and other minorities. Under her continuing leadership, funding for the Minority AIDS Initiative has increased from the initial appropriation of $156 million in fiscal year 1999 to approximately $400 million per year today. She is also the author of legislation to expand health services for patients with diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Congresswoman Waters has led congressional efforts to mitigate foreclosures and keep American families in their homes during the housing and economic crises, notably through her role as Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity in the previous two Congresses. She authored the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which provides grants to states, local governments and nonprofits to fight foreclosures, home abandonment and blight and to restore neighborhoods.  Through two infusions of funds, the Congresswoman was able to secure $6 billion for the program.

Maxine Waters was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the fifth of 13 children reared by a single mother. She began working at age 13 in factories and segregated restaurants. After moving to Los Angeles, she worked in garment factories and at the telephone company. She attended California State University at Los Angeles, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree. She began her career in public service as a teacher and a volunteer coordinator in the Head Start program.

She is married to Sidney Williams, the former U.S. Ambassador to the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. She is the mother of two adult children, Edward and Karen, and has two grandchildren.


Women's History Month

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