After 49 years of dedicated service Director of Adult Education Mamie Banks officially retired from the McCormick County School District on Sunday, June 30.
“The job has been rewarding because I was able to relate to the parents and students as I am a product of McCormick myself,” she stated.
When she was right out of college Professor W.S. Mims of Mims High School in McCormick came to her house and offered her a job with the school system and she has been there since that time.
Banks stated, “Professor Mims taught me in high school and knew the type of student I was.”
She began teaching the seventh and eighth grades and has taught all grades during the first 27 years of her career. Seeing her dedication and qualifications she was promoted to Assistant Principal at the McCormick Middle School where she stayed for 12 years. This promotion made her the first full-time female administrator at one of the McCormick schools. For the last 10 years she has been the Director of Adult Education.
“From teacher, to assistant principal, to the director of adult ed all jobs have built on each other. I have taught children and grandchildren of the parents from when I first started my career. The cycle keeps going around,” she said with a smile.
Both day and evening classes are offered for adult ed, where students receive their GED or high school diploma. This year there were 12 graduates with five receiving diplomas and seven awarded GEDs. Last year there were 30 graduates.
She has loved being in the adult education program because she can help people find new opportunities and even help find new jobs.
Banks was born in Mt. Carmel the daughter of George Jones and Mary Jones Powell and has lived there all of her life.
As a teenager she admired how teachers looked and carried themselves and were respected in the community. That’s when she realized she wanted to be a part of education.
She graduated from Mims High School and continued her studies at South Carolina State University where she received a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and Business and then to Clemson University where she received a Master’s Degree plus 30 hours in Administration and Supervision.
Banks believes that in 1963, as a junior at South Carolina State University, she was put in jail for a week there in Orangeburg for boycotting and fighting for equal rights. This has had a profound impact on how she felt about encouraging young people to be the best that they can be and to be dedicated and persistent in completing their education.
Since that experience, she has pushed every boy and girl to not give up until they receive the best education possible. This came from the teachings of Professor Mims, whose motto was “Good, Better, Best, Never Let it Rest, Until Good is Better and Better is Best.” This has been her inspiration over the years and she has tried to pass it on.
When she finished college she came back to Mt. Carmel and married Henry Banks, who was her classmate and now a member of the McCormick County Council. The couple has five children, Williemaye Payton of Edgefield, Rhonda Thompson of Columbia, Rodrick Banks of Indian Trail, N.C., Rozalynn Goodwin of Columbia and Raeneeva Davis of Anderson. They are also blessed to have seven grandchildren, four boys and three girls.
In 2003 Banks started her own scholarship fund called the “Mamie Jones Banks Scholarship” which is given to two or three seniors from McCormick High School to help further their education. It is her belief that a person should give back to help the community that has given her and her family so much. The McCormick County School System educated all five of their children. They have all gone on to college to become successful adults and it is all because of the education they received in McCormick. She feels blessed and thankful for the opportunities she has received.
She is also a charter member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, which doles out scholarships to students in all eight high schools in Abbeville, Greenwood and McCormick counties. She has worked extremely hard in soliciting funds for the scholarships. The sorority chartered in 1973 and McCormick has benefited from the scholarships since that time.
She said, “I have had the most wonderful faculty and staff that anyone could ask for and my students have been wonderful.”
Valerie Yarbough-Jones, a former student and friend of the family stated, “I was a student at Willington Elementary School studying under her during my first years of school. I remember her being very kind and concerned for her students and as the years have past I would describe her further as being an amazing lady with a very competitive spirit. She is one of the pillars of the community and over the years I have watched her invest in so many students. We were like family. She wasn’t just concerned about her own children’s’ education, but everyone else’s as well.”
Jones has her Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in Psychology and graduated from Troy University at the Augusta campus and is also a close friend of the family. “Her daughter, Rhonda, and I were classmates and very good friends. One thing she taught me was to give back to my community.”
As I watch her make contributions to the community I thought, “I too can make a difference.”
I tell her to this day, “I’m still trying to be like you.” And with that being said I watched her give out scholarships and that is what I am doing now.” Jones created the Yarbough-Jones Scholarships. “This year we gave out 14 to McCormick High School graduating seniors who participated in the Middle College Program.”
The Department of Adult Education recognized Banks recently at both regional and state levels. She is especially proud of a surprised luncheon her faculty and staff pulled off. It showed how much they care about her and the feeling is mutual. She was also honored at the July 8 Board of Trustees meeting.
Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the McCormick Co. District School System Jim Lambeth had these kind words to say about Banks. “In the 49 years that she has been a member of the faculty she has done an outstanding job. She has put her soul into her responsibilities and we’re gong to miss her and wish her well in her retirement.”
Banks plans to stay in McCormick. “It’s home,” she said, “and the community has provided me so much.”
She and her husband plan to travel and her dream is to go on a trip to Hawaii. She also plans to do volunteer work and spend more time with her mother, children and grandchildren.
Mamie Banks may be bidding the school district farewell, but her knowledge, personality and energy and will continue to help make a difference in the county and where ever she is needed.