“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Civil Rights Soldiers are not always easy to spot. For instance, Mississippians had their Fannie Lou Hamer, Co-Founder, and Vice-Chair of the Freedom Democratic Party. Alabama had Rosa Parks, sitting on the front seat of a bus! Washington, D. C. had Dorothy Height, American Educator. New York had House Representative Shirley Chisholm! And Lawrenceville, Georgia has Dorothy Gholston Maxey, this unsung Progressive Entrepreneur!
“I just put God first … in everything I did, in everything I do, in everything and He added all these things to me!” This 92 years strong, intelligent and spirit-filled woman answered slowly and reflectively reciting one of her favorite scriptures, Matthew 6:33 when asked how she accomplished all that she had with little formal education; “He did it!”
We were sitting in her museum-like house in the community known as “Rocky Knob” in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Although Ms. Dorothy was born Dorcas, from the bible, she changed it to Dorothy. She was born in “Cross Town” near Hooper Renwick High School; Rocky Knob was where her parents moved when she was a toddler. Coincidentally, they lived across the street from Mr. Hooper who donated the land for Hooper Renwick. Of course, Ms. Dorothy declared that God did that too! Married to Clifford Maxey, Jr., (WWII veteran) for over 60 years until he passed away, they had five children: Robert James (deceased), Terry, John, Carolyn and Carrene and 17 grandchildren.
Back then, it was a close-knit community, people knew each other - playing, socializing and worshipping together. She was six weeks old when her parents had her christened at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church. At that time, Pleasant Hill was around 48 years old. She proudly stated that the Church is over 140 years old and she continues to worship there today. She taught Sunday school for years, she was secretary of the Sunday school, and she was a Missionary along with her late sister and best friend, Clara Collins who was affectionately known as “Ms. Kitty.”
Ms. Dorothy has lived through 16 presidents and has outlived all of them except four of them. She proudly watched the election of America’s first African American president. Ms. Dorothy stated that she registered to vote in 1956. Her quiet, quick-witted and articulate manner reveals deeper stories than she would ever share. Always careful to give God the glory for the many accomplishments in her life, Ms. Dorothy gingerly shared the plight of racism as she experienced it. She acknowledges that it was there, but she stated that she kept her focus on the Lord and purposed to seek His direction.
Ms. Dorothy worked as a Domestic Worker. In plain language, she stated that she cleaned White folks homes. She declared that she was in high demand because “she was just that good!” Her first job at 12 years old paid her $.10 an hour! She cleaned homes in a particular cul-de-sac in a certain neighborhood. She marveled that she was able to move from house to house in this neighborhood working two hours in each home for $2.00 an hour. She proudly stated that often she deposited as little as $2.00 in her savings account and sometimes, she was able to make as much as $50.00 and deposited that in her bank! Yes, racism was present, in the form of how she was addressed in conversation, but she remained focused, and because she was so good at what she did, she remained in high demand. She stated that she hoped she had passed these same attributes on to her children. Of course, Ms. Dor-othy stated that she continued to seek God and He was responsible for adding “all these things” to her!
In 1966, one of the women she cleaned houses for, informed her that the local hospital, which was Button Gwinnett now Gwinnett Medical, was looking for help in the Radiology department. Ms. Dorothy went to inquire about this job on behalf of her daughter Carolyn, who had just graduated from high school but was already employed. However, Ms. Dorothy continued with an idea in her head! She was informed that the applicant needed to have a high school diploma. Ms. Dorothy said to me with a twinkle in her eye, “Wait! Put a pin in that! Let me tell you this!”
She tells the story of how she along with her sister, Ms. Kitty, and other ladies learned of a program that would allow them to go to night school and receive their GEDs. Ms. Dorothy stated that she had attended school through the 7th grade and graduated because that is as far as school went for Blacks in those days. But Ms. Dorothy was defiant and declared that she wanted to finish high school because “education was her thing!” She insisted on her children graduating high school, and they did; some achieving Grad school levels! She stated that her greatest joy is that they will all join her in Heaven one day! In true mother fashion, she gloated, “I’m proud of them and their many accomplishments as well as her beautiful and talented grand-children!”
So, when she ‘interviewed’ or ‘inquired’ about this job, she asked the interviewer if it were possible for him to consider her for the job. She stated that it would except you must have a high school diploma. Ms. Dorothy stated that she proudly declared, “I have my GED!” He had no choice but to give her the job. She worked on this job for 40 years and continued to clean homes throughout. She continued to take her earnings to the bank regularly depositing still very small amounts but all the while consistently depositing. These weekly ‘field trips’ to the bank, along with her sister, allowed both of them to pay cash for their homes as well as their cars. Carolyn stated that they still have the check their mother wrote paying cash for her house! It didn’t stop there; she served as a foreman overseeing the construction of the house with no training. Ms. Dorothy humbly shrugged, and you guessed it, she said, “God did it!”
Ms. Dorothy has purchased all of the available and substantial acre-ages around her on Rocky Knob. For a woman with a GED in a city and county in the Deep South that did not necessarily value her, her thoughts or opinions that never asked if she was happy, satisfied or pleased, Dorothy G. Maxey found her niche! Her job is to progress. She adamantly stated, “I am very progressive! I don’t feel no ways tired! I may not have been liked in that bank, but I was respected like I owned it!” In the age of the woman, Ms. Dorothy was an entrepreneur before women were even recognized as such!
A voracious reader, Ms. Dorothy stated that she read that former President Jimmy Carter still teaches Sunday School in Plains, Georgia. She stated that they are close in age, he’s 94, and she’s 92, and in October, both of them will have a birthday. She wants to attend his Sunday School class. So, in true Dorothy Maxey fashion, she is seeking God once again asking Him “to add these things unto her!”