MCCARTY DONATES $150,000 TO Southern Miss
By Sharon Wertz
This is the original story released about Miss McCarty's gift.
June 26, 1995.
-- Oseola McCarty's lined, brown hands, now gnarled with arthritis,
bear mute testimony to a lifetime spent washing and ironing other
is how this quiet, 87-year-old black woman came to donate $150,000
to The University of Southern Mississippi.
to help somebody's child go to college," Miss McCarty said.
"I just want it to go to someone who will appreciate it and
learn. I'm old and I'm not going to live always."
establishes an endowed Oseola McCarty Scholarship, with "priority
consideration given to those deserving African-American students
enrolling at The University of Southern Mississippi who clearly
demonstrate a financial need."
is just extraordinary," said Southern Miss President Aubrey
Lucas. "I don't know that I have ever been as touched by a
gift to the university as I am by this one. Miss McCarty has shown
great unselfishness and sensitivity in making possible for others
the education she never had."
Bill Pace, executive director of the Southern Miss Foundation, which
will administer McCarty's gift, said, "This is by far the largest
gift ever given to Southern Miss by an African American. We are
overwhelmed and humbled by what she has done."
gift has astounded even those who believe they know her well. The
customers who have brought their washing and ironing to her modest
frame home for more than 75 years read like the social register
of Hattiesburg. She has done laundry for three generations of some
families. In the beginning, she said, she charged $1.50 to $2 a
bundle, but, with inflation, the price rose.
I started making $10 a bundle -- I don't remember when ... sometime
after the war -- I commenced to save money," she recalled.
"I put it in savings. I never would take any of it out. I just
put it in. It just accumulated."
started saving much earlier. Miss McCarty, seated in her small,
neat living room -- the linoleum floor gleaming, a spotless pink
bedspread pinned carefully over the sofa -- related her story quietly
Born in Wayne
County, Miss., on March 7, 1908, she was raised by her mother, Lucy,
who moved to Hattiesburg when Oseola was very young. Her mother,
she recalls, worked hard to support her young daughter.
for Mr. J.S. Garraway, who was Forrest County Circuit Clerk, and
... she would go to the schoolhouse and sell candy to make money.
She would leave me alone. I was scared, but she didn't have no choice.
I said then that when I could, I would save money so I could take
care of my grandmother."
went to school at Eureka Elementary School. Even as a young child,
she worked, though, and her savings habit started early.
go to school and come home and iron. I'd put money away and save
it. When I got enough, I went to First Mississippi National Bank
and put it in. The teller told me it would be best to put it in
a savings account. I didn't know. I just kept on saving."
was in the sixth grade, her childless aunt had to go to the hospital,
and, McCarty said, "I had to go and wait on her. When she came
out of the hospital, she couldn't walk, and she needed me."
returned to school. "All my classmates had gone off and left
me," she said, "so I didn't go back. I just washed and
Over the years,
she put money into several local banks. While banks merged and changed
names and management, McCarty's savings grew.
died in 1944, her mother died in 1964, her aunt died in 1967, "and
I've been havin' it by myself since then," she said. Her mother
and her aunt each left her some money, which she added to her savings.
In 1947 her uncle gave her the house in which she still lives.
realizing that McCarty was accumulating sizeable savings, advised
her to put her money into CD's, conservative mutual funds and other
accounts where it would work for her.
McCarty washed and ironed and lived frugally. She has never had
a car and still walks everywhere she goes. She shows a visitor the
shopping cart she pushes to Big Star, more than a mile away, to
get groceries. For the visitor's benefit, she turns on the window
air conditioner bank personnel only recently persuaded her to get.
and Ellen Vinzant of Trustmark Bank have worked with McCarty for
several years, not only helping her manage her money but helping
look after her personally. It was they who helped her get the air
conditioner. They also were concerned about what the future held
talked with her about her funds and what would happen to her if
something happened," said Odom. "She knew she needed someone
to take care of her."
never married, said, "After my aunt died, I began to think,
I didn't have nobody. I began to think about what to do with what
little I had. I wanted to leave some to some cousins and my church.
But I had been thinking for a long time ... since I was in school
... I didn't know how to fix it, but I wanted to give it to the
college (Southern Miss). They used to not let colored people go
out there, but now they do, and I think they should have it."
Odom and Vinzant
referred Miss McCarty to Paul Laughlin, Trustmark's assistant vice
president and trust officer.
of our earliest meetings, I talked about what we could do for her,"
Laughlin said. "We talked about providing for her if she's
not able. Then we turned naturally to what happens to her estate
after she dies.
she wanted to leave the bulk of her money to Southern Miss, and
she didn't want (anybody) to come in and change her mind. I called
Jimmy Frank McKenzie, her attorney -- she's done laundry for him
for years -- and he talked to her. He made sure it was her idea.
Then I met with her to let her decide how to divide her money up."
"Mr. Paul laid out dimes on the table to explain how to divide
"I got 10 dimes (to represent percentages). I wrote on pieces
of paper the parties she wanted to leave her money to and put them
on the table. Then I asked how she wanted her money to be split
up. She put one dime on her church and one each for several relatives.
Then she said she wanted the rest -- six dimes -- to go to the college.
She was quite definite about wanting to give 60 percent to Southern
Miss. To my knowledge, she has never been out there, but she
seems to have
the best of the students in mind. The decision was entirely hers."
want the scholarship to go to some child who needs it, to whoever
is not able to help their children," Miss McCarty said. "I'm
too old to get an education, but they can."
an irrevocable trust agreement stating her wishes for her estate
and giving the bank the responsibility for managing her funds.
gives me a check, and I can go get money anytime I need it. My lawyer
gave them permission to take care of me if something happens to
the bank normally keeps such transactions in strictest confidence,
but because of the uniqueness of McCarty's story, he asked for her
permission to make it public.
I guess that would be all right," she said with her typical
wonderfully at peace with where she is and who she is," Laughlin
in her hands forced her to retire from washing and ironing in December
1994, at the age of 86. Now she spends her days cleaning house,
and she still walks everywhere she goes. But she said, "If
I ever get able to, I want to go back to work."
She is taking
others' excitement over her gift with the same quiet grace that
she has taken all the bad and good that have come into her life.
do everything," she said, "but I can do something to help
somebody. And what I can do I will do. I wish I could do more."