January 26, 1913 – February 14, 2017
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Lie In State: 2:30 P.M. – 6:00 P.M.
Nelson & Sons Memorial Chapel
824 Lipscomb Street, Shelbyville, TN
Friday, February 17, 2017
Family Visitation: 10:00 A.M.
Funeral Mass: 11:00 A.M.
St. William of Montevergine Catholic Church
500 South Brittain Street
Miss Mary Washington Gray transitioned from this earthly life to a Heavenly life on February 14th, 2017. Mary was preceded in death by her parents, Matthew E. and Lucinda J. Washington Gray, and a brother Thomas Joseph Gray.
Both of Mary’s parents were teachers and is why Mary developed a love for being a teacher. Mary attended the Hardin County School System, where she graduated from high school and then worked there as a substitute teacher. She later attended Tennessee A&I College and received her Bachelor of Science degree and became a teacher in the Harding County School System, the very school from which she graduated.
Mary later moved to Bedford County, after being offered a job by Sydney Harris to teach in Bell Buckle, Tennessee. He later offered her a position to take over his wife’s music class and she accepted with pleasure, as she loved music. She spent a few years there and was later offered a position as English teacher at Bedford County Training School (BCTS). Later returned to school and received her Masters of Science degree in 1963. She was the first African-American teacher to be moved during desegregation.
Mary also worked as a teacher, in education, for nearly 40 years, including Dunbar High School in Savannah, Tenn, BCTS, Harris High School, Wartrace High School from 1966 to 1972, and retiring from the Cascade High School in 1975.
A group of retired teachers threw a retirement lunch party, for Mary, at Legends of Shelbyville, on Monday, January 27th, 2014. A person’s 100th birthday does not come around too often — once in a lifetime — so the event should be celebrated. Her 100th birthday was on Sunday, January 26, 2014.
The staff at Wartrace, were very nice when she went to work there in 1966, Mary said. “She was a great lady to work with,” said Hal Skelton, who was principal at the time. Mary taught senior English and was one of two African-American teachers at the school at the time, an era that included desegregation, Hal said. Wartrace and Bell Buckle High Schools merged in 1972 when Cascade High School opened, Hal said, and Mary transferred to the new school. She retired from teaching in 1975.
Mary also spent decades at another venture; as a hospital volunteer.
She retired in 2008 from her volunteer role after 32 years, most of which were spent as a Bedford County Medical Center “Pink Lady.” Mary was the hospital’s longest-serving volunteer.
Mary loved reading the newspaper from front to back and she often shared her knowledge and experiences of her travels to Chicago, Germany, Russia, and France.
Doing what she always taught, she would say, “Enjoy your mind and you will enjoy your life.”
She is survived by her cousin, Douglas Washington and goddaughter and devoted friend, Mildred Thompson.