|Birth: ||Mar. 7, 1908|
|Death: ||Sep. 26, 1999|
Philanthropist. Became well known near the end of her life for her gift of $150,000 (her life savings) to the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg in July of 1995 which sparked national as well as worldwide attention. She may not even knew exactly what the word philanthropy meant, but the elderly washerwoman gave away practically every dollar she ever made to endow a scholarship fund for poor students in Mississippi that made her a symbol of selfless giving. The Southern native was raised by her mother, Lucy, who moved to Hattiesburg when she was very young. Her father had died in 1926. At the age of 11 she had to drop out of the sixth grade to help her mother care for her ailing aunt. She was never able to return to school and took a job as a washer for families that would hire her, to help her family financially. Living frugally, she would go on and work for 75 years as a laundress beside her grandmother, who died in 1944; her mother, who died in 1964; and her aunt, who died in 1967. All leaving her money, which she added to her savings. In 1947, her uncle left her the modest, wooden-frame house in which she would live the rest of her life in. Alone in 1967, she continued to take in laundry until 1994, when in her eighties arthritis forced her to retire. All through her life she had taken pride in her work, had faith in God, and saved her money. Over her years of living she regretted that she never got her full education and that she never became a nurse. But one thing that she had achieved after was financial comfort. There was nothing in particular she wanted to buy and no place in particular she wanted to go. An only child who outlived her relatives, she lived a solitary existence, surrounded by rows of clothes she made pretty for people who knew her only as the washerwoman. Upon retiring and after some deliberation, she informed friends at her bank of the desire to give some of her money to her church, some to her family, and $ 150,000 to students at the University of Southern Mississippi so that they could receive something she never fully had, an education. "I'm giving it away so that children won't have to work so hard, like I did," she said in July 1995. Her gift established the 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. The selflessness of this 87 year old woman's gift sparked national as well as worldwide attention. The gift and dizzying media blitz that followed created a domino effect on the hearts and pocketbooks of people nationwide, and a group of local business people launched a private fund-raising campaign to match the donation. Contributions from more than 600 donors added some $330,000 to the original scholarship fund. After hearing of Miss McCarty's gift, Multibillionare Ted Turner gave away a billion dollars. She would receive numerous honors for her generous gift of kindness. She did not want any monuments or any proclamations for her selfless act, said people who that knew her. Her more than 300 honors included honors by the United Nations, President Bill Clinton and the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP, the Presidential Citizen's Medal (the nation's second highest civilian award) and honorary doctorates from Harvard University and the University of Southern Mississippi. She also received the Community Heroes Award from the National Urban League, the Premier Black Woman of Courage Award from the National Federation of Black Women Business Owners, and the Achiever Award from the Aetna Foundation. In 1996, she had the honor to carry the Olympic torch through part of Mississippi and that same year, hers was the hand on the switch that dropped the ball in Times Square on New Year's Eve. A collection of her views on life, work, faith, sayings, and relationships were published in her book, Simple Wisdom for Rich Living in 1996. She was later told in 1999 that she had liver cancer, about a year after she underwent surgery for colon cancer. She spent her last days as she wanted in the little house in Hattiesburg where she spent most of her life.
Created by: Curtis Jackson
Record added: Mar 08, 2006
Find A Grave Memorial# 13561102