Dr. Frances Stallworth : The end of a rewarding career
Special to the Outlook
Dr. Frances Stallworth, an iconic educator and alumna of both FAMU and FSU, is retiring after fifty-nine phenomenal years in the teaching profession. She has unequivocally impacted the lives of literally thousands of young people, many of whom have articulated their gratitude and appreciation to her for being such a caring, effective teacher.
She has taught at several levels: junior high, senior high, junior college, and university. She began her teaching career in Monticello, Fla., in 1957 when segregation was the norm. Her students were only four years younger than she. She remembers both the good times and the bad. For example, a young African-American teacher was fired because she answered a White man with “yes” instead of “yes sir.” However, she also remembers that many of her students, most of whom had never left their rural community, were able to attend FAMU and become highly productive citizens such as professors, lawyers, doctors, college presidents, school board members, etc.
Her second school was Nims Middle School where she was employed after the birth of her first child. After a few years, the school system was required to integrate, and she had to transfer to a White school quite a distance from her residence, so she asked permission to transfer to Rickards High School which was closer to her home. The request was granted. Again, she remembers the good and the bad experiences. Some White students wrote on the school walls “Go home Nigers.” She told the students if they were going to use that word, at least spell it correctly. One of the students told her that nigger was in the Bible. Of course, the word he was referencing was Niger. Also when she began sharing contributions of African-Americans to the culture, her White students walked out! However, over time, conditions improved between the races, and she was even nominated for teacher of the year. Ironically, one of her students, James Vaugh, encouraged her to earn her Ph.D. She eventually acquiesced, went through the preliminaries, and began taking courses at FSU. Since she had accepted several interns from FSU, she was given several certificates which entitled her to take classes free, so she actually earned her doctorate free in four years. While pursuing her degree, she was a wife, a mother of three children, a full time teacher, a volunteer in the community, and minister of music at her church!
Earning a Ph.D. opened a plethora of doors for her including being invited to become a professor of English at FAMU where she taught for twenty-four years. While at FAMU, she published several articles in professional journals, served on several committees and organizations such as the mentoring committee, Teacher of the Year Committee, the faculty senate, and advisor for the FAMU Gospel Choir. She was also an exchange teacher in Dalian, China, and had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout Asia. Later she was extended an invitation by a chief from Ghana, West Africa, to teach at KNUST, a college of science and technology in Kumasi, where she was also presented to a king. She still has ties with both countries.
Also while at FAMU, she was selected Teacher of the Year three times; a recipient of the Superior Accomplishment Award; a recipient of the TIP Award which rewarded excellence in teaching and came with a $5,000 raise; was enshrined into the Gallery of Distinction for the College of Arts and Sciences; presented a paper at the Oxford Round Table Forum in Oxford, England, where she sang for the closing banquet and received a standing ovation; was selected by the Fashion Fair Organization as one of Tallahassee’s finest dressed, and served as advisor for the FAMU Gospel Choir for twenty years.
Some iconic celebrities with whom she has interacted include Shirley Chisholm, Judge Hatchett, Dr. Martin Luther King and his wife, Muhammad Ali, Governors Bob Graham, Jeb Bush, and Charlie Chris; Judge Mathis, Mahalia Jackson, and Bobby Jones of BET.
She gives God the glory for blessing her life beyond anything she could have ever imagined!