One of my Mass Com students, Craig Dixon, got me thinking last night about stories that we remember; and stories that we forget. (Actually, that was also something Hedrick Smith noted yesterday, when he was looking at all his New York Times clips and applying for the Nieman. He admitted realizing some of his stories were forgettable. But, I digress).
I remember reading this story in 1995 and again when Rick Bragg won the Pulitzer. Think what you might about Bragg and what he did or did not do while at the NYT. But this story is genius.
Oseola McCarty spent a lifetime making other people look nice. Day after day, for most of her 87 years, she took in bundles of dirty clothes and made them clean and neat for parties she never attended, weddings to which she was never invited, graduations she never saw.
She had quit school in the sixth grade to go to work, never married, never had children and never learned to drive because there was never any place in particular she wanted to go. All she ever had was the work, which she saw as a blessing. Too many other black people in rural Mississippi did not have even that.
She spent almost nothing, living in her old family home, cutting the toes out of shoes if they did not fit right and binding her ragged Bible with Scotch tape to keep Corinthians from falling out. Over the decades, her pay — mostly dollar bills and change — grew to more than $150,000.
“More than I could ever use,” Miss McCarty said the other day without a trace of self-pity. So she is giving her money away, to finance scholarships for black students at the University of Southern Mississippi here in her hometown, where tuition is $2,400 a year.
Full story is here.