ANNIE E. HANBERRY
Born in 1903, Hanberry grew up near the Wheeler Hill section of Columbia and attended the city schools.
She graduated from Benedict and in 1921 began teaching science at Finely High School in Chester County, a job she held for 15 years. After marrying in 1934, Hanberry moved to New York City, where she earned a master’s degree in education from the Columbia University.
In 1936, the Hanberrys moved to Columbia, where she began teaching in a two-room, two teacher school in Blythewood because married women weren’t allowed to teach in the city schools.
Hanberry later became principal of two schools. Two more rooms and teachers were added in the early 1940s. A high school building was constructed to accommodate consolidation.
“There was always a school there, but she did so much to make it an accredited high school. She worked untiringly until she had that school (Bethel High) accredited by the Southern Association of Secondary Schools,” Griffin said (co-worker and friend).
Griffin said: “Under Hanberry’s leadership the school became the focal point of the community.
In 1954, the palmetto Education Association was organized for secondary principals, and Hanberry became the only woman member among 96 men.
In 1967, Bethel High was renamed Annie E. Hanberry High. It later became Bethel-Hanberry Middle School and now is Bethel-Hanberry Elementary School.
Hanberry’s dedicated leadership enabled many northern Richland County students to overcome lack of money and supplies to gain a valuable education.
Hanberry, who spent 50 years of teaching and caring for students, many at the old Bethel High and Elementary School in Blythewood died at the age of 89.
“Teaching must inspire in the young people thirst for truth and knowledge,” she once said. “It must keep them asking, searching and learning all their lives. If a teacher can do this, education is on a sound foundation, and students will be able to cope with many problems they meet in life.
Hanberry often siphoned off materials for her students from her husband, the late T. J. Hanberry, who taught at Benedict College. She even managed to get laboratory materials such as microscopes and bought clothing for her students.
Joe E. Kelly, a former student of hers who returned to teach under her in 1966 when she was principal of the old Bethel High and Elementary schools, said Hanberry wanted the best of everything for her students and encouraged faculty members to obtain advanced degrees.
“That’s why she wanted the faculty members to be well-prepared, to expose students to as much information as they could possibly grasp,” Kelly said.
Rachel Griffin, a longtime friend and neighbor who also taught at Bethel for 15 years, and others described Hanberry as a tireless advocate for students who loved and cared for everyone.
Ethel Bolden, who knew Hanberry through their work for the YWCA, and other organizations, was impressed by Hanberry’s “undaunted personality.” “When you meet a person, and they always smile regardless of what situation is, it’s sort of uplifting,” Bolden stated.
Hanberry received numerous honors and has been listed in “personalities of the South,” “Who’s Who of American Women” and “Who’s Who in Black America.” In 1987, she became the first recipient of the Alex English Humanitarian Award.