Dillard Dedicates Her Life To
Education & Community Service
by Amanda Smith
House on Ernest Street
Macon native Thelma Dillard's earliest memories are of 1319 Ernest Street from about five years of age. Living there with her mother and brothers and sisters, Thelma was the third of seven children. "I used to cry because I couldn’t go to school," said Thelma. "I was the oldest girl and had to stay home and help with the younger children because my mother couldn't afford daycare making $20 a week cleaning houses. Then my mother went to the school superintendent and complained and he got us all in school! Our teachers helped us pass all our classes."
Thelma's first experience with racism and the civil rights movement came about around the age of ten. After getting on a city bus, Thelma's mother was told to go sit at the back of bus. "When she didn't move fast enough, the driver jerked the bus, causing my mother to fall and drop all of her groceries," said Thelma. "She was crying by the time we moved to the back and I'll never forget my grandmother saying, 'that’s ok; I'm used to it.'" Her statement really set me off and changed my life forever."
Thelma pictured with her mother
Thelma's mother became involved with the local chapter of the NAACP and Thelma joined the NAACP youth group. "We would knock on doors, trying to get the blacks to vote; everyone was afraid to because the Voting Rights Act had not passed at that time," said Thelma. She vividly remembers all of the protests and marches going on. "We protested at Woolworth's Department store because the lunch counter was segregated and we tried to integrate the Baconsfield Park pool, but they closed the pool rather than let blacks swim there." Thelma also attended the march on Washington in 1963. "We were protesting the segregated system and trying to get the Voting Rights Act pushed through," she said. "I was in high school then and Mr. William P. Randall (a pioneer of the Macon Civil Rights Movement) found a sponsor to pay for my trip."
Thelma Dillard's Senior picture from Fort Valley State University
After graduating from Ballard Hudson High School in Macon, Thelma attended Fort Valley State College where she received her BS in Business Education in 1966. She then received Vocational Education Certifications from 1966-1970 and went on to Georgia College and State University where she received a Masters in Special Education in 1975; a Masters in Business Education in 1985 and a Masters in Elementary Education in 1986. Between 1997 and 1999, Thelma received certification through workshops in Behavioral Management Skills; Computer Training; Intellectually Disabled and Teaching the Disabled. She attended the Bibb County Board of Education Administrative Academy, graduating in 2006 and then received her Administrative Leadership Certification from Georgia College in 2007. Thelma graduated from Nova Southeastern University with her Doctorate Degree in Education Leadership in June of 2009.
Throughout her college studies, Thelma was employed in the education field. From 1966 - 1970, she taught Business, English and Math at Macon Technical Institute and then taught Business Education at Fort Valley State College from 1970 - 1971. Thelma taught Exceptional Education at Dudley Hughes Vocational School from 1972 until 1974 and then settled at Central High School, teaching Exceptional Education and Vocational Technology until 2009.
Throughout her extraordinary life, Thelma has served with the NAACP as the Assistant Secretary (State Chapter); member of the Resolution Committee (State Chapter); Secretary (Macon Chapter); Vice President (Macon Chapter); and President of the Macon Chapter NAACP from 1994 - 2002. She has given to her community as a member of the Jack and Jill Club; Chairperson of the "Think Pink" Committee of the Cherry Blossom Festival; Secretary of GABEO (Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials); Secretary of the Coalition for Political Awareness; member of the Ebonite Club; member of the Board of Directors of Area Planning and Development Commission and served as a Macon City Councilperson for 20 years. In 2001, Thelma was appointed to District Attorney Howard Sims' Advisory Committee and was a candidate for Macon Mayor in 2003 and 2007.
Thelma Dillard has been honored by many organizations, including:
- 2007 - Medgar Evers Award, Southeastern Regional NAACP Community Service Award
- 2001 - NAACP Salutes Thelma Dillard: 21st Century Harriett Tubman
- 2000 - Macon City Council Community Service Award (20 years Service)
- 2000 - Earl T. Shinhoster Freedom Award by NAACP
- 2004 - James Wimberly Institute Award
- 2002 - Executive Producer of Documentary, "In the Shadow of Freedom, Macon's 60's Civil Rights Movement"
- NAACP Outstanding Woman Award
- Assisted in organizing and planning 1999 State NAACP Convention, Macon, Georgia
- Warner Robins Air Force Base Blacks in Government Appreciation Award
- Macon Housing Authority Appreciation Award
- Georgia Association for Black Elected Official Appreciation Award
- Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Outstanding Woman Award
- Nominee McKibben Lane Teaching Award, 1982-Lanier A High School
- Area Planning and Development Commission Appreciation Award
- Nominee Teacher of the Year, Lanier A High School
- Listed in, "WHO'S WHO Among Black Americans"
- Listed , "WHO'S WHO in Politics"
- Named 50 Most Influential Women in Georgia-Georgia Informer Newspaper- Numerous other awards and certificates from various organizations
A superior educator who has dedicated her life to teaching others, Thelma is an amazing lady who has achieved more than most ten people put together. She is a lifelong member of Lizzie Chapel Baptist Church, where the Reverend Ronald Toney is Pastor. Thelma recently retired from the Bibb County Board of Education after many years of service and is now expanding her educational consulting business. She continues to mentor youth, counsel women and engages in motivational speaking.