The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

January 2, 2013

Mike Pound: George Washington Carver possessed will to succeed

On school days, our 14-year-old daughter, Emma, leaves our house, steps into her friend Katie’s car and rides the half-mile or so to the high school.

There are days — when Emma is in a mood — when she will complain about making the drive to school. I can see that, I guess, but I wonder what George Washington Carver would think about something like that.

I was talking to Krista Stark on Wednesday morning about Carver. Krista is director of the Carver Birthplace Association, which was formed 50 years ago as a nonprofit to support and promote the legacy of George Washington Carver and the national monument in his honor near Diamond.

Krista was talking to me about the Neosho Colored Schoolhouse and mentioned that the Carver Birthplace Association, which owns the building, is working to get it listed on the National Register of Historic Places and also to restore the building.

Krista told me that the Neosho Colored Schoolhouse is where Carver went to school. She said he would walk from his home outside of Diamond to the school — a distance of eight miles.

As most folks know, Carver gained fame through his work as a scientist, botanist, educator and inventor. Born into slavery, he rose from the humblest of backgrounds to world acclaim, and that eight-mile walk to school — to me at least — sums up the will to succeed that must have driven him.

“It’s an incredible story,” Krista said. “He was a person who had no idea of what the words ‘give up’ meant.”

Look, the things that Carver achieved would be impressive even if he had been handed every opportunity in the world. The fact that he achieved them given his background is amazing. Being young, white and poor would have been tough enough, but to be young, black, poor and born into slavery was about as tough is it gets.

Krista and I talked for a bit about the sorts of things Carver had to endure to go from dining by candlelight in a small home in Southwest Missouri to dining with presidents. I wonder if Carver ever resented his humble background, and what he had to do to succeed, but I’m guessing he probably didn’t. I’m guessing that Carver figured he succeeded because of his background and not despite it.

I called Krista to chat about the upcoming Carver Commemorative Dinner, sponsored by the Carver Birthplace Association. It is set for 3 p.m. Saturday in the meeting room at Logan’s Roadhouse, 209 N. Range Line Road.

Shortly after Carver’s death on Jan. 5, 1943, Congress declared that date as George Washington Carver Day. The date of Carver’s death was chosen because, as a former slave, there was no record of his birth.

Krista told me that the Carver Birthplace Association for many years held annual dinners to honor Carver, but at some point the practice was discontinued. It was Paxton Williams, director of the association from 2006 until 2010, who decided to revive the dinner.

Krista said Saturday’s dinner will feature a number of folks who will talk about the history and perhaps the future of the Neosho Colored Schoolhouse. There also will be a silent auction and a raffle. The dinner is open to anyone interested in Carver’s legacy. Rather than being served a catered dinner, guests will order off the restaurant menu and will be responsible for their own meals, Krista said.

By the way, membership in the Carver Birthplace Association is open to anyone who would like to join. Memberships are $15 for senior citizens and students, $35 for single memberships and $65 for families.

If you haven’t visited George Washington Carver National Monument near Diamond, you should. The visitor center and museum are surrounded by 240 beautiful and well-maintained acres. One of the other neat things Krista is working on is an adopt-an-acre project. For $180, an individual, business or organization can adopt an acre — in name only — of land at the monument. Each adopted acre will be marked by a sign recognizing the donor.

It’s a neat deal.

For reservations to the Carver Commemorative Dinner or for more information about the Carver Birthplace Association, people may call 417-437-8443.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA for Mike Pound’s column? Call him at 417-623-3480, ext. 7259, or email him at mpound@joplinglobe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mikepoundglobe.

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