Ethel Kight: Pioneer in Education
Born to humble beginnings, Ethel W. Kight worked her way to earning one of the most impactful legacies in Troup County. Born the grandchild of former slaves in 1909, Kight passed in 1990 after committing decades to improving education in Troup County. Today, she may be most commonly remembered through her namesake school—Ethel Kight Elementary. But a closer look at Kight’s career reveals a storied legacy created by one of Troup County’s leading pioneers in education.
Kight’s first teaching job came in Coweta County when she was just twenty-three. At the time, Kight had yet to graduate college. In 1942, Kight married her husband and graduated with a BS degree from Savannah State. In 1943, she continued her education by receiving a master’s degree from Atlanta University. Just two years later, her hard work paid off upon landing the role of Jeanes supervisor for Troup County Schools.
According to Shannon Gavin Johnson of the Troup County Legacy Museum, Kight’s position as Jeanes supervisor was “in effect” equivalent to being named the assistant superintendent of African-American schools for the county. The Jeanes program worked closely with African-American schools in rural areas to provide vocational and educational programs. Kight would hold this position until 1970.
Kight’s tenure with Troup County School System witnessed many changes, most notably the integration of Troup County schools and a merger of rural schools into one high school. Kight’s work with school integration first achieved limited success with the Freedom of Choice Program before complete integration came in 1970.
Kight’s work extended beyond the classroom. The storied educator also worked to build a library for African-Americans, served as the President of the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers, and was President of the Georgia Parents and Teachers Association.
In total, Kight committed nearly five decades of service to the Troup County School System, building a legacy that is still felt and honored today.
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