Walter B. Gaither, one of seven children of Fairfield County farmers Walter and Fancie Gaither, and Fannie Mae Little, second daughter born to Anderson County homemaker Molly and mill worker Louvel Little, met at Rock Hill’s Friendship Junior College. After graduating, they married and started a family near Great Falls. Fannie Mae became a teacher, steering generations of students through eighth grade until the mid-1950s when many Black teachers were fired following the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling. Walter earned a bachelor’s degree from Benedict College and became a brick and tile mason.
The Gaithers were very active in educational, fraternal, and church matters, especially at Pleasant Grove AME Zion Church.
The Gaither children have made distinguished contributions in the many places where they have built careers, made homes, and raised families. Dr. Thomas Walter, a graduate of Claflin College, was a leader in the Friendship Nine civil rights student movement in Rock Hill and an organizer of the 1961 Freedom Riders. He retired as a Professor of Mycology at Slippery Rock University in the Pennsylvania University System. Herman Kenneth, a graduate of Claflin College, retired as Superintendent of Beaufort County Public Schools after having previously served Beaufort schools as a teacher and as Chief Fiscal Officer. He is a much sought after education consultant, and has been an important member of the Claflin College Board of Trustees. Glenda Jean, eldest daughter, was a Freedom Rider, and retired as an Atlanta public schools librarian and continues to reside in Atlanta where she and her husband raised their family. She is also the author of a published book of poems.
Thomas, Herman, and Glenda all completed their elementary education in a one teacher school under their mother, and later all attended Claflin University.
Edmund Barry Gaither, a Morehouse College graduate, retired from Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, and remains Director of the National Center of Afro-American Artists. A graduate of the University of Cincinnati, Diane Gaither Thompson retired as Program Manager for Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled in Ohio.
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