Respected ‘mother’ of church, schools
Johnnie “Jacqueline” Mims Young Sanders will tell you she has more children and grandchildren than anyone you’ve ever met.
Her decades of service to the children of Shiloh Baptist Church and Vance County Schools has earned the Vance County native the title of “Mother of Shiloh Church.”
Shiloh Pastor Joseph Ratliff said his church bestowed Sanders with the highest honor to recognize her selfless service over the years in Shiloh’s Sunday school and choir, as well as numerous other ministries.
“She has typical ‘motherly’ qualities of kindness and encouragement, but she never had any biological children,” he said.
The longtime educator, who turned 100 years old on Halloween, has been a member of Shiloh for 93 years. And the church will hold service today at 11 a.m. in her honor. They held a birthday celebration Saturday.
In October, the board of Vance County Schools unanimously approved a resolution in her honor. Also affectionately known as “Mother Sanders,” she was an educator for nearly 46 years.
Even at her age, Sanders’ is still an active member of her church and continues to sing in the choir.
Edith Carroll, who has been a member of Shiloh since a young age, recalls when Sanders was her teacher in Sunday school and a soloist in the church choir.
“I remember that she was a very compassionate teacher and made sure her children understood the lesson every week,” Carroll said. “She served as a mother to all the children in the church. She is worthy of the name ‘mother.’”
When Sanders was born on Oct. 31, 1913, she was given the name ‘Johnnie’ after her grandfather, John Jacob Young, who wanted to live on through posterity.
She attended the Henderson Institute, an all-black school, beginning in seventh grade until she graduated in 1932.
Sanders went on to Kittrell Junior College and Shaw University, eventually graduating from N.C. Central University with Bachelor of Arts degrees in history and English and a Bachelor of Science degree in library science in 1942.
In 1951, she earned a master’s in elementary education. Sanders has also studied at East Carolina University, N.C. A&T University, Durham Technical Institute and Vance-Granville Community College.
It took Sanders nearly 10 years to graduate from college after leaving the Henderson Institute because she could only attend summer school each year, Carroll said.
While earning her college degrees, Sanders was a teacher at the Kittrell Graded School and then Eaton-Johnson Elementary School, which were both all-black schools that had not yet been forced to close due to integration.
Sanders was one of the first black women to work in the Vance County Schools’ central office administration in the late 1960s. She ended her career in education as a media specialist, or librarian, at E.M. Rollins Elementary.
She has remained in the same house where she grew up, which is only a few short blocks from Shiloh.
“She could have easily moved away,” Ratliff said. “But she resides on the same grounds she was born.”
Sanders said she never wanted to leave the place her family raised her, even after getting married.
“I told them, ‘If we stay here, I will always be near my church,’” Sanders said.
Sanders is still involved in various organizations, such as the Golden Age Club, the N.C. Senior Citizens, the National Council of Senior Citizens, N.C. Visually Impaired, and the N.C. Association of Educators.
Until recently, she was a ballot box election worker at the polls in Vance County.
She said she has most of her teeth and hair, which is not yet fully grayed. And, she doesn’t use any assistance devices to get around.
When asked, Sanders attributed her health to music and her many years of singing.
“It’s the joy I get out of music. Music is at the core of age,” she said. “If you can keep your voice until you are 60 years old, you are lucky. So, I must be doing something right.”
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