The funeral service will be conducted at 11:00 A.M., Saturday, October 4, 2014 at Jehovah Missionary Baptist Church, 201 Chatham Street, Oglethorpe, Georgia. Reverend Glenn Bryant, pastor, will officiate. Interment will be held on Monday, October 6, 2014, 10:00 A.M. at the Andersonville National Cemetery Rostrum, 496 Cemetery Road, Andersonville, Georgia.
Charles Richardson “C.R.” Hankerson, of Oglethorpe, Georgia, was a man of exceptional vision who devoted his life to uplifting his community though pioneering entrepreneurial activities in business and sports and, as an educator, taught and mentored generations of Macon County student for success in life. Always devoted to service to the people, he gave unstintingly of himself during the nation’s hour of need.
Born to the late Deacon John Clem (Sr.) and Selena McDonald Hankerson on September 6, 1917, “C.R.” was the first of thirteen children. The son of a railroad man and an educator-housewife, he came from a pioneering family of educators and good providers and was raised in a Christian home with devoted parents and loving sister and brothers.
He gave his hand to God at an early age and became a member of the Jehovah Missionary Baptist Church under the spiritual nurturing and guidance of the late Reverend Wright. He served the church in leadership capacities on the local and regional levels which included Sunday School teacher, Superintendent of Sunday School, deacon, chairman of the Deacon Board Ministry, usher, and Secretary of the Usher’s Missionary Baptist Convention for many years. He contributed towards the purchase of one of the church’s stained-glass windows (by the front entrance) in loving memory of his parents. He loved his church and was a dedicated and active lifelong member. He was also a lifelong member of the South Georgia Missionary Baptist Association.
Affectionately called “CR,” his early education began at the Oglethorpe Rosenwald Junior High School, Oglethorpe, GA. He graduated from the Macon County Training School (MCTS), Montezuma, GA in 1938 (finishing late because he had been stricken with pneumonia). He had to walk to and from school (not unusual at the time) – a distance of two miles one way—instead of catching a ride to school but in the process, he became a “fence” around the young ladies to protect them as they walked to school every day.
Upon graduating from high school, he was interested in becoming a barber and apprenticed under his maternal grandfather, the late Reverend Charlie McDonald of Fitzgerald, Georgia; and later became a licensed barber.
In 1941, following the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7, “C.R.” was called to active duty in World War II, serving three years overseas as a soldier in the United States Army. Upon completion of his tour of duty, he was honorably discharged from military service in 1945.
Returning home from the war effort, he was united in holy matrimony in 1947 with the love of his life, the late Mollye Odom Hankerson, and this union produced three children - a son and two daughters. Both daughters, Peggy Ann and Zettawee Hankerson Byrom, preceded him in death.
He operated his own logging business for several successful years. Since education and working hard were the hallmark of the Hankerson household, he had a determination to press forward toward obtaining a college education as an avenue to a better life, he followed the family tradition and attended Fort Valley State College (now University) where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture in 1953. He completed further studies at Columbus College and Valdosta State University, Georgia.
C.R. began his teaching career in 1953 at the segregated public school system of Ocilla, Georgia as an agriculture instructor and taught in that system for several years. Later, he joined the Macon County School System as an elementary school teacher in Oglethorpe, GA, under the leadership of his uncle, Professor Kennis Hankerson, and retired in 1983, capping a thirty-year career as an educator.
C.R. wanted to point out with pride that he prepared himself not only for elementary teaching but also as a teacher of students with special needs. He approached this aspect of his work with the belief that all children could learn and were capable of making positive contributions to their community. He was a dedicated educator who cared about his students and tried to make a difference in their lives. His co-workers and friends often remarked that “he always told them to stand on their own to either succeed or fail,” and the greater portion of them, by far, became successful citizens.
As a young man - and while still in college, C.R. organized and managed his own semi-professional baseball team in the early 1950’s. He used local athletes and talented students from Fort Valley State College to make up the team, the “Blue Birds.” The team played neighboring towns. The Oglethorpe City Cemetery (somewhat vacant at the time) was used as their ballpark (they later played in a park in Montezuma, Georgia. He truly enjoyed traveling over the state with teammates, officiating the games. The team’s activities provide pleasure, hope, pride and a social gathering place for the citizens of this small, tight, and close-knit community “which was segregated at the time." Baseball was his favorite sport but he refereed basketball games as well for Macon County Training School Teams.
After retirement (and because of his educational experience in agriculture), he had a keen interest in raising livestock for the market and did this during his spare time. Also, following his retirement, he returned to his early training and skills in barbering and worked at the Modern Barber Shop, Montezuma, Ga. He used these skills until his health began to fail in the early years of the twenty-first century.
C.R. was a member of Fort Valley State University National Alumni Association, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and Retired Educators Association. In his lifetime, he made contributions to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and received a certificate of achievement from the 100 Men in Black for service to the community as a leader. He was the recipient of several awards which included the very devoted and active deacon for sixty plus years of service award. He was a member of the BTU Congress, and he also received an Usher Missionary Baptist Church Convention Award.
C.R. passed away peacefully Sunday morning, 28th September 2014, at the Montezuma Health & Rehabilitation Center. At the time of his passing, he was the oldest African American man born Oglethorpe, Georgia. He was a lifelong pioneer.
Left to mourn his passing are his son, Charles Richardson Hankerson, Jr.; brother, Ulysses (Zettamae) Hankerson; sisters, Fannie Belle Hankerson, Louise Hankerson (Geoffrey) Ibim, and Mary Frances (Frank) Martin; grandchildren, Nikki and Kelvin Byrom; one great granddaughter, Kennedy Byrom; sisters-in-law, Rosetta Harmon, Alberta Odom; brothers-in-law, Marvin Johnson and Willie James Odom; many devoted and loving nephews, nieces, cousins, and a host of Christian friends.
He fought a good fight, finished his course, kept the faith, and had a long wonderful journey of 97 years.
Good night, C.R., a flight of angels is watching over you!