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Remembering Mayme Canada Brown

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Mayme Canada Brown

Editor’s Note: In celebration of Black History Month, it is our pleasure to present the following column, originally published in the Feb. 2, 2017 edition. This piece, by former Booster columnist Huntley Kenesson, celebrates the life of longtime local scholar, educator and community leader Mayme Canada Brown, who died in 2016. Brown helped organize the annual parade to honor Dr. Martin Luther King and was a beacon of light throughout our corner of the Piney Woods.


By Huntley Kenesson

Courageous, energetic, refined, remarkable, unforgettable are terms that describe Mrs. Mayme Canada Brown.  My earliest recollections of Mrs. Brown are from the early 1950’s, when I worked in my family’s department store in Woodville. Mrs. Brown, then Mrs. Canada, was a person one just automatically noticed and knew was someone special.

A frequent Saturday shopper, a day when many folks “came to town” to shop, Mrs. Canada stood out because of her quiet, dignified demeanor.  Always well dressed in high heel shoes and usually a tailored suit and a hat, she was a wise and frugal shopper. She never tarried but made decisions quickly, always complimentary of the store and the merchandise.  Well known to other shoppers and employees, she conversed modestly with others. If members of my family were not present, she inquired about them and expressed her interest in our lives.  She was a loyal customer whom we enjoyed seeing and serving.

When I returned to Woodville in 1980 to manage the store following my father’s retirement, Mrs. Brown was still a good customer.  In addition to knowing her in this capacity, I began working with her on the Tyler County Historical Commission and the Heritage Society.  There I came to respect and admire Mrs. Brown for her faithful presence, her ability to work with others while building lasting relationships, and her fervent desire to preserve our county’s heritage and improve the lives of its people.

As a columnist for the Booster, I interviewed Mrs. Brown in January 2014. My canine companion, Joy, and I were doing the monthly column “Wanders With Joy”, and wanted to talk with Mrs. Brown about the Scott School, established for Tyler County African American children in the 1930’s.  Joy and I wandered with Mrs. Brown through the old campus, where she described the buildings and told of additions and developments added after she and her first husband, Professor John K. Canada, came in 1947. She and her husband were instrumental in constructing new classrooms and establishing athletic teams and student organizations. Enrollment increased as students arrived from Cherokee-Dies, Colmesneil, Hillister, Warren and Spurger. A home economics teacher, she helped organize a Future Homemakers of America chapter for the school.  A gymnasium was constructed, and students voted to name it for their beloved principal, John Canada.

Mrs. Brown’s accomplishments extend beyond the classroom and school campus. Always interested in preserving our heritage, she will be remembered for her work in organizing the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade and Festivities, and the annual Black History Month exhibit at the Heritage Village Museum. These activities continue under the competent leadership of persons she mentored for these important roles.

I shall always cherish the memory and miss my good friend, Mrs. Mayme Canada Brown. I remember her entrances to historical commission meetings when she would announce, “The cake is on the kitchen table.”  I miss her telephone calls (at any hour of the day or night), particularly the November call when she would take my order for her church holiday bake sale. “Do you want the pound cake or German chocolate?”  My reply: “Could I have both?”  I remember the unforgettable taste of her cakes, so unbelievably light, moist, and flavorful. I remember the last sale I made to her at the store, a set of Samsonite luggage she bought for a special trip at the turn of this century. She purchased several pieces and was prepared to load them in her car by herself.  Of course, I would not allow that and insisted on taking them for her.  She had parked around the corner from the store on Bluff Street, several blocks away. Although she was determined to accomplish the task by herself, I was happy—and somewhat relieved—that I was there to assist. I do not remember her immediate destination with that luggage, but I hope she enjoyed many happy travels, and that her eternal journeys live forever.

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