Sankey Booth, Wiregrass Educator

Sankey Booth was a teacher and an educational leader of south Georgia. In Berrien County, he served as the head of the Ray City School and as member of the county Board of Education.

Sankey Booth once served as head of the Ray City School, Ray City, Berrien County, GA.

Sankey Booth once served as head of the Ray City School, Ray City, Berrien County, GA. Image source: http://www.hahira.ga.us/schools_photo_album.html

The June 12, 1925 edition of the Clinch County News noted that Professor Booth would not return to the Ray City School, but would instead move to the Morven School in Brooks County.

“Prof. Sankey Booth, a Clinch county boy, will be superintendent of the Morven  school the coming term. He was re-elected at Ray City, but decided to accept the Morven School.”

Sankey Booth had taught previously at the Morven School.  The  Educational Survey of Brooks County Georgia, 1917  noted Sankey Booth as Principal of the Morven School; his wife was one of the teachers.

Morven School, 1917. Sankey Booth, Principal.

Morven School, 1917. Sankey Booth, Principal.

Perhaps conditions at the Morven School had improved since his previous tenure there; one can only hope.  In 1917, the building had been described as:  a dilapidated building with four poorly lighted classrooms,  and deemed “entirely inadequate to demands of the school.”  The classrooms had poor blackboards, but were equipped with patented school desks –  as opposed to hand-made furnishings found in many country schools. The school had a set of maps, two globes, a reference dictionary, and the school library boasted 50 volumes. The school grounds were bare and unimproved.  The four teachers were Sankey Booth, Mamie Shaw Booth, M. S. Hale, and Mrs. Roy Phillips.  The school ran a nine month academic calendar with ten grades.  The school had a pig club and a canning club, precursor to the 4-H club. Canning Club members were Mary Clower, Anne Holland, Mildred Jardon, Gladys Jordan, May Edmondson, Leona Parrish, Nellie Pond, Mary Edmondson, Florine Scruggs, Mary Hall, Kathleen Ousley, Nona Ousley, and Brooks Phillips.

In an old Atlanta Constitution newspaper article Linton Stephens “Catfish Charlie” Cobb (1869-1947), noted Georgia attorney and frequenter of Hahira, GA in his younger days, reminisced about the teaching talents of Sankey Booth (see the full article at the Hahira Historical Society):

“Hahira, pop.987, home of W.W. Webb daddy of good legislation on old age benefits in Georgia, and Mr. Sankey Booth, who could take a bunch of five and six-year-olds and teach them to read and spell as well as 8th graders. He appeared with his students all over the country and on WSB several times.”

Indeed, Sankey Booth had developed his own method of teaching and his students made spectacular achievements. In 1919, on May 2 more than 1000 school teachers and college professors attended the opening of the Georgia Educational Association convention in Macon, GA. That day, at the meeting of the County School Officers Association, Sankey Booth presented his new teaching method. The Atlanta Constitution reported on the meeting:

“An interesting feature of the meeting was a demonstration of the results of a new method of teaching. Cecil Booth, aged 7 years, son of Sankey Booth, superintendent of the school of Atkinson county, spelled rapidly and correctly a long list of words which many adults find difficult.  Mr. Booth told the school officers that the child’s ability to spell words that stump the average person is the result of a simple and direct method.
    He also declared there is no mechanical problem in the school arithmetic that a child of seven years cannot work, with the exception of problems in square and cube root.  Mr. Booth did not give the details of his system but volunteered to enlighten anyone who desired to communicate with him.”

By 1922, Sankey Booth had perfected his teaching method and sought to present it to the faculty of the University of Georgia.

Atlanta Constitution
July 23, 1922 pg C5

Georgia Teacher Develops Unusual Phonetic System

Method Assists Pupils in Becoming High School Students Several Years Earlier.

BY JOHN E. DREWRY

    Athens, Ga., July 22. -(Special.)- A phonetic method of teaching which he declares is entirely different from anything ever offered in Georgia or the south, has been worked out and introduced by Sankey Booth, superintendent or the schools at Willacoochee, Georgia.
   According to his statements and the statements of other, who have seen this method used, it is one of the most remarkable systems ever offered.  Actual experiments have been made and children as young as five and six years have had thousands of words added to their vocabulary, making it possible for them to read newspapers at that age.
    Mr. Booth is in attendance at the University of Georgia summer school, and before the end of the session, it is his plan to bring the system before the faculty for their approval.  He has been working on the system for six years and states he is confident he has had sufficient time to prove its values.
   “I don’t believe in bald-headed men prescribing a hair restorer,” said Mr. Booth, “but I have made a thorough test with my own son, who at the age of five and a half years out-spelled a high school class, and who, at the age of ten years, is in the tenth grade, high school, reading Latin easily and working algebra and geometry readily, and who knows more grammar than many teachers holding a high school license.  Mr. Mizelle, president of the Sparks Collegiate institute, gave this boy and examination some time ago, and said he would make an excellent first grade teacher.
     He tells of another child, the little daughter of J. O. White, of Pearson, Ga., who was passed to the seventh grade at the age of eight, and at the end of her third year in school.
     “Dr. O. H. Mingledorf, who at that time had for years been a professor at Asbury college gave this little girl, who had been taught my method, an examination,” said Mr. Booth, “and he found that she could readily work any form of complex decimal fractions, also  square root and cube root.  He said to her mother, ‘Madame, I have been for years a teacher in Asbury college and men entering college fall down in their work because they are not able to do work that this child has done with perfect ease.'”
      The teachers in Mr. Booth’s section are using the method with a great degree of success, reports say.  Many of his friends are urging him, so he says, to have his discovery protected by copyright, but so far he has not, because of his expressed desire for no other reward than the consciousness that he has been of help to his fellow teachers.
    No details in connection wit the system were disclosed by Mr. Booth in his interview with newspapermen, other than to say that it was a phonetic method.

Moody and Sankey was the evangelical duo of Ira David Sankey and Dwight Lyman Moody. Starting after their meeting in June 1871, the team wrote Christian songs and traveled throughout the United States and the United Kingdom calling people to God through their use of song, with Moody preaching and Sankey singing. Together they published books of Christian hymns.

Sankey Booth and his twin brother, Moody Booth, were born May 5, 1877.  The twins were named after the famed evangelist duo of the 1870s, Dwight Lyman Moody and Ira David Sankey.   The Booth twins were the youngest sons of the Reverend Irwin R. Booth, among the 23 children born to the Methodist minister. Their father was born in South Carolina days before the declaration of the War of 1812. The Reverend Booth became a pioneer of wiregrass Georgia , settling in Ware county with his parents, wife and children about 1846. After the death of his wife in 1867, Irwin R. Booth moved to Clinch county. There, in 1868 he married the twin’s mother-to-be, Margaret Rives Knowles. Margaret Rives Knowles was the daughter of William Rives and the widow of confederate soldier J.H.J. Knowles. Irwin Booth was a well known minister of Wiregrass Georgia and was responsible for the establishment of at least three Methodist churches. He died January 18, 1896.

Sankey’s brother, Moody Booth, followed in the footsteps of his father and became a Methodist minister; he served as pastor at several churches in the South Georgia Conference. By 1900, Sankey Booth had established his lifelong career as an educator. The Census of 1900 shows him occupied as a teacher in the Bickley District of Ware County. He was boarding in the household of John Carter at the time of enumeration.

By 1900, Sankey Booth was already becoming a leader among Wiregrass educators. In 1901 he delivered an address at the close of the summer term the Ware county schools. In 1902 he served as vice president of the teacher’s monthly institute that was meeting monthly at Waycross, GA.

Atlanta Constitution
April 3, 1902

Teachers’ Monthly Institute.
    Waycross, Ga., April 2. – (Special.) – The public school teachers of Ware county have organized the teachers’ monthly institute. They are to meet at Waycross on the fourth Saturday in each month. County School Commissioner T. R. Bennett has been elected president, Sanky Booth vice president, W. O. Brewer secretary, and Miss Bertie Morrison treasurer.  The teachers are discussing the matter of establishing a library for the use of the teachers of the county, and this matter will have attention at the next meeting of the  institute.

In 1906, Sankey Booth married Mamie Shaw, of Berrien County.   Like Sankey, she was a school teacher.  She was born  June 4, 1884, a daughter of James Harrison Shaw and Christie Ann Mcauley.  Mamie had been orphaned around the age of two, both of her parents dying in 1886.  Mamie was apparently raised by her half-brother, Alfred Shaw, who was a hardware merchant in Ware County.  At least in the Census of 1900 she was living in his household. Another half-brother, Martin Albion Shaw, was a teacher before becoming a pastor in the Methodist Episcopal Church. Also in the Alfred Shaw household in 1910 was the teacher Marcus S. Patten.  Perhaps it was these educators who influenced Mamie Shaw to become a teacher herself.

Marriage Certificate of Sankey Booth and Mamie Shaw.

Marriage Certificate of Sankey Booth and Mamie Shaw.

The Census of 1910  found Sankey Booth and his young family in Waresboro, Ware County, GA where he and Mamie were both teaching school. Shortly after that, the Booths moved to Nashville, GA and Sankey served on the Berrien County School Board during 1914 and 1915. William Green Avera, subject of previous posts ( Georgia Teacher For Fifty Years Only Went To School 335 Days, Professor Avera Lived Near Ray City, GA ), was County School Superintendent during that period. As noted above, in 1917 the Booths were both teaching in Morven, GA where Sankey was principal of the Morven School. By  1918, the Booths were living in Pearson, Coffee County, GA, where Sankey was teaching, as usual, when he registered for the draft for World War I.   At 41, he was of medium height and build, with gray eyes and black hair.

In December of 1918, Sankey Booth was elected to become the first school superintendent of the newly created Atkinson County. Mamie also continued to teach. The Booths were living in a rented home on Austin Street, in Pearson, GA. Sankey Booth remained the superintendent of Schools for Atkinson county at least through 1920.

Some time in the early 1920s, Sankey Booth came to be head of the new school at Ray City, GA.  The construction of the brick school building at Ray City was begun in 1920.

Ray City School photographed in the early 1920s. Identified: Second row 3rd from the right, Ida Lou Giddens Fletcher. Top row 2nd from the right, Ralph Sirmans. Image courtesy of Berrien County Historical Society http://www.berriencountyga.com/

Ray City School photographed in the early 1920s. Identified: Second row 3rd from the right, Ida Lou Giddens Fletcher. Top row 2nd from the right, Ralph Sirmans. Image courtesy of Berrien County Historical Society http://www.berriencountyga.com/

In a 1923 Nashville Herald news article the Ray City Parent-Teacher Association boasted:

 “Under the able management of Prof. R. D. Thomas we have one of the best schools in the county, and with same management for 1924 expect the best. In addition to what we are doing we are going to build a home or teacherage for our superintendent. This is being done in other States than Georgia and is a step forward for better rural schools.”

It appears, though, that Professor Thomas did not return for 1924, and Sankey Booth served in his stead.  Sankey Booth’s tenure at Ray City was also to be short term. Although the school at Ray City was a new multi-classroom, well-illuminated brick building – perhaps the most modern Berrien county school of the time  – Sankey Booth left the Ray City School in 1925 to return to the school at Morven, GA.

Around that time,  Sankey and Mamie Booth moved to Hahira, GA. Census records show they were both teaching in Hahira in 1930. The Booths remained in Hahira for the rest of their lives .  Sankey Booth died October 29, 1965 in Lowndes County, GA.

Clinch County News
November 5, 1965

SANKEY BOOTH, LOCAL NATIVE, DIES

    HAHIRA –  Sankey Booth, 88 of Hahira, a pioneer school teacher and administrator in south Georgia, died here Friday night after a long illness.
    Among his educational activities, Mr. Booth gained fame with his methods of teaching young children to read. At one time he was a reading consultant for the State Department of Education.
    A native of Clinch County, Mr. Booth had lived in Hahira for about 40 years.  He had been principal of the Cecil school in Cook County and was the first school superintendent of the Atkinson County system.
    Mr. Booth was a member and lay leader of the Hahira Methodist Church.
    Survivors include a son, Cecil Booth, of Peachtree City, Ga; a daughter, Mrs. Horace Overstreet of Hahira; a sister, Mrs. Clayton Harris of Wildwood, Fla.; three grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.
    Funeral services were held Sunday at 3:00 p. m. in the Adel Methodist Church. The Rev. Larry King of the Hahira Methodist Church and the Rev. James A. Agee of the Nashville Methodist Church conducted the rites.  Burial was in the Adel Cemetery.

Posts about Ray City School:

 

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8 Comments

  1. July 23, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    Mr. Booth taught me phonics at Ray City Elementary School in the early 1950’s.

    • July 24, 2011 at 7:37 am

      Thanks for sharing. I didn’t find any photos of him in the available Ray City School yearbooks, & didn’t know that he later returned to the school. I’m wondering if he was a regular teacher at Ray City or if he was brought in just to teach phonics.

  2. September 6, 2011 at 12:44 am

    […] Sankey Booth, Wiregrass Educator (raycityhistory.wordpress.com) […]

  3. Earl Cornelius said,

    January 26, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    Great man, Tutored me in my multiplication tables in the summer, and has and will forever have my uppermost gratitude.

  4. Matt Booth said,

    February 21, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Excellent Article! Having never met my great grandfather, I really appreciate the information.

  5. Cecil Parker said,

    July 28, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    He taught me in Cecil, GA in 1936/37. I was pleased to find this article about this great man.
    ~Cecil Parker, Bakersfield, CA

    • July 28, 2015 at 7:13 pm

      Cecil, Thanks for reading the Ray City History Blog and for sharing this memory with us.

      Jon

  6. Diana Lynn Jones Lancaster said,

    March 19, 2017 at 9:52 pm

    Sankey Booth was my great uncle. We lived in Wildwood, Fla., and my grandmother, Sara Josephine Booth Harris used to let me read the letters she received from him. I really admired him. I still have the letter of congratulations he wrote to me upon my graduation from high school in 1962 (on his personal stationery which included a picture of him in the top left corner) I knew he was a great man, but didn’t realize how much he had done until I read your article. Thank you!


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