Wilma Harper Shultz Began 60-year Teaching Career at Ray City

Eighteen-year-old Wilma Geneva Harper  began her teaching career at Ray City School in 1928. There, while teaching first grade, she met and married Ray City School principal Prentice Munson Shultz.  The couple worked together at the school until 1941.

Wilma Harper was born in Willacoochee, GA on June 13, 1909, a daughter of Minnie Etta Burns and Youngie Harper. Her family lived in Willacoochee and Douglas, GA before moving to Ocilla, GA.

Wilma Harper Shultz taught first grade at Ray City from 1929-1941. Image source: Jack Johnson

Wilma Harper Shultz taught first grade at Ray City from 1929-1941. Image source: Jack Johnson

At Ray City School, Wilma Harper Shultz taught in a wood-frame classroom building that was constructed as an annex to the brick school built in 1923.  In a 1988 article in the  Rome News,  she reflected on her start at Ray City School and 60 years spent in the classroom.

Wilma Harper Shultz reflects on 60 years in the classroom.

Rome News, December 12, 1988. Wilma Harper Shultz reflects on 60 years in the classroom.

Rome News
December 12, 1988

Retired Teacher Can’t Stay Away

Milledgeville – Wilma Shultz has taught a lot of children, their children, and their childrens’ children in her 60 years in the classroom.

She retired after 46 years as a first-grade teacher in 1974, but retirement could not keep her out of the classroom. She has continued to substitute teach at Midway Elementary School, where she spent most of her career, and at Northside Elementary School.

At 78, the petite, immaculately dressed white-haired woman says teaching is the one thing that keeps her going.

She began in 1928 in Ray City, near Ocilla, where she grew up on a farm. She had set her sights on teaching when she met and fell in love with Prentice M. Shultz, who taught and was principal at Ray City school.

The only requirement for teaching then was a teacher-training course, which she took in high school. She began teaching first grade at age 18.

A year later she married the principal.  

They moved to Milledgeville in 1943, where Prentice Shultz taught math at Georgia Military College and his wife worked at a nursery school. They attended college during the summer, getting their education degrees, completing requirements by 1951.

When Prentice Shultz died in 1976, his wife said, she found her life empty and began substitute-teaching to fill the void left by his death.

“It’s hard to be left alone,” she said.  “I’ve seen people my age give up. But, I like being able to get up and go to the classroom.  It’s my therapy.  It’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Teaching, she said, has changed. In Ray City she taught in a house converted to a school. There was no indoor plumbing and no lunchroom.

Her students were rural children unprepared for the academic and social aspects of school.  They were shy and frightened, and they didn’t know how to write or count.

“Today, children start off with kindergarten, so you don’t have that long readiness period in first grade,” she said. “When I began teaching, we had to teach them everything from the ground up.  I would say that when children finish first grade now, it is comparable to children in second or third grade then.

But it’s the things that don’t change, she says, that make her love teaching.

“They are still those sweet, innocent children,” she said.

Wilma Harper Shultz died on September 11, 2002.


Mrs. Wilma Shultz, 93, died September 11, 2002, in Greenville.

Mrs. Shultz was a native of Barrow County, but made her home in Milledgeville, Ga., for 58 years before moving to Greenville. She was a graduate of Georgia State College for Women, was a retired elementary school teacher in Baldwin County and was a member of First United Methodist Church.

Surviving are her daughter and son-in-law, Janice and Jimmy
Lyon, of Greenville; and two grandsons, Ray Lyon of Appleton, Wisconsin, and Ken and Candyce Lyon of Charleston.

Services will be Saturday, September 14, at 11 a.m., at First United Methodist Church in Milledgeville, Ga., with Dr. Harold Lawrence officiating. Burial will follow at Baldwin Memorial Gardens Cemetery.

The family will receive friends tonight, September 13th, from 7 to 8:30 at Moore’s Funeral Home in Milledgeville, Ga.

In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to the St. Francis Hospice, 414 Pettgru St. Greenville, SC 29601; or First United Methodist Church Building Fund, 300 W. Hancock St. Milledgeville, GA 31061.

The Mackey Mortuary is in charge of local arrangements.

Grave of Wilma Harper Shultz, Baldwin Memorial Gardens, Milledgeville, GA. Image source: Jack Johnson

Grave of Wilma Harper Shultz, Baldwin Memorial Gardens, Milledgeville, GA. Image source: Jack Johnson

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1 Comment

  1. Linda W. Meadows, Retired Teacher said,

    January 2, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    Beautiful story! Thank you for writing such animated stories that bring people to life for your readers.

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