By Barney Blakeney
Retired Charleston educator Harriett G. Simpson died February 6 at her residence. Mrs. Simpson taught at Burke High School and was a C.A. Brown High School guidance counselor. During her career as a counselor, she kept track of pupils’ attendance and sometimes went to their homes to encourage them to stay in school. Her efforts consistently went beyond her job description. In her 36 years as an educator, she only took 10 days sick leave. Mrs. Simpson was 97.
Harriet Rebecca Glover Simpson was the daughter of the late Samuel and Julia Glover. Her father served for 21 years as a sexton at Second Presbyterian Church and retired from the Charleston Navy Shipyard. Her mother, a native of Eutawville, was a homemaker and laundress for the nearby medical professionals.
A Charleston native, Mrs. Simpson was the widow of the late Alexander T. Simpson, Sr. Their union produced a son, Dr. Alexander T. Simpson, Jr., and daughter, the late Alexis Ivy Simpson Williams. The couple also was blessed with a special daughter and caregiver, Mrs. Flora G. ‘Flo’ Meyers-Smith.
Mrs. Simpson attended Charleston public schools. A graduate of Burke High School, she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and Psychology from Allen University in 1945. She held a Master’s Degree from South Carolina State College (now SC State University) in Education- Guidance Counseling. She continued her education at North Carolina College at Durham (now NC Central University), the University of South Carolina and Trident Technical College.
At an early age, Mrs. Simpson professed her faith and joined Mt. Zion AME Church. A faithful parishioner, she was a member the Willing Workers Club, serving as its President in 1962. She served as a missionary and was active with the YPD program. Among her ministries was calling and writing members who were away and those on the church’s sick and shut-in list. She participated in Sunday school, Vacation Bible School and was “mother” of the Superintendent’s Bible Bowl.
A member of Class 12, she served as the chairperson of the Centennial Committee in 1982. In the following year, the Harriett G. Simpson Scholarship Fund was established. This evolved into the current Harriet G. Simpson Education Commission. In 1987 and 1991, she was named Mt. Zion’s Woman of the Year. The 2019 Mt. Zion A.M.E. Friends and Family Black and White Ball, to be held in April, is planned in honor of Mrs. Simpson’s lifelong commitment to servant-leadership and education.
She has been a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. since May 13, 1967. In 1969, she was named the first Delta of the Year by the Charleston Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. In the same year, she was awarded the Omega Service Award by Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and the Public Service Award by Alpha Chi Omega Society. In 1975, the Arabian Court No. 128 named Mrs. Simpson “Outstanding Female Community Worker”.
A former “Block Leader” active in the Neighborhood Watch Program in the Westside community, she was inducted to the “Channel 5 Hall of Fame”. During his term as Mayor of Charleston, J. Palmer Gaillard presented Mrs. Simpson with a “Key to the City”.
In 1994, Mrs. Simpson was honored for her contributions to education by the Moja Arts Festival. The South Carolina Senate recognized her in 1996 for her efforts in “Educational, Religious and Community Services”. Churches United of Charleston County honored her in 1998 for her dedication and commitment to community service in the area of education. The Women’s Resource Project, Inc. honored her as “A Legend in Education” in 2015. The National Pan Hellenic Council of Charleston awarded her the Golden Greek Award in 2017. In 2018, she was recognized for her faithfulness to God, her family, church and community by the Women’s Missionary Society at Mt. Zion AME.
Mrs. Simpson leaves to cherish her memory her son, Dr. Alexander “A.T.” Simpson, Jr.; special niece and caretaker, Flora G. Meyers-Smith; grandchildren Cory A. Williams and Kim Williams Odom; great-grandchildren Jadon, Danielle, Imani Alexis, Nia and Khendrice; in-laws Patsy S. Johnson and Carl Simpson; several nieces, nephews, grandnieces and nephews, cousins, godchildren, sorors, and a host of friends and extended family.
The wake for Mrs. Simpson will be 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 13 at Mt. Zion AME Church, 5 Glebe St., Chas., S.C. The Funeral will be 11 a.m. Feb. 14, also at the church.