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Lucille Elizabeth Branscomb

Lucille Branscomb joins JSTC
Contributed by Eugenia Hobday


Anniston Star, Anniston AL
January 8, 1943
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Anniston Star, Anniston AL
January 31, 1943
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Later Years of the Teachers College

From 1942 to 1957


[EXCERPT]
Lucille Branscomb, who had been secretary to Houston Cole while he was OPA director, came to Jacksonville to teach in 1943. An honor graduate of Huntingdon College with additional business training in Birmingham, she became head of the commercial department. The future Business Leaders of America chapter in Jacksonville owes its beginning to her, and she was also a Civil Air Patrol pilot and commander. The commercial courses to prepare students for teaching and business were expanded from year to year.

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Anniston Star (Anniston, Ala.), October 23, 1951
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Anniston Star (Anniston, Ala.), November 18, 1951

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Major Lucille Branscomb
Wins Brewer Award


Anniston Star (Anniston, Ala.), January 14, 1954
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Major Lucille Branscomb
Commander of the Jacksonville-Anniston CAP Squadron


Anniston Star (Anniston, Ala.), April 19, 1955
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Anniston Star (Anniston, Ala.), May 1, 1956
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Note from Penny Leggett


Here is an excerpt of the letter her brother, James Alston Branscomb, wrote about her. He included her obituary.


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Also, her church has a prayer table in her memory and a street was named after her. In John Sanford Branscomb and His Family, it is noted:

A friend, Mary Hay of Jacksonville, Ala., sent pictures and gave insight. "Billy and I don't remember her teaching Sunday School or anything like that, but she was always at church. Our church was fairly small when Miss Branscomb was here. There was a space on the side of the choir loft with stained glass. She had them put an altar and a kneeling rail there and made a prayer room. After remodeling, that rail is now in my Sunday School room."

A former student of Lucille who later worked with her at Jacksonville State for years, O. Rufus Lovell said, "Her family was made up of ministers and bishops in the Methodist Church. ("Her family spun out Methodists like shelled corn out of a cornsheller.") She was very active in the church. I took a picture of a youth group, and she's in the picture. Lucille formed a prayer group and arranged for a prayer room."



Lucille Elizabeth Branscomb

Pages 63-71 from John Sanford Branscomb and His Family, 2003
by James Alston Branscomb and
Penelope Price "Penny" Leggett


Date and Place of Birth/Death
Lucille was born April 4, 1907, in Union Springs, Bullock Co., Alabama, and died December 22, 1988, in Geneva, Geneva Co., Alabama. She is buried in the Geneva City Cemetery. In her will she stated, "I desire to be buried in the Beasley Cemetery Lot in Geneva where a place is provided for me." Although she had many nieces and nephews, her obituary listed three survivors only: one brother, Alston Branscomb; two nieces, Mrs. Jo Ann Beasley Roundtree, Chipley, Florida, and Mrs. Joyce Beasley Penuel, Geneva, Alabama. (Lucille's will labeled these women as "cousins" instead of "nieces.")

Lucille was also known to family as Cile, Sis, Sister and Sister Lucille (to distinguish between her and "Albert's Lucile").

In a letter Alston sent those who contributed to a memorial to Lucille, he wrote "Normally a funeral on Christmas Eve can be expected to be very sad. Consequently, I was inspired by a remark made by the cousin in whose home she has been for the last few years: 'This will be the best Christmas Lucille has ever had - at Jesus's birthday party, with our relatives and friends who have preceded us. "'

Where Lived as Child
Lucille lived in Union Springs, Alabama. She remembered "One time I sold Coca-Cola on the sidewalk before Papa's store."

"After being ill with pneumonia for two weeks," her mother died when Lucille was seven years old. (Mother's obituary)

After their father died in 1917, Jack and Lucille went to live with their grandmother, Mary E. Dismukes, near where John lived with their mother's brother, Henry M. Dismukes. Both families were on Prairie Street in Union Springs, Alabama, in the 1920 census. According to "Geneva, Alabama - a History," written by the Geneva Women's Club in 1987, "A niece, Lucille Elizabeth Branscomb, came to live with Dr. and Mrs. Beasley ... and became their only daughter." Dr. and Mrs. J. W. Beasley (her mother's sister and husband) of Geneva, Alabama, raised Lucille. Lucille spoke of their son Joe like a real brother. He traveled with her to Branscomb family gatherings.

Education
Lucille earned her degree at Huntington College, graduating in 1928. "She received many awards over the years from that school." (Personal correspondence from Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, Alabama).

She went on to receive her master's degree (M.A.) from Columbia University, New York, New York.

In a letter that Alston sent those who contributed to a memorial for Lucille, he included a copy of the "Montgomery Advertiser" obituary and added "in addition to that information, Lucille was a graduate of Huntington College. On the 50th anniversary of her graduation [1978] she was honored by the college presenting her a Doctor of Laws degree, in recognition of her many works."

Sometime in the 1960s Eugenia Norwood wrote "Lucille has a honey Chevrolet Super Sport [high performance model]. As you know, if she can get someone to take her place, she will go abroad - Paris, I suppose - and study for her doctorate. I think she is rather bold to do this since she will have to retire at 65."

Career
Before receiving her master's degree, Lucille "held several jobs, including one working for the Office of Price Control (OPC)." (Personal correspondence from Jacksonville State University)

She worked for Mr. Chris J. Sherlock, who was then Director of the State of Alabama Highway Department (1939-1942). (Dates and verification provided by correspondence from the since renamed Alabama Dept. of Transportation Public Affairs)

After receiving her master's degree, Lucille "was brought to Jacksonville State Teachers College ["a 4-year public institution, operating under state control located at the foothills of the Appalachians about 1.5 hours Northeast of Birmingham and 2 hours west of Atlanta"] to teach business courses. Dr. Houston Cole, the president [1942-71], and Branscomb had visions far beyond a one-teacher business department.

"Branscomb's enthusiasm soon had increased the enrollment in her classes so that several teachers had to be added to the faculty to handle the load. This was the turning point that made Jacksonville Teachers College start changing from a teachers only institution toward a dual degree school.

"The Teachers in the name was dropped and the name became Jacksonville State College. The business department was moved into a new building and it occupied two floors. It didn't take many years for Branscomb to work and bring about a huge building to house the school of Commerce. Other schools were added, and the institution's name became Jacksonville State University." (Personal correspondence of Opal Rufus Lovett, a student of Lucille's and then Jacksonville State colleague)

"In the area of education, Dr. Branscomb served on numerous state and national boards. Approximately three years ago a wing to the new Business Administration Building at Jacksonville State University was dedicated in her honor." (Funeral eulogy)

Lucille "was president of both the National and International Associations of Huntingdon College for 1954 and 1955, successfully achieving a campaign goal of $15,000 for scholarships. ("The History of the Branscombs of Union Springs, Alabama, and Some of Their Participations in the Methodist Church")

"Dr. Branscomb had a long and distinguished career in business, teaching and aviation. She was Lt. Col. in the Civil Air Patrol and until her retirement was Deputy Chief of Staff of the Aerospace Education of the Southeast Region of the Civil Air Patrol. She served as head of the Department of Business Administration at Jacksonville State University for 32 years. She was a member of many honor societies including Kappa Delta Pi, the Pihambola, Theta Tri Sigma, and also Alpha Mu Gamma and Pi Chi." ("Montgomery Advertiser" obituary)

Marriage -- to Whom and Date
Lucille never married.

May 21, 1974, her brother Albert wrote "Sister Lucille spent some time with us during last weekend. She continues to run about constantly. What a shame it is that she didn't marry Mr. Peterson years ago. She dated him for forty years. Peterson was a multimillionaire and wanted her for his wife, but she never considered the idea seriously. She'd be a rich woman today if she had accepted his proposals. He died about five years ago."

Characteristics/lnterests and Participation in Religious and Civic Organizations
When only three of J. S. Branscomb's twelve children remained alive - one of each wife - Lucille was the last living child of the second wife, Ida Josephine Dismukes.

Lucille had two families: her Branscomb siblings and the Beasleys. She visited Eugenia Norwood and Alma in Midway with her brothers, wrote letters to her siblings and their children, attended anniversaries and weddings and traveled with Blanche and Alston cross country. The family has saved a card from Lucille to Eugenia Norwood, signed "All my love to you, Mother, Lucille." November 1969, Alma Alston wrote Penny that "Lucille called a few nights ago telling me about seeing you in the play you were in. She gave a good report. She was thrilled over sitting with two nieces that were sweethearts."

Jack was very close to his sister Lucille. As a result, Jack, Jr. spent part of several summers with her at Jacksonville State College, where she taught business and was a dorm mother. Lucille encouraged Jack, Jr. and Alston's daughter (Eugenia) to attend summer school at Jacksonville State and they did. Eugenia remained the following year.

"She was very active in the local First Methodist Church." (Personal correspondence from Jacksonville State University) "She served for twelve years as district secretary of W.S.C.S. [Women's Society for Christian Service] in the First Methodist Church of Jacksonville. Presently, she is the liaison officer between Huntingdon and the First Methodist Church of Geneva, and is a member of the Administrative Board there." ("The History of the Branscombs of Union Springs, Alabama, and Some of Their Participations in the Methodist Church")

Notes: In 1972, the W.S.C.S.'s name was changed to the United Methodist Women. This group of women, called by different names, was organized over 100 years ago with Lucy Webb Hayes, wife of the President of the United States, as its first President. It is referred to as the largest organization of women in the world and has a multi-million dollar budget.

She must have been active in churches wherever she lived because her obituary said the family requested that flowers be omitted and donations made to the Geneva First Methodist Church, the First Methodist Church of Chipley, Florida, or the First Baptist Church of Chipley, Florida. "Miss Lucille Branscomb of Jacksonville State Teachers College won the 'Huntington Award 1956' [given to some outstanding graduate annually] and she has a long list of achievements, according to the 'Alabama Christian Advocate' May 8, 1956." (December 1956 "Heroes of the Cross" article on "The Branscombs") "She received the Huntington Alumnae Achievement Award in May 1965 and the Outstanding Aerospace Educator Award in 1953." (“The Dismukes and Their Kin")

"Her earthly achievements and awards are too numerous for us to name.

"Upon retirement she returned to Geneva, Alabama, where once again she became an active member of the church of her childhood, First United Methodist. One of her last visits to the church, according to Joyce [her niece, Joyce Beasley Penuel] prior to her failing health was to light the Christmas Candle in the Advent Wreath three years ago.

"Dr. Branscomb was a lady who took great pride in what she did and she used the intellectual talents and graces which God had given her to help make the world a better place in which to live." (Funeral eulogy)

Some of her friends gave insight into what Mary Hay of Jacksonville, Alabama, called her "spirit and personality." Mary said, "Miss Branscomb was an attractive woman, kind of mannish-looking like Amelia Earhart, but better looking than her. She had a beautiful smile and was always smiling. She was never sad; she was happy. You were always glad to see her.

"She was interested in flying. She was determined to get an airport in Jacksonville in times, not like today, when very few people had flown in airplanes. Since she was instrumental in getting that field, the street leading to the airfield was named Branscomb Street.

"We have a large farm so, she, thinking Billy [Mary's husband] would know farm lands, asked him to advise her. She chose land south of town on Highway 21, close to where the high school is now. During World War II the government used the airfield for training. I'm not sure, but the little field may have been named Branscomb Field.

"Billy and I don't remember her teaching Sunday School or anything like that, but she was always at church. Our church was fairly small when Miss Branscomb was here. There was a space on the side of the choir loft with stained glass. She had them put an altar and a kneeling rail there and made a prayer room. After remodeling, that rail is now in my Sunday School room.

"She had projects and ideas. She didn't just think things - she was a do-er." (Personal correspondence of Mary Hay, member of First United Methodist Church, Jacksonville, Alabama, when Lucille attended the church and one of their church historians)

A little later that day, Mary called to tell me she had "hit the mother lode." She had contacted Opal Rufus Lovett, who had been a student of Lucille's in the mid 1940s and then worked with her on the Staff of Jacksonville State for years. ("I worked here as instructor and photographer until I retired in 1986.") He had stories to share.

"A new building was built to house the School [in 1970]. I put in for it to be named the Branscomb Building, but they didn't listen to me. They named the huge building after the man who procured the money, a State Representative and on the Board of Trustees, Hugh Merrill. After she got sick, retired and moved away, they built a domed wing. The east wing of Merrill Hall, the commercial building, is named the Lucille Branscomb Wing.

"I had typing, business law and management classes with her when I was a student. She was very popular. Due to Miss Branscomb, the Business School got so big that more students graduated from there than from the Education School.

"While Lucille Branscomb worked on her new business school, she flung her energy into creating organizations to help students become successful in their studies at school and after their graduation."

"One of Lucille's original organizations was the Timid Soul Society. It was operated somewhat like a Toast Masters Club. She was an ace at organizing groups. She found out her students' needs and would form an organization to fill that need. Many of her students became leaders in education and business.

"Her family was made up of ministers and bishops in the Methodist Church. ("Her family spun out Methodists like shelled corn out of a cornsheller.") She was very active in the church. I took a picture of a youth group [MYF], and she's in the picture. Lucille formed a prayer group and arranged for a prayer room."

"She helped the students organize more publicity for the school. I was the school photographer. She participated in Sadie Hawkins Days based on the AI Capp cartoon. I made pictures of Lucille chasing the boys for the girls.

Notes: Sadie Hawkins Day, an American folk event, made its debut in AI Capp's Li'l Abner strip November 15, 1937. Sadie Hawkins was "the homeliest gal in the hills" who grew tired of waiting for the fellows to come a courtin'. Her father, Hekzebiah Hawkins, a prominent resident of Dogpatch, was even more worried about Sadie living at home for the rest of his life, so he decreed the first annual Sadie Hawkins Day, a foot race in which the unmarried gals pursued the town's bachelors, with matrimony the consequence. By the late 1930's the event had swept the nation and had a life of its own. "Life" magazine reported over 200 colleges holding Sadie Hawkins Day events in 1939, only two years after its inception. The basis of Sadie Hawkins Day is that women and girls take the initiative in inviting the man or boy of their choice out on a date, typically to a dance attended by other bachelors and their aggressive dates.

"Lucille had organizational skills. She could get it done, execute it, and everyone liked it.

"Jacksonville was a small place in the 1940s. We all had to do two or three different things at once. She was the housemother at the boys' dorm [Abercrombie Hall]. They called her 'Ma Branscomb.'

"She sponsored clubs. One was the Future Business Leaders of America. She was active in the state organization, and her students became president of that.

"Veterans were returning from World War II. The student body was growing. Many of those veterans were seasoned pilots. She sprang into action and formed a Civil Air Patrol (C.A.P.) unit whose duties were to train cadets to fly a plane and search for lost aircraft. She got to be a Lt. Colonel.

"She got a lot of students to join. When World War II pilots came to school on the G.1. Bill, they joined to have something to do. The general consensus was that the C.A.P. was not going anywhere without a flight training instrument. Such an instrument was vital in the war because it trained pilots quickly in the proper procedures of instrument flight.

"Lucille secured a flight simulator from the Air Force. The government gave her a Link Trainer, a replica of a PT-13 trainer plane with one motor, which enables the pilots to train the cadets to fly in a short time. The trainer 'cockpit' was positioned on a pedestal in a room with a joystick to simulate movement even though they were stabilized. One time a student was blindfolded and taken to the airfield. They told him hewas in the trainer but he was in a real cockpit. He actually took off, flew and landed that plane. That’s how effective the training was!

Notes: The student pilot in the trainer was in contact with the instructor using a simulated radio link. The instructor sat at the desk, acted as ground control by communicating with the student, and monitored the student's progress. The pilot "flew" the Link through various turns, climbs, and descents, and the Link's "course" was traced in red ink by the remote "bug" on a map on the table. After a flight was completed, the pilot could study the red line course to determine what he or she might have done incorrectly.

"Lucille was photogenic, and her pictures were used to publicize events for the school. To our surprise, she arranged to get a PT -13 trainer from the surplus. John Morrow, one of her veteran pilots, flew it from Huntsville, Alabama, one Sunday morning. We had no airport at the time. He landed in Greenleaf's pasture where Branscomb and a group of her C.A.P. members waited.

"John taxied the plane and stopped it in front of the crowd. Miss Branscomb was concerned about getting the plane across the ditches, through the fence, out of the pastures to place it on display on the college campus. The pilot told her the remaining fuel would have to be used before the plane could be tied down.

"John Morrow took each person in the crowd for their first airplane ride. The PT-13's trainer had the canopy painted black so the student pilots could have experience with instrument flying during the daylight hours. The canopy had to be closed on take-off. It could be opened during the flight.

"Everyone had ridden except Miss Branscomb and it was her turn. The fuel was running low. After her ride, there would be enough gas in the tank to taxi the craft to the campus. The C.A.P. leader wore a tight fitting skirt that day. She couldn't keep her modesty and climb into the cockpit at the same time. That made it hard to get her into the cockpit, but she was so excited we got her in. She closed the black canopy, and the plane was airborne. While circling high in the air, she opened the canopy. To get a better view, she stuck her head out, and the wind ripped her glasses off her face.

"Safely on the ground, it was time to tackle the task of getting the plane over its obstacles to the other side of town. John taxied the plane to the ditch. Everyone held on to it while chocks were placed in front of the wheels. The motor was revved. A signal was given and simultaneously the chocks were snatched from the wheels as the students released the plane. It jumped the ditch. The fence wires were removed and the plane was through the fence and on the street.

"A car load of students led John Morrow as he taxied the plane through the back streets of Jacksonville to the site on campus where it was tied down with the fuel tank lid off for the remaining gas that was left in the tank to evaporate.

"Many visitors and students swarmed around the PT-13, which made a good background for their photographs. This went on for years.

"Several students learned to fly planes at a private airport in Anniston. Once she got the PT-13 trainer, she went after an airport. She was a promoter and an arranger. She arranged through the city to get an airport in Jacksonville. It has long been gone, but the road leading to it still bears her name.

"One time I went to make photographs of some students flying. An old airplane lay wrecked in weeds at the edge of the airport. A bunch of students led me there. They stuck their heads and arms out the windows. I put it in the school scrapbook. Lucille got a kick out of it.

"She had a colorful career. She was respected. I don't believe anyone here would not know her." (Personal correspondence of O. R. Lovett)

 


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