BY BRUCE BRANUM
The Greenville Standard
What makes a community strong? It takes a village that works together and two of Butler County’s prominent citizens, Edith and Oliver Brooks, have made community and a helping hand the basis of their lives.
Oliver recently received the “Ambassador for Peace” medal from South Korea for his service during the Korean War. The Ambassador for Peace medal is an expression from the Korean government to American service men and women who fought for South Korea’s freedom.
He was presented the medal at the American Legion Post 24 in Greenville by Tammie Rice, a Veterans Affairs officer, on Thursday, March 7 as his service comrades from the American Legion looked on and then applauded.
Oliver was born in Jan. 10, 1934, in Pickens County near Carrollton, which is a small city west of Tuscaloosa. He finished high school at age 17 and went to the state of Connecticut where he worked until the spring of 1952 taking care of the Marlboro Manor, which was a ski resort.
At the age of 18 he volunteered for the draft and requested service in the United States Marine Corps. He completed boot camp at Paris Island, S.C. and then transferred to Camp Lejuene, N.C. He was then shipped to Camp Pendleton, Calif. for advanced infantry training before moving on to Korea.
He arrived in Korea on Jan. 9, 1953 and the next day he was on combat patrol with the 3rd Battalion, First Marine Division. Within the next few months the North Koreans bombarded a trench bunker where Oliver was staying.
He lost his hearing for a time and was sent to Japan to recuperate for a few weeks.
After his recuperation, he was sent to a northern island in Korea where his task was to rescue pilots if they were shot down. He then became a radio operator and finished his tour of duty before being stationed at Pensacola Marine Naval Air station.
After his service he returned to Carrollton and in 1955 he enrolled in college at Alabama A&M in Huntsville. He graduated with honors with B.S. degrees in English, Social Studies and History and was planning to pursue a career in law until he met his future wife Edith at college.
They fell in love and on July 16, 1960 were married at her family home in the Ridgeville community of Butler County.
Edith graduated from Alabama A&M with B.S. degrees in Business, English and Social Studies and went on to get a Master’s Degree in Education from Alabama State University.
They have three children, Wanda, Oliver, and Patricia.
Oliver’s first job was in Marengo County, where he taught from 1959 until 1966. He commuted back and forth from Butler to Marengo County until he got a job in Georgiana at R.L. Austin. In 1969, he enrolled in the University of Alabama (UA) for Graduate School.
He received a Master’s Degree in Counseling from UA in 1970 and then went to work at McKenzie School that fall and taught Social Studies and English and was a school counselor for 17 years.
Oliver said, “It was 17 wonderful years. I love McKenzie. I loved the people and they loved me and they still do. The people are close, the families are close. Everyone is cordial. I still get hugs from my students when they see me on the street.”
In 1987, Oliver transferred to Greenville High School where he also enjoyed working with students until his retirement in 1991.
Oliver also served as commissioner for Butler County from 1992-1996.
Edith worked with the Butler County School System (BCSS) for 32 years. She started as a secretary in 1964 at Greenville Training School/South Side High School, which currently houses the BCSS administration, Bright Beginnings and Head Start programs and then started teaching business in 1970 at Georgiana High School.
After one year, she transferred to Greenville Elementary School where she taught Language Arts and then began teaching fifth grade. After that she taught at Greenville Middle School until she retired in 1996.
Edith challenged her students to never use the word can’t. She said, “The word can’t, take it away. Don’t ever say that I can’t do this or can’t do that. You can do anything you want to do if you put your heart and mind into it.”
Edith is a member of the Lambda Delta Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority of Greenville, Butler County Chapter of AARP #1426, Butler County Education Retirees Association, Alabama Education Retirees Association, a life member of the National Education Retirees Association and president of the First Union District Association Women Auxiliary and secretary of the Women Auxiliary of the Ridgeville Baptist Church.
Oliver is a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and Dean of the First Union District BTU and Sunday School Congress, and Clerk of the Ridgeville Baptist Church. He is also a member of the Butler County Education Retirees Association, a life member of the National Education Retirees Association and a member of the Butler County Chapter of AARP #1426.