Celebrating Black History: The life of Oseola McCarty

Celebrating Black History: The life of Oseola McCarty

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Oseola McCarty grew up at her family home on Miller Street in Hattiesburg.

With little money and a whole lot of faith, McCarty learned the value of hard work at a very young age.

Her friend, Bud Kirkpatrick, said working was how she helped others

"She just washed and ironed clothes for other people," Kirkpatrick said.

McCarty worked with her mother, grandmother and aunt by her side.

When her aunt became gravely ill, she dropped out of school in the sixth grade to work full time.

In those days, she did not earn very much, but the little she made, she saved.

Paul Laughlin was her banker.

"Saving more than she spent and then socking it away. She kept currency in her house and periodically would walk down to the bank," Laughlin said.

McCarty had at least three bank accounts in the Hattiesburg area.

"In the summer of 1995, it came to her attention that she wasn't keeping up with her money like she wanted to," Laughlin said.

When Laughlin sat down with her to break it all down, he said McCarty was surprised at just how much she had.

"Her total estate value was around 250,000 dollars. I asked her what she wanted us to do with the money if she set it up in a trust," McCarty added.

She left some of it to her family, another portion to her church, but $150,000 went to a nearby school to set up a scholarship fund.

"At the time I didn't know which college she was talking about, but we figured it out," McCarty said.

The college was The University of Southern Mississippi, but why she wanted to leave so much to a place she would never step foot on was anybody's guess.

J.T. Tisdale is the major gifts officer for the USM foundation. He said McCarty just wanted to help students in financial need.

"It was her way of showing others the value of an education even though she was never able to get one of her own," Tisdale said.

Carletta Barnes was a recipient of McCarty's scholarship.

She now has her own dental practice in Hattiesburg.

"It was because of her, that I'm able to do this. Having the scholarship meant that I did not have to work. I just had to focus on my school," McCarty said

Many students in the area have benefited from the McCarty's scholarship.

"We occasionally receive donations to her scholarship to this day," Tisdale said.