That was her favorite poem, and the one she often cited as being interpretive of her attitude toward life and death. We do believe that she strove to live just that way.
Her life story is a beautiful one. It is a story of struggle and a story of triumph; for her heart was deeply moved by the plight of black people. Having been born into the fate that befell numerous others who happened to have black skin– she suffered many of the indignities that are all too familiar. But, her life is one of triumph, because she was able to rise above the circumstances of her birth, and attempt to give to others, what she herself had — hope and courage.
On about May 5, 1913, God delivered into the family of Mary Will Peters, a strong healthy infant girl, whom she named “Hattie Lee.” Little did Mary Will know that her baby girl would touch the lives of many — both young and old. Born in Chambers County, Alabama, Hattie Lee was raised partly in Roanoke, and grew up in Anniston, Alabama with her grandmother, Charlotte, her uncles, Ulysses and Oscar, and mother Mary Will.
She graduated from Barber Terrence High School in Anniston, Alabama. Following graduation from high school, she spent many years working, seeing no possible chance of furthering her schooling. But along life’s highway, she had made many wonderful friends, who encouraged her — not only with words, but with actions. As a result, she enrolled in the Alabama Normal Institute, a two-year teacher’s college, now known as Alabama A & M University in Huntsville. There, she graduated with honors. After graduation, she began a successful teaching career which lasted for more than 36 years. She taught in rural communities, one-room school houses, churches, homes, and gave her life to shaping young minds during a time when educational opportunities for black citizens was a precious and rare accommodation.
In 1946, she met Wilkie Clark, and after a loving courtship of two years, they were married on May 1, 1948. To their union one child was born. Together, as she continued to advance and upgrade her teaching skills, they dedicated themselves to becoming outstanding members of their community, and giving invaluable service for the cause of facilitating the advancement of black people in Roanoke, and Randolph County.
She furthered her education at Alabama State University in Montgomery, where she received the Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education. It was also during this time, that she had begun a long tenure of service as a member of the faculty of the Randolph County Training School in Roanoke, where she served admirably as Coordinator for the Elementary Department. Being an astute, conscientious, and well-versed individual, many of her co-workers affectionately called her “pres.”
She furthered her education at Tuskegee Institute where she earned several credits toward the Masters Degree; but because she was a devoted and loving wife, mother, and citizen, did not feel a need to pursue this degree to its completion.
She ended her career as an academician with her retirement from the Roanoke City Schools in 1974. But, her contribution to her community did not end there. She led a very active retirement, by writing numerous articles to newspapers, which addressed racial, educational, and civic issues. She was well respected for her ability to articulate to the public, the sentiments of masses of people. This she did with finesse and dignity. She contributed to and supported every worthwhile cause including the N.A.A.C.P., A.D.C., Alabama Educational Association, The United Methodist Church and numerous others.
On Saturday morning, February 18, 1989, she was overcome by extreme heart distress. For five and a half days, she lingered, peacefully and quietly, awaiting the call from the Almighty. On Thursday, February 23, 1989, in the Intensive Care Unit of Randolph County Hospital, at 1:34 p.m., God issued the call — Hattie Lee answered. But it is written, “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have another building, an house of God, not made by hands, eternal in the heavens.” (II Corinthians 5:1)
Her legacy: A loving husband, Wilkie Clark of Roanoke, Alabama; a devoted daughter and son-in-law, Clarence and Charlotte A. Clark-Frieson of Roanoke; two beautiful grandchildren, Wilkie Sherard Frieson and Je’Lynn Frieson, of Roanoke; her in-laws, Mr. and Mrs. Beotis Clark, Mr. Elijah Clark and Mrs. Lelia Newsome of Augusta, Georgia; and Mrs. Elizabeth Davis of Memphis, Tennessee; several nieces, nephews, cousins, other loving relatives and friends.