Grace Lee McClure Smith continued to be associated with the Madison County School system when she took up a job as a school bus driver for more than 30 years.
Grace Lee McClure Smith, a 94-year-old from Alabama, is proving that it is never too late to dream and achieve. After waiting for nearly eight decades, she finally received her high school diploma. She was honored along with the graduating teenagers of Hazel Green High School in a special ceremony held last week, finally getting to turn her tassel from one side to the other. As of June 2, she holds the title as Madison County’s oldest high school graduate ever, according to Local 12. While Smith has already lived a long and fulfilling life, the high school diploma was a cherry on top of the cake for her.
"It's better late than never, isn't it?" Smith said as she thanked everyone. When she was 16, Smith dropped out of high school to get married to her high school sweetheart, Calvin B. Smith, in 1942. Her husband then went away to fight in World War II where he was a private first class. He returned from the war and passed away in 2005 just five days short of his 80th birthday. After dropping out of high school, Smith continued to be associated with the Madison County School system when she took up a job as a school bus driver. She worked there for more than 30 years.
A 94-year-old woman in Alabama, United States was awarded an honorary high school diploma 79 years since she dropped out due to World War II. https://t.co/54Ye4A1O4k— Inquirer (@inquirerdotnet) June 6, 2021
Erin Wilson, Smith's granddaughter who is now a teacher herself was the mastermind behind the honorary degree, helped arrange the ceremony as well. "She never ever mentioned regretting anything in life. She would never take it back because she absolutely loved my grandfather and that was just what she wanted to do, but I think this was very important to her," Wilson told WAAY-TV. She has been a familiar face for generations of kids and remembers them fondly. "She'll say, 'I can't remember exactly who you were, go ahead and tell me where you lived.' So they'll give the address and she'll say 'oh yeah, I remember you,' and then she'll start with stories," Wilson explained.
With the graduation season coming to a close, Madison County Schools wanted to honor just one more graduate. After 79 years, one woman was able to move her tassel from one side to the other.https://t.co/P9cwG9eKbL— CBS 42 (@CBS_42) June 3, 2021
Her granddaughter was one of the hundreds of kids that she drove to school. Tim Hill, Director of Public Relations at the school told WHNT, “She came back and for more than 30 years, she drove a school bus in Madison County, she served our students and got them safely to school and safely home for 30 years.” Even though she could not complete her education, she has always encouraged her children and grandchildren to pursue their education. “She was a role model for a lot of kids and she’s always telling the stories,” Wilson who now works at Legacy Elementary School stated and added, “She always encouraged me to go to school, make sure I finish school and now she encourages my girls.”
SPECIAL GRADUATE: @LinseyDavis reports on 94-year-old Grace Lee McClure Smith, who finally received her high school diploma 79 years after she dropped out of high school so her husband could fight in WWII. https://t.co/c6OrKeGIVH #AmericaStrong pic.twitter.com/0SaWvAieWX— World News Tonight (@ABCWorldNews) June 5, 2021
After all her years of service for the school, they finally decided to give back to Smith for all her contributions. After 79 years, Smith went back to her high school and received her honorary diploma along with 302 fellow grads in the presence of her loving family that includes seven children, 16 grandchildren, and 26 great-grandchildren. Hazel Green Principal Quinn Headen and Superintendent Allen Perkins attended Grace Smith’s graduation ceremony as well and showed their appreciation for Smith. “I feel like I don’t deserve it,” Smith stated but still happy that she was finally a high school graduate as a nonagenarian. “There’s a lot more people that are much more deserving than me. I’m just doing my job, love it. I love most of it most of the time. Good times!” She is indeed an inspiration!