Library’s first new card holder celebrates 100 years of reading

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 5, 2004

On the eighteenth of February Rosa Hackett will observe her 100th birthday. On the fifth of January, the Selma Public Library will mark its 100th year of service to the people of Selma and Dallas County. So, let the celebration for both begin.

In recognition of her long and fruitful life, Mrs. Hackett has been given the first of the new cards that will be issued to each library member.The presentation was made by library Director Becky Cothran Nichols, who said: “This represents 100 years of reading, studying and working in the community which we call home. There is no better time than this to look back on the century between 1904 and 2004, and beyond. Throughout this year we shall commemorate the past and look forward to the future.”

With a smile and a lift of her head, Mrs. Hackett accepted the colorful card, and holding it tightly in her workworn hands she said, “I used to go to the Carnegie Library and though my eyes are bad now, I still read. I tell you I can still get through Dear Abby, so you know I can still read.”

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Pausing to smile at her daughter and caregiver Bernice McMillian, who was standing at her side, Mrs. Hackett said “education is the most important thing in the world. I made my first speech when I was 6, a curly-haired girl at Aimwell Safford, where everybody went to our one-room school in the building that was also our church. I liked everything about school.”

Leaning her head back, she rested a moment before sharing more memories of her childhood.

“My mama taught me to read. She cut out the ABCs and pasted them in the almanac. That’s how I learned my ABCs and that’s how I learned to read. We all had to work so I could only go through the sixth grade, but reading educated me.”

Mrs. Hackett was one of 15 children, seven brothers and seven sisters, all now deceased except her brother A.C. Barnes. The family farmed for a living and all the children worked with their parents. When she was only 5, Rosa Barnes Hackett carried a bottle of water to her daddy as he reached the end of each row he was plowing. “He’d drink it all up and I’d fill it up again from the spring and take it to the end of his next row.”

Later, as she grew older and larger, she plowed behind the family’s mules and horses, planting and cultivating the crops of cotton, corn, peanuts, sweet potatoes and “lots of greens. In the garden each fall we covered the greens with pine straw and they kept green all winter.

“Oh, I worked hard. One time I picked 500 pounds of velvet beans and got a dollar for it. Hands got all scratched and cut from it.”

Working, Mrs. Hackett says “kept me living. I washed and ironed for the sheriff and for Ed Pepper Wilson in Wilcox County. That helped me take care of my four children, two boys and two girls. They live now in Mobile, Youngstown, Ohio and Selma.”

She rested for another moment, then said “I can’t read the Bible anymore but I don’t have to. I can recite it. I like the Psalms the best, my favorite is the 100th.”

And folding her hands before her, with bowed head, she recited it word for word from the Bible:

Psalm 100, An exhortation to praise God cheerfully

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.

Serve the Lord with gladness; come before his presence with singing.

Know ye that the Lord he is God; it is he that hath made us and not we ourselves; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise; be thankful unto him and bless his name

For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting;

and his truth endureth to all generations.