McRae LC co-founder, Ora Lee Gaines, dies

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Staff Report

Ora Lee Gaines, co-founder of the McRae Learning Center in Selma, died on Friday, May 11 in Nashville, Tenn., just minutes after witnessing her granddaughter’s graduation ceremony and celebration.

Gaines, who was affectionately called Mother Dear, assumed the directorship of the McRae Learning Center in 1978. The school grew from pre-school to a middle school within 10 years under her leadership. Her philosophy was grounded in high expectations for all students despite race or income.

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Gaines also exposed students to museums, theatre and travel to Mexico, Canada and many states across America. She was deeply committed to the McRae Learning Center.

For more than twenty-seven (27) years, Gaines traveled back and forth from Birmingham, Alabama to serve hundreds of McRae children and their parents.

Gaines was hospitalized early last week, but was determined to witness the graduation of her granddaughter, Ainka Sanders, who received her Juris Doctorate degree from Vanderbilt University Law School. As usual, Gaines was elegantly stylish wearing one of her distinctive hats and matching fashionable attires.

Gaines was known for her beautiful hats. At the graduation celebration, Gaines’ daughter, Selma attorney Faya Rose Tour, read a tribute from her (Tour) &8220;Book of Hats,&8221; written to celebrate Gaines’ excellence and dedication to children.

Funeral services will take place at Trinity AME Zion Church, located at 1800 Ensley Ave., in Birmingham on Saturday, May 19 at 2 p.m. The family is asking that the community and children give donations to the McRae Learning Center in lieu of flowers.

Gaines is the mother-in-law of former Dallas County Commissioner Perry Varner, deceased, and State Senator Hank Sanders, D-Selma. She is the grandmother of Malika Sanders, Kindaka Sanders, Khari Varner, Kamani Varner, Zakiya Varner, Ebony Gaines and Kenyatta Gaines, who attended schools in Selma.

Gaines leaves to mourn many children, siblings, relatives, friends and community members who will remember the love, direction and compassion of Mother Dear.