Friday, September 14, 2012


Show Me the Money!

Willie Bomar was dying. She got the cancer. She wanted her $65.78, and she wanted it, "now!"

Willie Melmoth Bomar was born in 1894 to Dr. Elisha Pinckney "Pink" Bomar and his wife, Ella Tallulah Lane. Dr. Pinckney removed himself and his family to Tattnall County before the turn of the 20th Century. Dr. Pinckney was active in his community, serving a term on the school board and once placing himself as a candidate for the Georgia Senate.

Willie and her older sister Ethel grew up in a somewhat happy home. All of that ended in 1918, when their father found himself embroiled in a difficulty in Lyons with A.S. Mosely and his sons, G.G. Mosely and Howell Mosley.

The elder Mosely fired his shotgun twice and his pistol three times at the 52-year-old physician, who turned and walked away from his aggressors. Just as the doctor was walking away, dozens of bystanders witnessed the Mosely boys firing shots directly into a lung of Dr. Bomar, resulting in his swift death. The murder case against the Moselys was transferred to Jefferson County Superior Court in Louisville, Georgia, where it resulted in a hung jury.

Life for the Bomar women had to go on. Ethel taught music and Willie, a graduate of Georgia Normal and Industrial School, taught domestic service in the local school in Lyons.

Eventually, Willie wanted to do more with her life. So she moved to New York, where she obtained her doctorate in Philosophy from the prestigious Columbia University.

In 1931, Dr. Bomar published her first book, An Introduction to Homemaking and It's Relation on the Community. A second book, The Education of Homemakers for the Community was also published in 1931. In all, Willie Bomar authored four books, including a 1937 book, which she entitled I Went to Church in New York.

It was just near the end of World War II when Willie Bomar began to notice something different about her body. Then came the devastating news. It was cancer and it was in her throat and her chest. Two surgeries followed and so did regular visits to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

It was in the autumn of 1948 when Dr. Bomar was asked by Wheeler County to teach on an emergency basis

The issue first arose at the end of the first term in 1949. The retirement board allowed Bomar to keep her contributions to the retirement fund. Then after a secret meeting, one which Bomar was not allowed to appear, the board reversed its position and took her $65.38 away.

Dr. Bomar kept her 10:30, Memorial Day appointment with J.L. Yaden, director of the retirement system of Georgia. Yaden maintained that since the $65.78 had already been deducted from her check, any refund was out of the question unless she resigned her position with the Wheeler County school system. That would mean that she would lose the excessively pitiful, but normal monthly salary of $198.00, which included a $33.00 supplement for teaching home economics. Remember, this was a teacher who held two masters degrees (in science and arts) as well as a doctorate degree in philosophy.

"I'll take mine now," Dr. Bomar, her voice weakened from the paralyzing effects of her throat cancer, told Yaden. She reiterated that the state deducted her portion of her retirement benefits out of her "puny" salary without consulting her. And, to make things worse she would have to wait to die to collect it.

"It's a preposterous thing they are trying to do to me. They want me to wait until I'm dead with old age to collect it. Well, I've got cancer. I need the money for treatment. And, cancer won't wait," cried Willie.

It was Bomar's position that since she had been hired by the Wheeler County school board as an emergency teacher, she was exempt from paying any retirement contributions.

Yaden called Superintendent T.C. Fulford, who reluctantly agreed to terminate the contract of the esteemed professor. That's when Willie Bomar had to make snap decisions.

"I am resigning under protest, but that is all I can do," she lamented.

Delayed and denied at every turn, Dr. Bomar decided that only a drastic tactic would work. The vibrant home economics teacher vowed to stay in Yaden's fourth-floor office until she achieved her modest demand or die right there in the office from the cancer which she knew was rapidly killing her.

Yaden walked out, leaving the dark-haired, matronly school teacher, dressed in her best blue dress sitting there in anger and disbelief, as she shouted, "I protest! I protest!"

A comfortable sofa in the ladies lounge would be her home until Yaden and his board surrendered or she died on the spot, whichever came first.

Not all people defended Willie Bomar's stance. The editor of the Dallas Morning News called her demand for benefits "shameful under the guise of liberalism and social progress."

Others, were more than sympathetic. Custodian C.C. Lord, himself laboring at the lower end of the pay scale, brought Ms. Bomar hot cups of coffee and sandwiches during the night. Encouraging newspaper reporters furnished Coca Cola and Hershey bars to aid the embattled teacher in her fight for right.

After 53 hours of waiting and most likely a call to or from Governor Herman Talmadge, a native of adjoining Telfair County and a politician who championed the cause of the common man, Yaden approached Dr. Bomar and informed her that the board had agreed to her demand.

A swarm of newspaper reporters and photographers barged their way into Yaden's office. With cameras flashing, Bomar triumphantly smiled as Yaden signed her highly coveted check.

"I won! I got my money! It was worth it," Bomar exclaimed.

"I won," said Yaden, who felt that negative feedback from unfavorable nation wide coverage of the impasse was not worth maintaining the state's rigid and unpopular stance.

Straining to get her words out, Willie Bomar was still thinking about teaching again, probably outside of the state somewhere. Writing or editing was also a possibility. Willie bought a train ticket and headed for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota

"I want to pay instead of saying I am too poor. I've been teaching school in Georgia," Dr. Bomar proclaimed.

Upon her arrival at the Mayo, Willie offered herself as an experimental patient at the University of Illinois for betatron cancer treatment. She told the press, "the situation appears to be out of control."

In the end, Willie Bomar was right. She died in 1950. Willie never wanted to accept charity and wanted to pay her own debts. Her perseverance paid off when the mighty State of Georgia backed down and showed the money to this little ol' school teacher from Glenwood, Georgia.

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