Susan Tucker made history as a teenager as part of Person High School’s first graduating class in 1970, which was the first year of total integration in Person County. She made history again in 2018 when she became one of two women to be the first female ordained deacons at First Baptist Church in Roxboro. Her story encourages us to step to the forefront—someone has to be first.
Q) What was your upbringing like in Person County?
A) I was born in 1952. My father died in a car accident when I was five years old and I had four other siblings. So, my mom was a widow at 28 years old. But she raised us. And she raised us to be a close-knit family. She taught us to respect elders. And she made us go to church. We had to go to Sunday School. We had to go to worship service. She made us go!
Q) What is your career path and what are your proudest achievements?
A) I worked at an insurance company, Home Security (now Transamerica) for 30 years. I worked in various jobs at the company. First, I started as a temp, then I was a messenger, then I went to file clerk. Then I got a promotion to senior policy change clerk. Then I did all kinds of things within the company: reissued policies, reinstated policies, changed beneficiaries, name it I did it. And I got awards for my work with seniors.
Q) What about post-career achievements?
A) In 2018 I became one of two women to be ordained as deacons at First Baptist Church, along with Bonnie Carver, and we were the first two women deacons in the history of the church. Now I don’t know what I did to be worthy of this honor. That’s what I told my pastor, Rev. Kenneth Stokes, when he approached me about it. But he said, “I’ve been watching you.”
Now I’ve always gone on my own to the nursing homes and hospitals to visit people. And in my neighborhood, I have seniors here and I take them food on Sundays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and so on. But I never told anybody. And at church I’ve done a lot of stuff. I’ve been head of Pastor’s Aid, head of senior citizen committee, head of the hospitality committee. So, my pastor said, and this is what got me, that with everything I do I always have a smile on my face and he noticed and other people noticed too. And then I’ve always gone to Bible Study. So, my pastor told me that God had placed me on his mind and that he had been looking at me for about a year. And during that time, he had been saying that the church was about to change and something was going to happen at First Baptist that had never happened before. So, God was working with him. And he said the more he watched, he could see that’s what God wanted.
Now I had to pray on it. I had to fast and pray about it before I accepted that nomination. Because women deacons do get backlash. And not necessarily at your own church, but from other churches, because some churches don’t believe in women deacons. And I have experienced some negativity since becoming a deacon. But regardless, I’m going to work for the Lord anyway.
Q) What organizations or community endeavors do you participate in?
A) Since I retired, I volunteer at schools. Our church partners with South Elementary School. So, some of us go once a week and tutor the kids. And then we are lunch buddies with the kids. Our church has an outreach committee and we reach out to kids in Weatherly Heights and Heritage Square. We do Easter Egg Hunts, movie nights, stuff like that for the kids to get them active.
Q) Why is it important that women be recognized for their foundational work in our community and our nation?
A) I believe women should be recognized because we play an important role in history and the community and if that can be seen, then it should be celebrated. Because women work just as hard as men—they get the job done. Also, women should be recognized so that young women can see that they can be successful too.
Q) What do you envision for the future of Person County?
A) I’m hoping for more job opportunities, more fairness, and less closed-mindedness. I’m hoping that we can be more open to changes. And I would like to see more African Americans in local government and more Black-owned businesses.
Q) What is your advice for girls and young women who look to you as motivation?
A) My advice is, be yourself, be motivated to be the best that you can be, believe that you can be whatever you want to be and don’t let anyone tell you differently. Put God first and he will lead you. And there is no such word as “can’t.”