Providently timed for the icon’s birthday on November 11, West Fraser leaders were pleased to be at the home of world-renowned civil rights activist Daisy Gatson Bates. They gathered with community leaders to announce a donation of $35,000 to the Daisy Bates House Museum and the establishment of $4,000 in scholarships for the Strong-Huttig school district.
“We are proud to present this donation to the Daisy Bates House Museum, and to honor her, honor her legacy, and her commitment to access to education,” said West Fraser US Lumber Vice-President Sean McLaren.
Sean was joined by Western Region Manager Chester Fort, who spoke on the personal impact Daisy Bates has had in the area. “We want to support the community of Huttig, by taking care of and protecting her home. It is about keeping positive things going in the community, as she did, to keep making opportunities for people and ensuring access to education. It makes a real difference.”
The Home of Daisy Gatson Bates
Event video, shared with permission from Today's Communiqué
On hand for a presentation of the donation at the home were a number of speakers, including Charles King, president of the Daisy Bates House Museum Foundation. “We would live in a very different world had there not been the activities at 1207 W. 28th St,” says King. “This is a very special day for the Daisy Bates house.”
Bates was an unflagging a champion of the Black students who desegregated Little Rock Central High School in 1957 (called the “Little Rock Nine”). Bates’ home in Little Rock was the premier place for the nine students to gather as they strategized plans to integrate the school. Originally born in Huttig, right near the Company’s lumber mill, she died in 1999.
The donation will be used to make improvements to her former home so it will better serve visitors to the site on West 28th Street, considered to be a national historic landmark by the National Park Service.
Scholarships for Students in Bates’ name for Strong-Huttig School District
Graduating seniors in the Strong-Huttig School District will also have a chance to apply for a scholarship in the name of the civil rights activist.
In addition to the donation to improve the home, West Fraser and two of its leaders are funding $4,000 in annual scholarships for students in Bates’ name directed towards her hometown district, the Strong-Huttig School District in Union County. The company will contribute $2,000 annually, with Vice-President Sean McLaren and Western USA Regional Manager Chester Fort contributing another $1,000 each to support aspiring students to realize their post-secondary dreams.
“They wanted to find a way that West Fraser could give back to the local community and how could the school district benefit from all that they do,” Superintendent Kimberly Thomas said. She hopes the scholarship funding will serve as an incentive for students to continue their learning in the district.