Headed to the Hall: Longtime educator next inductee to city’s Hall of Fame

Naomi Kilgore is to be honored as an inductee into the West Point Hall of Fame at the Growth Alliance Banquet, Tuesday, Feb. 19, at 5:30 p.m. at The Civic.
Donna Summerall
Staff Writer

Due to her devotion to education and service to her community, Naomi Kilgore is to be honored as an inductee into the West Point Hall of Fame during the Growth Alliance Banquet, Tuesday, Feb. 19, at 5:30 p.m. at The Civic.

"I never thought of receiving such an honor," Kilgore said. "I was completely taken by surprise. I've lived my life trying to meet a need where I saw it. Looking back, I'm happy to know that I have positively impacted lives. You know I never thought about anything other than meeting a need or making the community better."

Kilgore was an educator in the West Point School District and Mary Holmes College and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Kilgore has exemplified love of the community by serving its children and schools where the opportunity presents itself.

As a language arts instructor in the West Point School System, she provided learning opportunities beyond the regular curriculum. Some examples are as follows: participating in the Daughters of the American Revolution Essay Contest each year, competing in the Annual Mississippi Council of Teachers of English Composition, and the Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Essay Contest.

As a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Kilgore is instrumental in acquiring grants to provide the students of South Side Elementary with artistic and entertaining programs each February, in honor of Black History Month.

"With grants from the Mississippi Arts Commission, we have been able to bring some wonderful artists to South Side," Kilgore said. "Dr. Robert Damm from MSU brought in a troupe of drummers, Jembe Den, who played amazing rhythms inspired by journeys to Africa. The drums and gourds they played were authentically crafted in Africa. The children absolutely loved it."

Kilgore said she is always very proud to be able, along with the Deltas, to make such programs available to the South Side students.

"We are sponsoring the Puppet Arts Theater, Feb. 28 at South Side," Kilgore said. "Peter Zapletal is coming from Jackson with his puppeteers.This is the second time he has come to South Side."

She continues to be involved in community service. Influenced by her mother, her husband and her sorority's commitment to public service, Kilgore was deeply involved in tutoring students. She was both a tutor and a director of the Delta Tutorial Program for over 20 years. For approximately 15 years, she was coordinator of The Black Heritage Essay­ Oratorical Contest, a competition sponsored by Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and held each February to highlight the contributions of African-Americans, and to increase composition and speaking skills.

"My mother taught us to look to the future," Kilgore said. "She was always encouraging us to better ourselves through educational opportunities. My parents sacrificed a lot to make sure we could go to college. They understood and wanted us to go farther in life than they did. Every parent wants better for their children."

Along with the late Etta Tucker, she read poetry to and with students of South Side School. As a member of the Clay County Unit of Retired Educational Personnel of Mississippi she has read to students at West Clay Elementary School.

"I enjoy being part of the Retired Educational Personnel," Kilgore said. "No one understands the needs of our schools like our former educators. We remember what it was like on the front lines."

In recognition for her community service, she has received the following awards: The Lillian Pernell Community Service Award from the Clay County Branch NAACP, The 2003 Power of One Honoree of the Mississippi Women' s Conference from Governor Ronnie Musgrove, the naming of the sorority's Academic Award to The Naomi S.Kilgore Academic Achievement Award by her sorority sisters.

In addition to her community service, she is a faithful member of Trinity Presbyterian Church (USA) where she serves as Worship Leader and Bible Study Leader. On the Presbytery Level she is an Enabler for Area E of Presbyterian Women, St. Andrew Presbytery, where she serves as leader, encourager and supporter for 12 churches.

Kilgore lives by the following credo: "To whom much is given, much will be required."

She also believes that any improvement in one's community enhances both one's own life, as well as one's posterity. Her favorite African proverb succinctly sums it up: "We must plant trees under which we will never sit."

"As educators, we do that every day," Kilgore said. "We plant seeds and hope they will take root and produce good fruit for the next generation. We may never sit under the shade of that tree, but someone will."

Kilgore was married to the late James A. Kilgore; they are the parents of two adult sons, Kevin and Chris.