What’s in a name? A lot, if it’s on the front of a popular preforming arts school here in Savannah. I’d known about Esther F. Garrison School for the Arts for many years, but I was confused when I visited what I thought was her grave in Laurel Grove South Cemetery and found, instead, Clyde Esther Garrison. Was this the same person? Indeed.
According to Baby Names Hub:
Gender Popularity of the Name “Clyde” Boy or Girl? Clyde: It’s a boy! Since 1880, a total of 138,749 boys have been given the name Clyde while 3,205 girls were named Clyde.
Clyde Esther Cooper was born to Willis and Henrietta Cooper in Ocilla, GA on July 16, 1914. According to the 1920 Census, she also had an older brother and sister, Henry and Mary, and a younger brother, Wills Jr. Her father was a wood chopper for Cord Wood.
Esther married Leo Garrison and moved to Savannah, where she became extremely active in the community. She was the first Black woman in the Southeast to be elected to a Board of Education, and according to her obituary she served on the Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education for 20 years. She was also the secretary for the Savannah NAACP for 28 years and worked closely with Civil Right leader W.W. Law. Beyond that, she she was the office manager of the international Longshoremen’s Association, according to the Savannah Herald. She was organized, prepared, and steadfast. She was, in essence, the woman who held Savannah together.
The school was named after Esther in 1991.
Esther Garrison became an unwavering aid to the community by always being there for others, and when she died on Feb 21, 1987 she left behind very big shoes to fill.
The Dunham Report has an amazing video on Esther, and they’ve interview a handful of people closest to her. I highly recommend you watch it: