In honor of Women’s History Month, which runs March 1 through March 31, The Crossroads Chronicle reached out to interview a local woman whose story is one of triumph and inspiration. From our newsroom to you, enjoy!
Elizabeth “Betty” Yeomans Brown created history when she became the first female superintendent in Emanuel County in 1984. When she was elected, the attitude toward females in politics and leadership was at a turning point. Brown’s accomplishments opened doors for future female leadership opportunities in the education system in our area and beyond.
Brown has lived in Emanuel County most of her life. She is the daughter of the late Herman and Frances Yeomans and had one brother, H. G. Yeomans III. Brown attended Wesley School, then moved to Perry, where she attended their schools for five years. Finally, Brown returned to Emanuel County and graduated from Swainsboro High School. She attended Georgia Southern College and after graduation, she returned to teach and assistant coach the girls’ basketball team at her alma mater, Swainsboro High. Shortly after, Brown returned to Southern and completed her master’s and education specialist degrees. She later received her Doctor of Education from the University of Georgia. Brown has worn many hats in the Emanuel County School system. She served as a high school teacher, counselor, system curriculum director, and, of course, superintendent. She is married to James P. Brown. They share three children, Patrick, Terry, and Brian Brown, and four grandchildren, Bo, Lexsy, Brody, and Grady Brown.
The former system leader says she did not always have her sights set on becoming superintendent. She said, “I knew I wanted to work with young people and to help provide superior educational experiences. Should they take advantage of these experiences, the would become productive, caring citizens, which would make our area, state, nation, and world a better place.”
Brown received much encouragement to seek election for Superintendent of Schools of Emanuel County and decided to run. Because she was aware of the attitude toward female leadership in the ‘80s, she visited some of the leadership in the county to get an idea of what she was up against. After receiving positive feedback, her “plan was developed and activated.” Brown was the only female among three male candidates. With the help of many friends and colleagues, she won after a run-off with one of the men, making history as the first female superintendent of Emanuel County. Brown served two more 4-year terms unopposed. When the law changed to appointed superintendents, she became the first appointed superintendent as well. She retired in 1999 with 32 years of service.
Brown was uniquely qualified for her position as superintendent due to her education and work history. She explains, “I have been fortunate enough to have taught school, been a caseworker for DFCS, served as counselor at SHS, and served as curriculum director,” all of which laid a foundation for her to serve as superintendent. Despite her impressive qualifications, according to Brown, the most significant part of being prepared and good at her job was love for the citizens—especially the students—who want better for the county. “Their support, cooperation, and input merge all in with the efforts of school personnel to ensure we are the best.”
Under her leadership, each school in the system experienced great success due to extensive planning and coordination with school leadership. The benefits of Brown’s leadership and system personnel work can still be seen in Emanuel County Schools today.