Beatrice "Mrs. Be" Parks Elliott, 105: Taught in Coweta County's segregated schools

Beatrice Elliott taught her students to hold their heads high and stand tall. She admonished the boys to be gentlemen and girls to be ladies.

She taught in Coweta County's segregated schools for more than 40 years. Some former students still say the same thing about her lessons. They stretched beyond the classroom and touched the real world.

"She included a lot of etiquette in her studies," said Rosa Brown Wilkerson, a retired educator and 1956 graduate of the all-black Grantville Training School. "She wanted it all to be just right."

"She was always prim and proper," said former student Linda Kirkland of Newnan. "Any student would definitely remember her. She always made the statement that if we listened and learned, we'd be something one day."

Apparently, it was a message the educator took to heart. She was born in Greenville, Ga., but moved to Newnan with her parents. Her father, the Rev. William Parks, sought opportunity for his children; he sent all 11 to college.

Mrs. Elliott graduated from all-black Howard Warner High. She earned a bachelor's degree in home economics and education at Fort Valley State University, then returned there for a master's in education.

In Coweta, she taught at Westside Elementary and the Grantville Training School. She retired in the early 1960s.

"She was a good lady and a lady of class," said a daughter, Melvinor J. Kendrick of Newnan.

On Sunday, Beatrice "Mrs. Be" Parks Elliott died in her sleep at Avalon Health & Rehabilitation in Newnan. She was 105. The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in Newnan. McKoon Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

Mrs. Elliott was part of an educational era when teachers visited homes. She knew all her charges' parents and stayed in touch.

"What made her stand out was that she really followed up on the students," Mrs. Wilkerson said. "She made sure that you followed rules and tried to do and be the best you could be."

The Rev. Jake Russell, pastor of Saint Smyrna Baptist Church in Newnan, remembers when, as a sixth-grader, he had tried to trip a girl walking down the aisle. She didn't fall, but he got a tongue-lashing.

"It was as if I had killed someone," he said. "[Mrs. Elliott] told me it was beyond me, my family and my upbringing to do anything like that. That resonates with me to this day."

To her students, she was Mrs. Elliott. About town, she was "Mrs. Be," a devoted member of Mt. Vernon First Baptist Church. She enjoyed travels to the Caribbean with family.

"She had a good life," her daughter said. "She taught us to walk with our heads high and to stand tall. I do that now."

Additional survivors include two sisters, Mattie P. Holmes of Macon and Rosa P. Washington of Newnan; a brother, Major Parks of Newnan; two grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandchild.