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December 11, 2013

Faces of Fauquier: She set path for black teachers

Photo/Cassandra Brown
“I remember my grandpa had a garden twice as big as this room, with everything in it,” says Susie Nickens, 97. “We had hogs and an icehouse. He owned 162 acres in Fauquier.”
After I got married, I went to 48 states. We took five weeks off, and some states we stayed in for two or three days, others for a week if we liked it. I have been to Switzerland, Great Britain and France with my daughter on Girl Scout trips when she was younger. I tried to give her things I didn’t and couldn’t have.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Friends at the Fauquier Senior Center in Warrenton describe her as sweet and the most humble person you will ever meet.

Born in 1916 in Markham, Susie C. Nickens recalls the sights and sounds of a different time on her grandfather’s farm.

“I remember my grandpa had a garden twice as big as this room, with everything in it. We had hogs and an icehouse. He owned 162 acres in Fauquier,” Ms. Nickens said during an interview in the former Central Elementary School auditorium.

She taught elementary and high school for more than 35 years, starting in 1938, when Fauquier County schools remained segregated.

“I was paid $66 a month for my first teaching job at Greenville School,” Ms. Nickens said. “I taught math, science, penmanship and social studies.”

With a bachelor’s degree and later a master’s in education, she helped pave the way to equal pay for black Fauquier schoolteachers under Superintendent William Taylor in the 1940s.

• Age
97

Home
Greenville, near New Baltimore.

• Work
Started teaching fourth through seventh grade at Greenville School, a three-room segregated schoolhouse in Greenville (near New Baltimore) in 1938, at age 22. She taught at Rosenwald High School in Warrenton for six years and then at Phelps Vocational High School in Washington, D.C., until retirement.

I was paid $66 a month for my first teaching job at Greenville School. I taught math, science, penmanship and social studies.

• Why did you do the job?
I liked children and I think they liked me. My own teachers in high school guided me to become a teacher.

• Family
Daughter, Carolyn Branson.

• Education
Master’s degree in education from the University of Pennsylvania; bachelor’s in from Minor Teachers College in Washington, D.C., 1938. Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., 1934.

• Civic and/or church involvement

I attend Little Zion Baptist Church in Cedar Run. I taught Sunday school there for a long time, too.

• How long have you lived in Fauquier?
I was born in Markham in 1916 and have lived off and on in Fauquier for over 50 years.

• Why do you live here?
Because my (late) husband wanted to live here.

• How do you describe this county?
We have good teachers and spiritual leaders in the community, and everyone cooperates with each other. The community works with the teachers and schools.

• What would you change about Fauquier?
I wouldn’t change anything. I think they are doing a good job. I have had a good experience living here over the years.

• What do you do for fun?
I come to the Fauquier Senior Center. I love going out to lunch.

• What’s your favorite place in Fauquier?

The Fauquier Senior Center. This is my second or third year coming here, and everybody helps me. Lynn Oliver, the director, is wonderful and makes it pleasant, different and fun.

• What will Fauquier be like in 10 years?
I don’t think it will change much.

• Favorite TV show?
I always watch the news and read The Washington Post, daily and the Fauquier Times every Wednesday and Friday.

• Favorite movie?
I don’t have a favorite movie, but my daughter likes to go to the movies.

• Favorite book?

The Bible. I love Bible stories.

• Favorite vacation spot?
After I got married, I went to 48 states. We took five weeks off, and some states we stayed in for two or three days, others for a week if we liked it. I have been to Switzerland, Great Britain and France with my daughter on Girl Scout trips when she was younger. I tried to give her things I didn’t and couldn’t have.

• Favorite food?
I like food, period. I used to be a chocolate fiend. Now I just like it all.

• What is the best advice you have ever received? From whom?

My granddaddy would always tell us something, but I can’t remember. I would tell the younger generation to be kind and cooperative and help those in distress.

• Who’s your hero and why?
My church ministers are my heroes. I have had three good ministers and they always seemed to be prepared and cooperative. I was baptized in the Baptist church.

• What would you do if you won $1 million in the lottery?
Make sure my family is happy and well taken care of. I would probably end up giving it away to my church.

>> Suggest a “Faces of Fauquier” profile subject

Do you know someone who lives in Fauquier County you would like to see in Faces of Fauquier? E-mail Cassandra Brown at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or Editor Lou Emerson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Previous Faces of Fauquier:

• Family and food come first for Marshall pizzeria employee.

• Rural “closeness” of Fauquier appeals to Kansas native

• A “spoke” in the wheel of preservation.

• His job dovetails with passion for hunting

• Veteran educator sees the potential in every child.

• His passions: Fixing cars and helping people


• Habitat ReStore volunteer appreciates Fauquier’s diversity.


• Dad’s example led to new career at Fauquier Hospital.

• He lives and works in a beautiful place.

• The Goldvein firehouse ranks as his favorite place.


• Pretty things everywhere she looks.

• Through scouting, he encourages girls to explore.

• One day, he might run the company.


• FISH volunteer likes to help others.

• She sees the community’s generosity.

• Cop patrols while most people sleep.


• Pastor a constant in Calverton.


• She keeps the courthouse spotless.


• He loves working working outdoors at the park.


• She sees “everyone” at Carousel

• Library assistant works in a “fun place"

• Hat lady sets up shop in Old Town Warrenton
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