When I think of Corinthian Nutter, I see purple.
Maybe that’s because when I interviewed Mrs. Nutter, she wore a royal purple jacket that encompassed her frame.
The retired educator was in her 90’s then, a smallish woman with a sharp mind, grey bun and keen wit. She sat in a chair in her northern Johnson County home surrounded by her boxes of memories, and I sat awestruck at her feet.
Corinthian Nutter has just recently begun to get her due for the part she played in history, especially Johnson County, Kansas, African-American history. Her role in helping desegregate schools predates Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education.
In the 1940’s, in what is now Merriam, Kan., she and another teacher organized a walk-out when black students weren’t allowed to attend a new, all-white South Park Elementary school
Instead, black students were required to attend a substandard elementary, the Walker school. The Webb v. School District No. 90 was decided in 1947 and upheld by the Kansas Supreme court in 1949, allowing black students to attend the South Park School.
During the years the case wound its way thru court, the NAACP and community raised funds to help fund the students’ education.
Ms. Nutter spoke of many things during the short time I was with her.
She spoke of racism, faith and overcoming obstacles, of never giving in to bitterness or anger, but instead channeling those emotions into determination.
While I consider Ms. Nutter a hero, I’m not sure she saw herself that way, saying only that taking a stand was the right thing to do.
And she felt strongly about doing the right thing.
She drove home a lesson my parents tried to teach me – do the right thing, because it is the right thing.
Not the popular thing.
Not the easy thing.
Not the lucrative thing.
But the right thing.
Ms. Nutter retired from the Olathe School district in the early 70’s and passed away in 2004.
But she had a lasting effect on me. As I recall my brief meeting with her, I wonder at how many other lives she touched; and I marvel at the difference her “doing the right thing,” sparked.
She left this world a better place.
That’s something we should all aspire to do.
(First ran 2013)
Retired JoCo educator did the right thing