Tubman exhibit honors Sarah Bailey, Girl Scout pioneer and educator

Girl Scouting pioneer and Bibb County educator Sarah Randolph Bailey is now commemorated with a permanent exhibit on the second floor of the Tubman African American Museum on Walnut Street.

About 70 supporters of Girl Scouts and the Tubman, along with Bailey’s family and friends, turned out Sunday afternoon for the exhibit’s dedication.

“This has been a long time in the making,” said Lee Laughter, chief advancement officer for Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia. Bailey, who died in 1972, exemplified the Girl Scouts’ honorable traditions and willingness to serve the community, she said.

“Some folks wonder all their lives if they’re going to make a difference in the world,” Laughter said. “Sarah Bailey didn’t have to worry.”

After brief speeches and a flag ceremony by Girl Scout Troops 60116 and 60206, people filed passed the exhibit. It includes a biographical sign, Bailey’s Girl Scout dress, a picture of her, a display case containing several awards and her beret, and a pewter plate from her 2012 induction into Georgia Women of Achievement.

Barbara Clowers, who also taught in Bibb County schools, said she worked with Bailey 60 years ago. Bailey began the first African American Girl Scout chapter in Macon, even serving on the organization’s national board of directors, but also is remembered for her decades of work as an educator and role model, Clowers said.

“She was a wonderful lady,” Clowers said. “I never heard her raise her voice, not even to the big boys she was teaching.”

Many people in the crowd offered brief descriptions of how they remembered Bailey: Best grandmother. Standing for values and education. A friendly neighbor. A lifelong teacher. Relentless in recruiting volunteers. “Mama.” An authoritative voice. Leader at many summers of Girl Scout camp, which was eventually named for her.

Shirley Williams said Bailey got her involved in Girl Scouting at age 8, and that activity has continued for 58 years.

“I have a troop. I’m still in scouting,” Williams said.

She worked with Bailey on arts and crafts, attended camp, and years later often drove her home from the Girl Scout office, she said.

“She was like a mama away from home,” Williams said.

Williams said her own three children grew up going to Girl Scout camp -- including both boys -- and she still feels Bailey’s influence on her own life.

“She made little ladies out of us,” Williams said.

Bailey worked for 25 years as a teacher and principal, according to her biography on the Georgia Women of Achievement website. The Girl Scouts didn’t allow black troops until the 1940s, so in 1935 Bailey started organizing YWCA Girl Reserve groups, which served the same function. Macon had 15 Girl Reserve groups within two years, and Bailey became Macon chairwoman of the Girl Scouts’ central committee when that group opened up membership in 1945, according to the website.

Camp Sarah Bailey was named for her in 1961, and Macon’s Girl Scout Center became the Sarah Bailey Service Center in 1994.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.