By Dana Stubbs – Special to the Navarro County Gazette
With the passing of Mable (Cook) Scott on Dec. 7, 2020, Corsicana lost a fine and intelligent pillar of the community.
This beautiful lady made many wonderful childhood memories at the small three bedroom white frame house on the Cook family farm at Elm Flat. The picturesque farm bordered Chambers creek just south of Kerens, Texas.
There was a fireplace in the family room, and space enough for the three Cook children to play games on the floor with their parents or other neighborhood children. The house had a very large yard. Many Sunday afternoons were spent living a childhood life that Miss Mable said she “would not have traded for nothing.” Her favorite games were marbles, hopscotch, and she was known to have jumped rope for hours on end.
She was the baby of the family with one sister, Lola, and one brother, Harlee. Her parents, Howard and Vernita Cook, were cotton farmers. They raised everything but salt and sugar. They did not have a garden. Gardens were only four or five rolls.
They grew their vegetables in what was called a truck patch. The truck patch was very large, and had fruit and pecan trees. Mr. Cook built a red brick storm cellar where they would store foodstuffs year round. Mable never did like tilling the dirt, but she did it because her parents told her to do it, and you did everything your parents requested.
Before they left the farm, she was picking fifty pounds of cotton a day for her father.
The Cooks were members of the Woods Chapel AME church where she was baptized at the age of 10. Church was very important to the family. Her maternal grandmother, her mother, and her sister all played the piano for their respective churches for over 30 years. Mable played for her church for five years. Her passion was the piano. She wanted to teach piano, but it never worked out for her.
Mable started first grade at the Elm Flat school. The building was large and white with five rooms and three teachers. The teachers were Mattie Womack, Mr. Jackson, and Annie Beaver.
When Mable was 10 years old, her father took a job in Corsicana. He moved the family to the city, and life changed drastically. Mr. Cook made ice cream at the ice cream plant on Commerce Street near the Starlight Theatre and Pleas U Candy Company.
The Cook children were enrolled in school in Corsicana. Mable’s favorite subject was math, and in high school she dated the football star. The school did not have a cafeteria, so at lunch break they had to walk to the nearby cafés; Allen and Ozella Fair’s Hamburgers, Elias’, Blue Heaven, or Just Rite Hamburgers who made a chili burger for 10 cents that was out of this world.
At G.W. Jackson High School, students were only allowed to use the side doors of the building. The front door was reserved for seniors only. During her entire career at this school, Mable strived to be a senior so she could walk through the front door of G. W. Jackson High.
When she married her school mate, Bob Scott, they moved into the house where Bob was born. Bob grew up in Corsicana and attended twelve years at Jackson, where his favorite subject was science. He was a little guy and was not very strong, making Bob not good at sports.
Bob went to Bishop College in Marshall, Texas, for his undergraduate degree. In 1950, Bob attended Prairie View A&M University attempting to get his Master’s when he was drafted into the service.
After training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma with additional training in Arkansas, Bob received basic medical training at San Antonio. He was attached to the all African American 24th Infantry unit.
In Korea, Bob was in the first unit that was integrated and attached to the 567th division, and was promoted to Lieutenant in the medical corps where he had charge of the ambulance unit. He was transferred to the 559th and served as commander of ten ambulance and five bus medial transports. They moved injured soldiers to rail heads and other medical units for care.
At one time, Bob’s division was stationed at a large field hospital. He served at Yeongdeungpo Korea for over a year. He served for six months as a first aid officer on the front lines of “Jane Russell Hill.” His crew worked very carefully in the mine fields, where they retrieved wounded soldiers for transport to hospitals. His last year of service was spent at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, as a training officer.
In January, 1953, Bob Scott was discharged with two Bronze Stars, a Korean ribbon, a presidential commendation, and a combat medical badge, among several other awards.
Bob finished his administration and supervision studies at Boston University. After he married Mable, he inherited The People’s Funeral Home from his aunt. The decision was made to keep the funeral home, and he went back to school in Dallas at Gupton Jones School of Mortuary Science.
The new funeral home owner campaigned hard to get the love of his life to get her mortuary license and the two became partners, not only in life, but also in work. At this time in history, the funeral homes also supplied ambulance services to their communities, so the couple also had to learn that business.
After twelve years, they decided to build a new building for their funeral home and ambulance service. They each took pen to paper and drew their ideas for the funeral home. They took the best ideas of both sketches, and had the first funeral home built in the city. Up to that point, all the funeral homes in Corsicana (for black or white residents) were located in old homes.
The grand opening of the new $27,000 ($168,090 in 2020), Scott’s Funeral Home was held at the end of April of 1972. The day was a memory the family would never forget, and over 500 residents dropped by to show support for the Scotts.
The Scotts continued the business over the next four decades.
A few years before building the new funeral home, Bob became involved in local politics. The equal rights movement across the country brought to the forefront a project that Bob had felt strongly about. He soon found himself taking on Navarro Junior College. It was his opinion that if a resident of the town had to pay school taxes to the college, they most certainly deserved the right to attend, work, or serve the said college. Shortly after, his daughter, Faith, became the first African American to serve on the board of the school.
In 1969, Bob became the first African American to serve as a Corsicana city commissioner. Over the next several years, he was appointed to chair the Corsicana Housing Authority and he served as Corsicana’s first African American Mayor Pro Tem.
Before Bob’s death on Aug. 1, 2018, he and Mable were both very proud of the leadership they were blessed to hold, and the difference their lives made in their community. Bob and Mable gave all their credit to God, but Bob added he could not have made it without Mable.