October 3, 2013
Monday marks the 100th birthday of LaGrange resident Manita Ham Graves.
She was born in Brantley County in 1913, the oldest of three children and the only girl. Her family lived in several small towns in South Georgia before her father, who worked for the railroad, settled in Nahunta.
Graves met her future husband Omer E. Graves in 1928.
“When I was almost 15 and starting my last year of school, my father agreed to provide room and board for the new teacher who was also to be the new pastor at our church,” she said. “I was upset at hearing this because I just knew that my days of having my friends over to sing and dance around our piano were over. When I opened the door and saw this handsome man at the door, I thought to myself, I am going to marry this man.”
She married Omer E. Graves 18 months later on April, 29, 1929.
Her new husband insisted she continue her schooling, so she went to Statesboro where she earned her teacher’s certificate. In 1931 she joined her husband as a teacher in Brantley County. In 1933 she gave birth to their only child, Raphael.
In 1935, Omer and Manita Graves, with toddler in tow, moved to Louisville, Ky., where Omer Graves entered the Baptist Seminary. Manita Graves enrolled as well and earned a degree in music. After graduation from seminary, they returned to Georgia, where Omer Graves served as pastor at a number of small-town Baptist churches, including Woodbury, Alma, Claxton and Nashville, Ga.
Manita Graves always was active in the churches where her husband was pastor. She also found time to teach piano to many of the children living in the area. To bring in a little extra money she did some freelance reporting for the local papers. During Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency she had the opportunity to interview him several times when he made trips to Warm Springs.
They had been in Nashville for about 15 years when Omer Graves accepted a position as pastor of the First Baptist Church in Lawrenceville. This allowed them to be closer to their son, who had entered Emory Medical school. They remained in Lawrenceville until 1959, when Omer Graves accepted a position as associate pastor at the First Baptist Church in LaGrange. They purchased their first home and Manita Graves continues to reside in this home.
Their son Raphael married and he and his wife, Connie, had two boys and a girl, which delighted Manita and her husband. The two younger grandchildren married and each of them have two children.
Manita Graves has three great granddaughters and one great grandson. Her husband, Omer, did not live to see any of their four great grandchildren. He died in 1985, before they were born.
Her oldest grandson, Raphael Jr., lives with and cares for Manita in her home.