Reading through this piece that was written about a wonder lady, Gee Gee Dickens, brings back old memories of friends from Southwest Atlanta – when I first arrived in this city. Georgia taught me how to play bridge. All the while the bridge lessons were going on, she was talking about something of culture – the art exhibitions coming to town, the symphony, or the social and civic clubs she belonged to. She was a lady on the move – and she gave a lot to the arts community of this city. The history-makers article was written in 2011.
“A Wealth of Wisdom: Legendary African American Elders Speak,” a coffee table book incorporating many biographical memories of very important and learned people, edited by Camille O. Cosby and Renee Poussaint, includes the wisdom of Georgia Dickens. “I was honored to have been included in this book with this prestigious group of individuals. The trip to Washington, DC with Mrs. Cosby was one of the highlights of my life,” said Mrs. Dickens.
Georgia Nelle Smith Dickens is a native Atlantan – born to Reverend Harvey Miles Smith, a Morehouse man, and Stella Bryant Smith, a graduate of Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University). Gee Gee, as her friends and family call her, was born on December 24, 1920, in a thirteen-room house located on Chestnut Street that her grandfather, a contractor, built for his family. Both of Gee Gee’s parents instilled in their children the thrust for knowledge, the sense of responsibility to give back to their community and an abiding respect for other people.
“I just loved my childhood and the teenage years because I grew up in the midst of Atlanta University and all of that education and cultural exposure,” said Mrs. Dickens speaking about her youth. Growing up in Atlanta, surrounded by the protected world of the colleges and universities in the Atlanta University Center, a student was able to benefit from an environment replete with opportunities to interact with distinguished mentors to uplift their horizons and broaden their future. Gee Gee took advantage of these opportunities and her interest and appreciation for the cultural arts soared.
Graduating from Spelman College in 1942, Gee Gee married her childhood sweetheart, Robert Dickens, a Morehouse graduate, and began her career as a teacher in Albany, Georgia at Madison High School. Returning to Atlanta, she went to work with the Atlanta Public School System and taught at Young Street and later at Grove Park Elementary Schools. Forty-three years later, in 1982, Gee Gee retired from teaching and began another career – for which she is most known throughout Greater Atlanta – a dedicated community volunteer, with a special niche for the arts.
The community service volunteer career of Georgia Dickens dates back to her college days but it bloomed just after her retirement in the early eighties. To name a few organizations to which she gave her time, she has been involved with: Gate City Day Nursery Association, Auxiliary President; Alliance Children’s Theater Guild, Vice President of Membership and Hostess Committee Chair; Atlanta Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Chairperson of Arts and Letters Committee; National Black Arts Festival, Chairperson of Volunteers and Visual Arts Committees; High Museum of Art, Volunteer Docent for the Jacob Lawrence and Picasso Exhibits, and member of the Community Relations Committee. She also chaired the United Negro College Fund Telethon and co-chaired the Volunteers Telephone Committee and the National Democratic Convention.
Her membership in community organizations includes Girl Friends Atlanta Chapter, charter member; Metropolitan Atlanta Chapter of 100 Black Women, charter member; National Smart Set Atlanta Chapter, charter member; Spelman College Alumni Association; and the National Political Congress of Black Women. This writer is fortunate to have known Gee Gee for more than thirty years and our relationship became a “mutual admiration society” while she volunteered and served with the Metro Atlanta Coalition of 100 Black Women. This lady is dedicated and dependable, considerate and cooperative, gracious and giving; and when Gee Gee gives you her word that she is going to do something for your cause, you can take it to the bank – and draw interest.
Mrs. Dickens has received numerous awards for her service which include, the Golden Girls of Spelman College; Women Looking Ahead Community Service Award; Ambassador’s Award from Essence Magazine; Certificate of Achievement from the Carter Center; Presidents Award from Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc; Outstanding Service Award from Atlanta Public Schools; Outstanding Volunteer from the United Negro College Fund Telethon; the Alumnae Achievement Award in Civic Service from Spelman College; the Paul Newman Award from the Alliance Children’s Theater Guild, and the National Visionary Leadership Award. She was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June, 2005.
As a member of Friendship Baptist Church, Gee Gee was an associate of the UpLifters Club and remains an active member of Friendship to this day. Mrs. Dickens is widowed with one son, Robert D. Dickens, Jr. She has two grandsons, Kevin and Alex, who are the lights of her life.
And so with 90 good years under her belt, Gee Gee Dickens has just begun to slow down a little. She still has much “ground game” going to her monthly club meetings and volunteering for her favorite causes – the arts. The Atlanta High Museum recently honored Gee Gee (July, 2011) for her dedication to the arts and for her untiring volunteerism. Let me tell you, she is still making history.