Black History Month: Katie Brantley

JACKSON, Tenn. — For 84 years, Ms. Katie Brantley has lived in Madison County. She grew up near Riverside Cemetery.

“We did what we did and the kids all went to school and we all got along,” Brantley, now a Madison County commissioner, said.

She said growing up, school was good, but she never thought she’d get to go to college until a friend told her about a beauty pageant.

“And she said to me on a Wednesday, ‘Why don’t you get into the pageant?’ And she said, ‘If you can, win, and whoever wins gets a scholarship to Lane College,'” Brantley said.

She had just two days to get everything she needed so she headed downtown.

“I just made my way down there looking in the window,” Brantley said.

That’s when she says two ladies at the store offered to help her with getting a white dress and jewelry.

She says her grandmother was against her competing in the pageant, but her grandfather was on her side.

“He hit down on the floor and he said, ‘Let the girl try. You don’t know, she may win that thing,'” Brantley said.

Brantley says on that Friday she got all dolled up in her white dress, shoes and jewelry. She left her house and walked past Riverside Cemetery to the armory building where the Civic Center now stands.

“I kept a stepping and I got in there and there were about 30 of us,” Brantley said.

After a few rounds, she was in the top eight.

“She hit me and she says, ‘Katie you won, they called your number, number 7,’ and they snapped my picture looking down at number 7,” Brantley said.

And winning the pageant meant she got to go to college.

After graduating from Lane, Brantley was a teacher and then worked for the Department of Agriculture, but says she’ll never forget the women who helped her get that dress for her pageant.

“That’s my story. I wish I could go back and tell them how grateful I was,” Brantley said.

Brantley has also been a county commissioner for 21 years and says she plans to keep serving as long as she can.

Categories: Local News, News