When the GLEAMNS Dr. Benjamin E. Mays Historical Preservation Site opened its doors more than a decade ago our goals were to focus on four things: Marketing and advertising, site maintenance, site expansion, and erecting a statue of Dr. Mays to serve as the centerpiece of the Site. All of these goals have been achieved in whole or in part.
Our vision for the GLEAM NS Dr. Benjamin E. Mays Historical Preservation Site was that of a vibrant center with a local, state, and national reputation for educating people about the extraordinary and legendary life of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays. The primary mission of the Mays Site is now to execute this vision. This mission of education and information is accomplished through three platforms: Living History, the Museum, and Research. This education focuses on how a son of a former slave, who became a tenant farmer, summoned the inner will and drive to obtain an education in spite of his early environment of poverty, Jim Crow segregation, racial discrimination and violence, and an unsupportive father. Two quotes of Dr. Mays come to mind as I reflect upon his life and the obstacles that he overcame, and the decade of obstacles that the historical preservation site bearing his name has
"It is not your environment, it is you- the quality of your mind, the integrity of your soul and the determination of your will that will decide your future and shape your life."
"You are what you aspire to be, and not what you are now, you are what you do with your mind, and you are what you do with your youth."
Tens of thousands of visitors have come to the Mays Site in the past decade. They have experienced the life and legacy of Dr. Mays through our Living History, Museum, and through Research. Visitors experience 20th century American life with the replica of a 1900's era tenant farm, the reality of late 20th century education when they enter the one-room Burns-Springs Schoolhouse, and gain a deep appreciation for the life of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays by viewing the many photographs and accompanying wall narrative in the museum explaining key elements of his life. The Mays Site is also used by educators, students, and others to research the life of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays.
It has been my honor and privilege to serve as the director for the past five years. I am thankful for the outpouring of community, state, and national support that the Mays Site has received during my tenure here. I extend my heartfelt appreciation to Dr. Joseph Patten (former CEO of GLEAM NS Human Resource Commission) and Mr. Loy Sartin (former director of the Mays Site) for their vision and tireless commitment to the work of curating the Site. To Mrs. Betty Boles (GLEAMNS Board of Commissioners, Chair) and Mrs. Shunna Vance Jeter (GLEAMNS Chief Executive Officer) for their leadership and commitments that make it possible to perform the necessary work of the Mays Site. To the many community partners who have supported the Mays Site for more than a decade.
As we continue the work of sharing the life and legacy of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays we are mindful of his admonition concerning the stewardship of time. The poem, Life is Just A Minute, was often quoted by Dr. Mays as a reminder through recitation that eternity is in our usage of time.
Lord, that I might find favor in thy sight through the years to come as I continue my service as the Director of the GLEAMNS Dr. Benjamin E. Mays Historical Preservation Site.
In His Service,
Christopher B. Thomas,
Director GLEAMNS Dr. Benjamin E. Mays Historical Preservation Site