Educator/civic leader succumbs
Just several days before her 81st birthday, Honorable Lethia Sherman Hankins passed away on Monday, December 29, 2014. The retired educator, beloved public servant and community activist, was born on January 2, 1934 in Georgetown, South Carolina to Benjamin Sherman and Mary Flowers Sherman. The Sherman family traversed to Wilmington, North Carolina when she was an infant, so she considered Wilmington her home. Mrs. Hankins attended and graduated from Williston Industrial High School in 1951. She went on to matriculate at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. Mrs. Hankins was later married and was the mother of three children.
After graduating from North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, North Carolina, she became an English teacher in Hallsboro, North Carolina before returning to Wilmington in 1959, where she began teaching at Williston Senior High School, her alma mater. She taught numerous subjects at Williston including Yearbook Publications until Williston closed. Of the abrupt closing, she once told The Wilmington Journal, “[There was] a feeling of resentment first of all, because the community knew absolutely nothing about that. There were no community meetings, no input. Bam, it was closed. Hankins said, “They were beautiful years. I cherish them, I remember them because those are the years that prepared me for who I am and what I am.”
In 1968, she was transferred to John T. Hoggard High School following the integration of schools. Although it was a tumultuous period in local history, she actively organized “Speak Outs,” which gave students an outlet to communicate with each other about the ugliness of racism. Years later, when the local community recognized a desperate need for racial healing, one-hundred years after the 1898 Wilmington riots, Mrs. Hankins was in the midst. Interracial Dialogue Study Circles were formed, and as the program grew stronger, it was handed over to the YWCA of the Lower Cape Fear to coordinate.
She also taught at John T. Hoggard High School, and E. A. Laney High School, where she served in various capacities until her “retirement” in 1994.
Continuing the legacy of her parents, Mrs. Hankins was also very active in her home church, First Baptist Missionary Church, for over seventy years.
Additionally, Mrs. Hankins was a lifelong member of Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) Sorority’s Alpha Psi Omega Chapter and twice served as President and held numerous offices within this organization. She was a past member of the Wilmington City Council where she served on numerous committees. During her tenure as a member of the Wilmington City Council numerous high profile projects were completed such as the Wilmington Convention Center.
During her lifetime, Mrs. Hankins received recognition for her longtime commitment to the betterment of the community and racial healing. She was the recipient of the YWCA International Dorothy Height Racial Justice Award and the Elderhaus Senior Service Award and a nominee for the YWCA Women of Achievement Award.
Her involvement in other civic organizations include: Co-Chair of the 1898 Foundation for dedication of the 1898 Memorial Park, Chairperson of the New Hanover County Human Relations Commission, Vice-Chairperson of the New Hanover County Library Advisory Board, Chair of the International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies, of Wilmington Voting Precinct # 13, a member of Cape Fear Community College Board of Directors, a member of Wilmington Housing Authority Board of Directors, a member of Board of Directors at the YWCA, a member of Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts Board of Trustees, a member of Commission on African American History, a member of Cape Fear Museum Associates, a member of Democratic Women, a member of Retired Teachers of the Cape Fear Area, a member of the NAACP, and many more.
Mrs. Hankins was loved by many; thus, memories of her will be cherished by many. Longtime friend and fellow educator and community activist, Bertha Todd told The Journal, “Lethia was a friend and co-worker at Williston Senior and John T. Hoggard High Schools. She was also my sorority sister for 40 plus years.
I worked very closely with Lethia when she campaigned for elected offices for the New Hanover County Board of Education and The Wilmington City Council. We also worked together with the efforts of The 1898 Memorial Foundation.
I found Lethia to be a committed and disciplined person as she served humanity in each capacity. She will be remembered as one who left a rich legacy of service to mankind.”
Mrs. Hankins was the mother of three adult children: her daughter, Angela H. Metts (Reverend Owen E. Metts, Sr.) of Bolivia, NC,(two preceded her in death: Harry Benjamin Hankins  and Anita Jacobs Galloway ); the nephew she raised, Derry Flowers (preceded her in death ; she is the grandmother of five Anecia Latoye Jacobs of Raleigh, NC, Owen E. Metts, Jr., Alex Metts (two preceded her in death: Marcus Galloway  and Danielle Johnson ); she is the great-grandmother of Ava Leigh Jacobs of Raleigh, NC. She is also survived by her sister, Beulah Brooks (Willis Brooks [deceased]) of Jacksonville, Florida, aunt Florence Flowers (Stephen Flowers [deceased]), brother-in-laws Zack Davis (Rosalyn) of New York, New York, Clark Davis of New York, New York, Shirley Flowers and Cephus Anderson of Georgetown, SC, Jeraldine Flowers of Charleston, SC, as well as nieces, nephews, cousins and a multitude of other relatives and friends.
Lethia S Hankins’ services will be this Friday, January 02, 2015 at 1:00 at First Baptist Missionary Baptist Church at 520 North 5th Street with Davis Funeral Home in charge.