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Former longtime teacher turns 100

Annie L. Souder spent 44 years teaching in Clayton County elementary schools. She celebrates her 100th birthday Saturday.

Annie L. Souder spent 44 years teaching in Clayton County elementary schools. She celebrates her 100th birthday Saturday.

In 1912, the Titanic sank in the Atlantic on its maiden voyage, Juliette Gordon Low started a group for girls in Savannah and Woodrow Wilson was elected president.

In Clayton County that same year, Annie L. Freeman Souder was born June 23 to the son of a slave. Plowing the fields south of Jonesboro along the road named for her family, Souder’s life changed forever with a visit from an educator.

“Somebody from Jonesboro High School came to the farm and told my mother’s parents that she was too smart not to go to college,” said Souder’s only daughter, Joyce Pritchard.

With that visit, Souder enrolled in college and graduated with a teaching degree from Fort Valley State College. She spent the next 44 years educating Clayton County students, first at Jonesboro Elementary and then J.W. Arnold before retiring from Tara Elementary.

In between teaching classes and singing in the church choir, Souder found time in 1946 to marry J.C. Souder and have two children, Donald and Joyce. Together, the couple helped develop Clayton’s senior citizens program and remained active at Andrews Chapel United Methodist Church. J.C. Souder died in 1979.

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Special photo Retired longtime Clayton County teacher Annie L. Souder in her Cadillac. Souder turns 100 Saturday.

On Saturday, the Freeman-Souder family will quietly mark Annie Souder’s 100th birthday and rehash old stories.

“We’re going to keep it small,” said Pritchard. “We wanted to do something bigger but we’re trying to keep from moving her around too much. She can’t walk but otherwise she’s doing pretty well. We’ll have dinner and then cake and ice cream before we all pay tribute to her.”

Souder set quite a legacy in eduction. Pritchard became a teacher and spent 37 years in Clayton County schools before retiring in 2009. Pritchard’s daughter is in her eighth year teaching language arts at M.D. Roberts Middle School.

“I have great admiration for my mother,” said Pritchard. “Whatever she has, I hope I have a little bit of it. She is a great mother, a great teacher. Even now, people remember her teaching. She’s taught generations of students in Clayton.”

Although Souder doesn’t remember him, her paternal grandfather, Anderson Freeman, was a slave. As the oldest member of the Freeman family reunion, Souder kept the history of who attended the gatherings, which have been held the first Saturday in August for the past 104 years.

“She has sat and told me family stories from the past so I could see her life through her eyes,” said Pritchard.

Since slowing down considerably in the past 10 years or so, Souder spends her days listening to Pritchard play melodies for her on the piano. She enjoys religious television programming.

“We sing and she enjoys all that,” said Pritchard. “She’s greatly loved and worked very, very hard her whole life.”