Ethel K. Mills Academic Achievement Awards
August 26th, 2023

The Education Committee of the NAACP established the Ethel K. Mills Achievement Awards to honor the accomplishments of students in our community.

Ethel K. Mills was born on February 20, 1902, the daughter of an Episcopal minister in Asheville, North Carolina, where she went to school. Shortly after graduation, she began teaching elementary-age African-American students at the Everett Farm School in Transylvania County. In 1923, she transferred to Rosenwald Elementary School in Brevard where she taught for several decades. As part of her career efforts, she enrolled in Winston-Salem Teacher’s College (now Winston-Salem State University), where she earned a teaching certificate by attending summer school sessions. Eventually she served as Principal of Rosenwald, and for fifty years, both as teacher and Principal, she left a deeply positive impression on all her students. When she died on July 22, 2004 at the age of 102, she left a legacy of hard work, dedication and love for her profession, her students and her community. The Achievement Award that bears her name is an enduring testament to that legacy.

In Betty J. Reed’s book The Brevard Rosenwald School, she highlights the many achievements of Cornelius Hunt, longtime activist and public official. Born in 1919, this grandson of slaves attended the Rosenwald School in the 30s and was a major force in the struggle for civil rights and an active participant in civic life in Brevard throughout his life.

Hunt fought for voters’ rights for African-Americans and strove to change the many sources of discrimination within our community. In spite of the potential dangers this civil rights activist faced, Cornelius Hunt never wavered in his efforts for equality for all.

One of his early public service positions was on the Hendersonville School Board’s Advisory Board. (Some of you may not know that, in the late 50s, Brevard was still busing their African-American high school students to Hendersonville so that Brevard High School could remain segregated.)

Cornelius Hunt was the first president of the Transylvania Citizens Improvement Organization, a group he helped found. In her book, Reed mentions Hunt’s leadership in integrating the public schools, equalizing services at the local hospital, and desegregating events at the Ecusta plant.

Fearless and determined, Cornelius Hunt was respected by all for his willingness to stand up for those who couldn’t and lead those who could. He knew early on that it was imperative to be in the public eye, and so he ran for City Council in 1973 and later served as Mayor Pro Tem until his death in 1990. His history was filled with service: Habitat for Humanity, the American Cancer Society, the Red Cross, and the Mary C. Jenkins Center among others.