Famous Georgia educator Martha Berry was born in Rome, Georgia on October 7 1866. She became interested in educating the rural children of North Georgia as a result of teaching Sunday school in a log cabin on her family estate. Berry soon saw the need for further commitment to education, leading to the construction of a new school building. She taught there and helped fund the salaries of the other two teachers. From these humble beginnings rose a philanthropic career in education rivaled by few. Berry raised funds for the construction of a Boys Industrial School and the Martha Berry School for Girls. Eventually her efforts led to the founding of Berry Academy and Berry College, providing education from pre-school through graduate school on a beautiful 27,000 acre campus. Altogether she raised over $25 million for her schools.
Berry was honored for and encouraged in her efforts by Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin Roosevelt. Her first large endowment ($50,000) came from Andrew Carnegie, the largest ($4 million) from Henry Ford. But Berry did not rely solely on large investors; much of the money she raised came from small, anonymous donors and from women’s groups. She received numerous honors in her lifetime, including being named “Distinguished Citizen of Georgia” by the General Assembly, the “American who did more than any other for humanity” by Variety Club, and a listing in Good Housekeeping as one of the twelve greatest American women. Martha Berry died in Atlanta, Georgia on February 27, 1942.