Gradye Brooke Summerour
1889 - 1972
Benjamin Franklin Summerour
1891 - 1982
Gradye Brooke Summerour was a multi-talented pioneer worker in the Seventh-day Adventist Church who taught briefly in the beginning years of today's Southern Adventist University. She and her husband, Ben, later worked tirelessly as laypersons, he for many years as a member of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference executive committee and the Southern Missionary College board of trustees, and she as an active supporter in numerous SDA school-related activities.
Gradye was born in Milton County, Georgia, on September 3, 1889, the oldest of eight children of Jefferson Prescott and Maude Howell Brooke. She was one of the first diploma graduates in music from Southern Training School, now Southern Adventist University, earning a diploma in stenography in 1907. She was hired to teach at STS that fall and completed its program in music that year.
She returned to Georgia in 1909, where she worked in the conference office while studying music at the Atlanta Conservatory. Upon graduating with a diploma in piano in 1911, she was hired to teach both stenography and music at STS but instead taught only music. The board, pleased with her work, voted unanimously to rehire her for the next year, but Brooke declined because she, like other faculty in those years, had not been able to teach for extended lengths of time, due to illness caused by poor working conditions.
She did return two years later, in 1914, to teach but then left as the year ended to attend Washington Missionary College, now Washington Adventist University, where she completed a bachelor's degree in music two years later. While she was away at WMC, Southern Training School moved from Graysville, Tennessee, to Collegedale, Tennessee, and was renamed Southern Junior College. She was hired to teach music at SJC in 1917, but left after one year to marry Benjamin Franklin Summerour, a businessman, on October 16, 1918. They settled in Georgia where his cottonseed business was located.
Ben sent copies of Present Truth with shipments of his seeds as part of a successful outreach program that yielded a harvest beyond that of his seeds, a program well-known throughout the South. He became deeply involved as a member of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference Executive Committee, serving for over forty years, and was a member of the Southern Missionary College board of trustee for 26 years.
Gradye participated with Ben in outreach programs in Georgia and was active in alumni activites at both WMC and SMC, serving in 1939-1940 as president of the SMC alumni association. They and their children financially supported projects at Georgia-Cumberland Academy, WMC, and SMC, the latter leading to a building at SMC named Summerour Hall, which now houses the education and psychology programs.
The Summerours would have a son, Brooke, and two daughters, Susan (Sue) Magoon and Elizabeth (Jane ) Ralls. At the insistence of their mother, the children all took music lessons while young. The family tradition in music continued with Brooks, an anesthesiologist, as a singer and cellist, and his oldest son, Robert, who studied voice and guitar and then taught himself banjo as a teenager (see his biography at this website) Jane, an accomplished violinist, completed degrees at in violin at WMC in 1946 and 1959 and married Walter Aurelius Ralls, a history professor at WMC (see Jane Ralls biography at this website).
Jane, an accomplished violinist, completed degrees at in violin at WMC in 1946 and 1959 and married Walter Aurelius Ralls, a history professor at WMC (see Jane Ralls biography at this website).
Gradye and Ben were living in Norcross, Georgia, when she died on March 17, 1972, at age 82. A Gradye Brooke Summerour Scholarship for music students was established at SAU at the time of her death. Ben died ten years later, on March 9, 1982, at age 91.
Sources: Based on information in The Story of Southern College 1892-1992: A Century of Challenge, 41; interview with Jane Summerour Ralls, 2007. Ralls pursued a career in music, teaching at WMC from 1952 to 1959 and in the Fairfax County, Virginia school system from 1972 to 1988; Maude Howell Brooke obituary, Southern Tidings, May 15, 1934, 14; Georgia, Marriage Records, Ancestry.com; Ben F. Summerour obituary, Adventist Review, July 8, 1982, 23; Grady Brooke Summerour, obituary, Review and Herald, July 6, 1972, 22; Ben F. Summerour obituary, Southern Tidings, May 1982, 29.