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94-year-old receives diploma from Hazel Green High School

MADISON COUNTY, Ala. — Grace Lee McClure Smith received her diploma from Hazel Green High School in a special ceremony on Wednesday.

With the graduation season coming to a close, Madison County Schools wanted to honor just one more graduate. After 79 years, Smith is able to move her tassel from one side to the other.

Officials from Madison County Schools including Director of PR Tim Hall, Hazel Green principal Quinn Headen, and superintendent Allen Perkins showed their appreciation for Grace Smith during a personal ceremony.

On June 2, 2021, Grace became Madison County’s oldest high school graduate ever. At 94 years old, she walked across the Hazel Green stage to get her diploma.

“It’s better late than never, isn’t it?” said Grace.

In 1942, Smith dropped out of Hazel Green High School at 16 years old to marry her sweetheart, who went to fight in World War II shortly thereafter.

But that didn’t keep her from the Madison County School System.

“She came back and for more than 30 years, she drove a school bus in Madison County, she served our students and got them safely to school and safely home for 30 years,” said Tim Hall.

“Growing up when I was in school, I actually rode her bus to and from school,” said Erin Wilson, who is Grace’s granddaughter, a teacher at Legacy Elementary School, and the mastermind behind the graduation ceremony.

“She was a role model for a lot of kids and she’s always telling the stories,” said Wilson. “She may not remember faces, but she will remember names and addresses of where she picked them up and dropped them off.”

After years of service, and a lifetime of giving back, Madison County was able to give something back to Grace.

“I feel like I don’t deserve it,” she said. “There’s a lot more people that are much more deserving than me. I’m just doing my job, love it. I love most of it most of the time. Good times!”

Grace isn’t only leaving a legacy with Madison County Schools. She has many more legacies… 49 to be exact. Her sister tells News 19 that Grace as 7 children, 16 grandchildren, and 26 great grandchildren.

Congratulations Grace!