Minnie Gaston

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Minnie Gaston

Minnie L. Gardner Gaston (born April 3, 1909 in Pintlala, Lowndes County; died June 30, 2000) was the second wife of businessman A. G. Gaston and the founder and president of the Booker T. Washington Business College.

Minnie was the 4th of 15 children born to Billie and Roberta Gardner, who owned an operated a 1,000-acre farm in Lowndes County. She studied at Alabama State University, then graduated from Tuskegee Institute, and later attended New York University. She worked as a school teacher and befriended Creola Gaston, A. G.'s first wife. Creola died in 1938. In 1940 Gaston recruited Minnie to operate the business college he had founded to train potential employees for his businesses. The college was not profitable, as Minnie found herself often forgiving tuition debts, but did succeed in its mission of providing opportunities for Black students in business.

They married in 1943 and moved into a large, new brick home, called Robin Wood. The A. G. Gaston Building, completed in 1960, was planned to accommodate the needs of the business college. Gaston also served as an instructor for the Leadership Training Institute at Daniel Payne College.

Gaston was one of the founding members of the Birmingham Chapter of the National Council of Negro Women in February 1956. As a leader in that organization, she attended the 1966 White House Conference on Civil Rights. In testimony before several congressional committees, Gaston lobbied for federal loans to help students access vocational training. Her efforts bore fruit with the passage of the National Vocational Loan Insurance Act of 1965. She was subsequently appointed to the 8-member Advisory Council on Insured Loans to Vocational Students.

Gaston was also known for her generosity, especially in funding Christmas gifts for underprivileged children at nursing schools. She was a member of the board of the Cahaba Girl Scout Council, the Periclean Club, the Twentieth Century Club, and Alpha Kappa Alpha. She was also a trustee of St John AME Church and a member of the AME Ministers Alliance.

Just after midnight on the morning of January 24, 1976 she and her husband were assaulted and A. G. Gaston was abducted from the house, handcuffed and forced into the back of his own 1972 Cadillac El Dorado under a pile of blankets. Minnie, also cuffed and suffering a dislocated shoulder, regained consciousness and alerted one of A. G.'s businesses, Smith & Gaston Funeral Home, which in turn contacted police. She later said that she had forgotten to turn on the alarm system that night.

The car was located soon later with Gaston still inside. The driver, Charles Lewis Clayborn Jr was taken into custody and later convicted and sentenced to life in prison. The Gastons were treated at Baptist Medical Center Montclair. Minnie, in particular, remained haunted by the brutal attack and arranged for guards to again patrol the grounds around the clock.

A. G. Gaston died in 1996 and Minnie died in 2000.