CLARKSDALE – After five years of working to build Coahoma Community College’s offsite health and science facility in honor of the first female trustee for the college, community members, city and state officials, and educators filled a packed room for the ribbon cutting ceremony in honor of Rena Butler’s legacy.

“I am truly humbled and grateful to receive such a remarkable honor bestowed upon me. My heart is saturated with joy,” said Butler, a Clarksdale native and retired educator.

“This act of recognition will forever linger in my heart.”

Representatives spoke in high regards of Butler on Monday at the unveiling of the $1.3 million dollar Rena Butler Health and Sciences Annex located at 917 Ohio Street here.

This annex will house paramedic and polysomnography programs along with an assimilation lab, said Beverly Overton, Dean of Health Sciences at CCC.

“When we really and truly decided to make the selection to name the building after (Rena Butler), when you look across the cabinet of people in our community that’s deserving just from an octave nerve or eyesight view, you cannot find one who is more deserving,” said Dr. Valmadge Towner, president of CCC.

“If you had a checklist of items that would determine who’s deserving, it would go right back to this honoree.”

For over 40 years, Butler worked in the Coahoma County School District, and she was the first female to serve on the CCC’s Board of Trustees.

“I think the most important item is to give people roses while they are living,” said Clarksdale Mayor Chuck Espy.

“You were on the front lines sister Butler for a long time for women’s rights. We’re entering into a new frontier in 2018 about women’s rights and we need to make sure women stand up completely, and by naming this facility it breaks additional barriers in the state of Mississippi to honor African-American women.”

Johnny Newson, Vice-President of the Coahoma County Board of Supervisors echoed Espy’s statements.

“Ms. Butler, normally a building is dedicated to an individual after they have passed or gone on … I’d like to indicate one thing, when children graduate now with health sciences from this facility, they can say they attended the Rena Butler Health Sciences facility.”

Past presidents of the community college expressed how deserving Butler is of the honor.

Dr. McKinley Martin, former president of Coahoma Community College, addressed the audience to say that in any endeavor Butler takes on, she always exhibits concern for those in need through healthcare services.

Dr. Vivian Presley, past president of Coahoma Community College, gives remarks about Rena Butler. Credit: Aallyah Wright, Mississippi Today

“She has always represented the board in a professional, elegant, gracious and dignified manner,” said Dr. Vivian Presley, also a former president of CCC.

“If we could really add up all of the board meetings she has attended, if we can add up all the thousands of school activities she came to and supported, if we could add up all of the speeches she has given on behalf of the board of trustees at the institution, each one of us can see how deserving she is to have this facility named in her honor.”

Butler has worn many hats over the years including national director for the Mississippi National Education Association (NEA) and vice-president and secretary-treasurer for the Mississippi Association of Educators (MAE).

She currently serves as a bailiff for the Coahoma County Circuit Clerk’s office, secretary for the Coahoma County Democratic Party, treasurer/secretary of Zeta Psi Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, founder of Rena’s Curb Side Meals, member of the American Cancer Society, Aspire Board for North Delta Mississippi, and a host of others.

Other recognition and awards she’s received for service include, but are not limited to the Alpha Phi Alpha Martin Luther King Super Leader Award, the MAE Vice-President Award, the COI Council Board of Director’s Award.

Butler added that this momentous occasion has challenged her to continue to be concerned for those who are less fortunate and she will continue to strive.

“I feel like a champion,” said Butler as the crowd laughed. “Now, I think I can fight more rounds in the ring of love and compassion.”

“Rena, I know your friends and family are proud of you and may I speak for the proud faculty that worked for you … all I can say relative to the building being dedicated and named after you, ‘it’s about time’ ,” said past CCC president Martin.

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Aallyah Wright is a native of Clarksdale, and was a Mississippi Delta reporter covering education and local government. She was also a weekly news co-host on WROX Radio (97.5 FM) and collaborator with StoryWorks/Reveal Labs from the Center for Investigative Reporting. Aallyah has a bachelor’s in journalism with minors in communications and theater from Delta State University. She is a 2018 Educating Children in Mississippi Fellow at the Hechinger Report, and co-founder of the Mississippi Delta Public Newsroom.