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Anita J. Ponder

Anita J. Ponder is president of the Macon City Council and director of education at the Tubman African American Museum in Macon, Georgia, the largest museum of its kind in the Southeast. Prior to serving on the city council, Ponder served as judge of the Municipal Court in her hometown of Fort Valley, Georgia. Ponder was born April 16, 1961, the oldest of three children of Clifford and Margie Ponder of Fort Valley, Georgia.

Ponder received her B.S. degree in journalism/communications from Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, and her J.D. degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston, Texas. She served as editor of the Law Review during her second year of law school. Ponder formed a lucrative partnership with a fellow classmate and practiced criminal and personal injury law immediately following law school. She resigned from the firm and returned to her hometown to fulfill her life long ambition to work in the public sector. Ponder became judge of the Municipal Court in Fort Valley, a position that she held for four and a half years. She volunteered at the Tubman African American Museum in Macon, Georgia, while it was in its infancy. She helped the museum to expand its exhibits nationally and internationally, and became director of its educational programs.

Ponder was appointed to the Macon City Council in 1998. In her role as president of the council, she has aided in the revitalization of the city through the neighborhood redevelopment plan. She continues to play a major role in the construction of the multi-million dollar facility that will house the Tubman Museum. Annually, in December, Ponder and friends host the Holiday Feast for All that feeds community members during the holiday season. Ponder is the editor of a recently published book: Standing on Their Shoulders: A Celebration of the Wisdom of African American Women by Dr. Catherine Meeks. She raises Arabian horses, collects antique cars, and organizes antique car shows.

Ponder serves on the boards of the Macon State College Foundation, Macon Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Coalition of Black Women, and Newtown Macon. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and Rotary International.

Accession Number

A2006.002

Sex

Female

Interview Date

1/19/2006

Last Name

Ponder

Schools

Peach County High School

Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

Houston College of Law

Fort Valley Middle School

Hunt Elementary School

First Name

Anita

Birth City, State, Country

Fort Valley

HM ID

PON01

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

San Francisco, California

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

4/16/1961

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Macon

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Steak

Short Description

Museum executive and city council member Anita J. Ponder (1961 - ) was the president of the Macon City Council and director of education at the Tubman African American Museum in Macon, Georgia.

Employment

Ponder and Jordan

City of Fort Valley, Georgia

City Of Macon, Georgia

Tubman Museum

Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Anita J. Ponder's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Anita J. Ponder lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Anita J. Ponder describes her maternal family's farm

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Anita J. Ponder describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Anita J. Ponder describes her mother's childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Anita J. Ponder remembers her paternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Anita J. Ponder remembers her paternal great-aunt's cake business

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Anita J. Ponder describes her paternal grandmother's neighborhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Anita J. Ponder recalls her maternal grandmother's farm

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Anita J. Ponder describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Anita J. Ponder describes her family's tobacco farm

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Anita J. Ponder describes her maternal family's businesses

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Anita J. Ponder describes her family's social standing in Lakeland, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Anita J. Ponder remembers the death of her cousin

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Anita J. Ponder describes how her cousin's death impacted her career

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Anita J. Ponder describes her grandparents' racial background

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Anita J. Ponder describes her father

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Anita J. Ponder describes her paternal great-grandmother

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Anita J. Ponder recalls spending time with her paternal grandmother

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Anita J. Ponder describes how her parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Anita J. Ponder describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Anita J. Ponder remembers playing and learning at Fort Valley State College

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Anita J. Ponder describes her family life

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Anita J. Ponder lists her siblings

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Anita J. Ponder recalls her childhood neighborhood in Fort Valley, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Anita J. Ponder recalls playing games with her friends in Fort Valley, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Anita J. Ponder remembers playing baseball in Fort Valley, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Anita J. Ponder describes the Ponderosa neighborhood in Fort Valley, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Anita J. Ponder remembers learning the history of racism in the United States

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Anita J. Ponder recalls influential teachers in the Peach County school system

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Anita J. Ponder describes her childhood personality

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Anita J. Ponder describes her childhood ambition

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Anita J. Ponder remembers attending Trinity Baptist Church

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Anita J. Ponder describes her childhood friendships

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Anita J. Ponder recalls playing tennis and basketball

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Anita J. Ponder remembers travelling to play tennis

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Anita J. Ponder describes her high school tennis and basketball coach

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Anita J. Ponder describes her childhood influences

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Anita J. Ponder describes attending Peach County High School in Fort Valley, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Anita J. Ponder remembers playing the drums

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Anita J. Ponder recalls the 1975 tornado in Fort Valley, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Anita J. Ponder describes the effect of basketball on her career

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Anita J. Ponder describes tourist attractions in Peach County, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Anita J. Ponder recalls deciding to attend Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Anita J. Ponder describes attending South Texas College of Law in Houston, Texas

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Anita J. Ponder describes her journalism major

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Anita J. Ponder remembers encountering racism at South Texas College of Law in Houston, Texas

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Anita J. Ponder remembers her early career as a criminal defense lawyer

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Anita J. Ponder recalls her experiences on the South Texas Law Review

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Anita J. Ponder describes her partnership at Ponder and Jordan

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Anita J. Ponder remembers deciding to leave Houston, Texas

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Anita J. Ponder remembers volunteering at the Tubman African American Museum

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Anita J. Ponder recalls being a judge in Fort Valley, Georgia

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Anita J. Ponder remembers resigning as judge and running for the Macon City Council

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Anita J. Ponder describes her housing initiatives on the Macon City Council

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Anita J. Ponder describes revitalizing a neighborhood in Macon, Georgia

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Anita J. Ponder describes her work as president of Macon City Council

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Anita J. Ponder describes the museum district in Macon, Georgia

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Anita J. Ponder describes the musical history of Macon, Georgia

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Anita J. Ponder describes serving on boards as Macon City Council president

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Anita J. Ponder describes the Tubman African American Museum in Macon, Georgia

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Anita J. Ponder describes exhibits and fundraising at the Tubman Museum in Macon, Georgia

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Anita J. Ponder describes the work of Richard Keil

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Anita J. Ponder talks about the significance of history

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Anita J. Ponder reflects upon her life

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Anita J. Ponder gives advice to aspiring young professionals

Tape: 7 Story: 11 - Anita J. Ponder describes her hopes for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 12 - Anita J. Ponder describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 13 - Anita J. Ponder reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Anita J. Ponder narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Anita J. Ponder narrates her photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Anita J. Ponder narrates her photographs, pt. 3

DASession

1$1

DATape

6$7

DAStory

1$7

DATitle
Anita J. Ponder recalls her experiences on the South Texas Law Review
Anita J. Ponder describes the work of Richard Keil
Transcript
Now while you were in law school [South Texas College of Law Houston, Houston, Texas], are there any memories that you have that you would like to share with us?$$You know, actually, law school is what people visualize it to be, and I mean it's pretty much all I did. I mean, you know, they have--it was the, a period in my life, unlike college [Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Tallahassee, Florida], where I really didn't have a life other than, you know, other than law school. And then, for some reason, it, it--something within me looking at, you know, the makeup of that school, wanted to really excel. And, you know, you know, college, high school [Peach County High School, Fort Valley, Georgia], and all that kind of stuff--I didn't really try, you know. It, you know, it just all worked out grade-wise. In law school, because I had this feeling of, you know, some people thinking that we were inferior (laughter), whether they thought it or not, I felt that, that's what they thought. It was important to me to, to, you know, to, to try to excel in law school. And so, it, you know, law school is hard. And so, it, it took a lot, especially, you know, your first year to--it, it took a lot of work and study to--to do that. Made it on law review [South Texas Law Review], first black ever to--you know. Law review in law school is a huge deal, regardless of what school it is. That's why even when you see your TV shows, you know, that still goes on your resume, that: was on law review, you know. I didn't really know what that meant, but I knew they thought it was a big deal. And it came to being that writing was important because, you know, Law Review was all about writing. And so, you know, you know, things, you know, turn out the way they did. And I had put such a focus on writing, and that kind, and that kind of thing. It was good enough to get on, on law review, and later became one of the editors--$$Okay.$$--of, of law review, which was historic in of it, you know, in of itself. And I think at least in that arena, you know, I had professors who really just look- they looked at the body of work, for the body of work and, you know, what you could do. And they, you know, didn't, didn't really see race I felt, you know--I was beginning to feel anyway. And then, I kind of got an easiness to know that, okay, just because I know that's what he feels--that particular professor, 'cause I noticed that he feel- he feels that I'm inferior. I shouldn't blame the school for that, you know. And so, it kind of helped me getting accepted. The law review kind of helped me get back balance--that, you know, all people are not--you know I came to law school, thinking all people are not a certain kind of way--look at them individually. I got there for a minute, and started grouping everybody together, like we so often do, got accepted on law review, and that was kind of like a crosswords, crossroads for me, in that it, it reminded me that, okay, don't let me get this one mixed up with this one, and that one mixed with that one, you know. And so, in terms of that whole thing, got back on, you know, back on track. And, you know, finished, and started making my first paycheck 'cause you remember, I've been in school all my life by that time.$Tell us something about how the museum [Tubman African American Museum; Tubman Museum, Macon, Georgia] got started?$$Well, it, it was founded back in 1981 by a white Catholic priest by the name of Richard Keil who had been, you know, real active in the Civil Rights Movement and other places, like Alabama and Mississippi, and some of your other southern states. And he became a priest here at one of the Catholic churches. And as he looked around Macon [Georgia], he saw, you know, while there were, the Museum of Arts and Sciences [Macon, Georgia], and a lot of things going on in Macon, there was no real place to hear or tell the stories of, of African Americans. And so, he decided--I want to put together this--at that time, he called it a cultural center, and had a hard time getting the support, and the loans to get a building to do so. And so, you know, he had just, you know, a few willing friends to, to join him in starting the center. Finally, he found a warehouse that you know, he could afford to just outright buy, and, and, and the funny thing is it's a warehouse where the inventory at one time was guarded by dogs. I mean, you know, so you had--I mean, it took a lot to get it up to what it needed to be. He purchased it, you know, had a vision to get it to a place that was even, you know, made for people--it took from '81 [1981] to almost '85 [1985] for them to turn it into the--even the center that they wanted. And, you know, you've gone from there, from, you know, three to five thousand visitors to sixty-five thousand visitors and, you know, a thirty thousand dollar budget to a $1.5 million budget. And so, you know, his vision is alive and well; and and, and he's the kind of leader that he founded the museum, knew it wasn't his expertise, and say, you know, this is something that I just wanted, you know--no ownership in it, no whatever, and turned it over to the, you know, the people. And it's governed by a board and, you know, and the staff of the museum. He has no--other than being an active participant in the programs that come, and come in to visit us, and bringing us little notes and candies, and all that kind of stuff. That's all he does. You know, he knew, you know, for it to grow, he needed to let it go. And then--and he did. Yeah.$$Okay. And what did you say one of his current projects is, and how that he has the African American museum up and running?$$Right, right now, he's been working real close with the Hispanic community. The Hispanic community is just like it is all over the country--has really, the population is really growing in, in Macon and Bibb County [Georgia]. And as a result of the, you know, the ability--the lack of ability to communicate, you know, the focus, Spanish speaking, and that kind of thing, he sees where there's a real need to, to make sure that they're not taking advantage of, and that kind of thing. And so, he's formed a group that he's really turned over to the Hispanic community, but just helped them get it started where, you know they have resources to--you know, all the kinds of things that helped them make sure that, you know, they're not getting taking advantage of in their housing, and language barriers, and making sure they can get to school, and that they're needing that, that kind of thing. And so, that's kind of been one of his focuses now.