Smithville matriarch wins recognition
by Staff Writer
CHARLOTTE – Lula Bell Houston touched the lives of every student that came through her laundry center in her 60 years at Davidson College. She’s helped people at the college and in the Smithville community in Cornelius and finds friends wherever she goes. The National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Club of Charlotte presented
Houston with the Sojourner Truth Award on May 5.
Chapter President Carlether Burwell said Houston exemplifies Sojourner Truth’s value of helping others and caring for her community.
Houston was introduced as the Matriarch of Smithville at a community event earlier this year, and Burwell said “being a mother figure for a lot of people in her community; helping, being a helping figure” garnered Houston this recognition.
Houston started working at Davidson College in 1944. The college named the laundry center in her honor when she retired for the first time.
Students attended church with Houston, came to her for help and even became secret admirers.
One foreign exchange student wrote Houston a letter professing his love.
“He said, ‘when the day gets rough with me, I think about you and your smile and it takes me through the day,’” Houston said.
They’re still in touch. The alumnus sends Houston flowers, calls and occasionally visits.
Houston lends money to friends if it means being late on her own bills, bails neighbors out of jail and other sticky situations and actively welcomes new friends to her church of 60 years, Gesthemane Baptist Church in Davidson.
“I know she’s had some sad and rough times in her life, but her relationship with God helps her through every day,” Houston’s friend, Bill Williams, said. “Lu spends her life helping people. … I’ve never met anybody that’s as loving as Lu.”
Houston will turn 89 on June 15.
Sojourner Truth award winners in recent years include Anita Stroud, Thereasea Eldera and Dr. Ophelia Garmon-Brown.
“All of these people have different professions, but they do have that spirit where they help people so much,” Burwell said.
Houston said she’s touched by the recognition.
“I’m just as happy as can be,” Houston said.