Where You Are
Community Honors Longtime Agent
Story by Leah Barbour • Photos by Kevin Hudson
After Rankin’s unexpected death in May 2017, the Kemper County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to add her name to the farmers’ market building, also the location of the local Extension office. More than 100 community members—friends, family, community leaders, and elected officials—gathered at the newly christened Ruby D. Rankin Farmers Market Building for the dedication ceremony.
Special guests included local school officials, church leaders, county supervisors, and Extension administrators. They agreed the building dedication that brought them together to honor Rankin’s life also allowed them to recognize her decades of commitment to the people.
When she landed her first Extension job in 1984, Rankin was the Extension agent for 4-H youth development. Extension Director Dr. Gary B. Jackson told the audience at the July ceremony how Rankin taught children and teens through hands-on, project-based activities.
Rankin inspired the young people, and they trusted her. Rankin’s professionalism and work ethic helped her become a trusted resource, not only to Kemper County children, but also to adults there and beyond, Jackson said. Her candor, drive, and focus were just a few of the reasons Rankin was eventually promoted to Kemper County coordinator, as well as to other leadership positions around the state.
She spent her life working to make Kemper County, the state, the country, and the world a better place, agreed Chancery Clerk Sherline Watkins. Rankin promoted unity and compromise among numerous groups with diverse personalities and goals.
Whether it was the local Mississippi Homemaker Volunteers chapter or the local Cattlemen’s Association, Relay for Life or the Forestry Association, Rankin looked for local solutions to local challenges, Jackson emphasized.
“Ruby loved Extension and clearly understood our mission to help people solve their own problems. She believed in the power of the people and how they should join together to strengthen their educational efforts and community service,” Jackson said.
Rankin’s willingness to join her neighbors, clients, and colleagues to get any given job done reinforced her effectiveness, both as an agent and as a community leader, agreed District 4 Supervisor Mike Luke .
“Everyone in here knows what she did, what kind of person she was. She’d be the first one there and the last one to leave,” he said. “It wasn’t just the one thing; it was the many things that she touched upon. She touched so many peoples’ lives; it’s hard to say just how many people.”
Whenever Rankin would come before the Board of Supervisors to request the county’s assistance as she implemented Extension’s community-based educational programs and volunteer initiatives, she would get a certain smile and say, “Y’all know I want something,” Luke laughed. “And when we called on her, she would jump up and get the ball rolling.”
Kemper County Schools Special Education Director Shelia Newton said that celebrating Rankin’s example and imitating it are worthy ways to honor her legacy.
“We can all attest to the fact that Ruby was truly dedicated to and committed to the community, her job, and to her church,” Newton emphasized.
Luke explained he just couldn’t find the words to convey how much Rankin had meant to the county or to him.
“She was my friend,” he concluded.
“You know what Ruby would do,” Jackson replied. “She would look over her glasses and say, ‘You take it from here.’
“And that’s what we’ll do.”