Community Voices

Black in Time: Ruth Shack and Ruth Braddock continue their good work

Ruth Braddock, retired educator and community activist
Ruth Braddock, retired educator and community activist

Individuals known to inherently do good and act well toward others can be viewed for their deeds and not the color of their skin. Ruth Shack and Ruth Braddock are both white women. For nearly 50 years, each in her own way has defended, supported and promoted social inclusiveness in Miami-Dade County.

This 2016 Women’s History column of Black in Time is dedicated to women whose tunnel vision of doing good has helped improve the lives of many throughout the community. The names and faces of Shack and Braddock may not be known to some, nevertheless over time their influence touched many through the arts, culture and education.

At a recent reception, Adolfo Henriques, chairman and CEO of Gibraltar Private Bank & Trust, said, “Ruth Shack’s leadership contributions are far reaching, to national and international levels. Cultural pioneers like Ruth Shack paved the way. Presenting Miami’s Cultural Champion Award to Ruth means so much to so many, including national arts leaders, international philanthropists, artists, performers and cultural visionaries. Her accomplishments are legendary.” The award was presented on Feb. 9.

Originally from New York, Shack and her late husband, Richard, supported emerging artists and served on boards of budding artistic organizations and community arts centers.

Elected to the Metro-Dade Commission (now the Miami-Dade County Commission) in 1976, 1978 and 1982, Shack sponsored the county’s first historic preservation ordinance and championed many other milestones. As founding president of the Dade Community Foundation (now known as The Miami Foundation) from 1985-2009, she encouraged diversity among the staff, board of governors, and grant-making goals.

She created the campaign to encourage gifts and developed a permanent endowment to meet Greater Miami’s emerging charitable needs. Many groups have honored her including the ACLU, Miami-Dade Public Library System, LGBTQ Task Force and the Knight Foundation. Her legacy continues with the Ruth and Richard Shack Society recognizing the Miami Foundation’s most generous philanthropists.

Before arts activists Toni and Carl Randolph relocated to Miami 17 years ago, the New York Community Trust recommended they contact Shack. Carl joined the Dade Community Foundation Board and Toni became involved with the board’s Fellows Program. According to the Randolphs, Shack “has demonstrated great respect and encouragement for the many fine Miami organizations that work to make Miami a better place. Her courage and compassion uses philanthropy to inspire others.”

Arts advocate and attorney Marlon Hill stated: “Ruth’s foresight to pursue the investment of our human capital in leadership development stands tall in [my] mind. Since the establishment of the Miami Fellows, over 150 young Miamians have received an immersion in understanding of Miami’s civic DNA and a boost to their personal development journey. As a result, these young Miami leaders have uplifted various sectors of our community. We thank her for this generational investment.”

Ruth Braddock, a longtime educator, has also received many accolades. Most recently, on March 6 she was recognized by the Women’s History Coalition of Miami-Dade County at its annual luncheon. After the event, Yvonne Santa-Maria, a coalition board member and longtime friend, said: “Ruth Braddock is one of a kind. We were honored to acknowledge her achievements both as a Woman of Impact and especially as the inspiration for writing books for school children highlighting local women.”

Braddock was married to G. Holmes Braddock, who served on the Miami-Dade County School Board for 38 years and championed the school district’s effort to desegregate, according to the G. Holmes Braddock Senior High School website.

In preparation for the United States’ 1976 Bicentennial, Ruth Braddock chaired the Book Committee for the Miami Chapter of AAUW (American Association of University Women) for the purpose of researching, writing and publishing Miami’s first women’s history book. It took seven years to complete the first book, Julia’s Daughters: Women in Dade’s History, 1513 to 1975. Two decades later a second book was published, Beyond Julia’s Daughters: Women in Miami-Dade History, 1975-2000. A third book is planned.

An adjunct professor at Florida Atlantic University, Braddock supervised pre-service teachers. She was legislative chair of the Howard Drive Elementary School Parent Teacher Association, Dade County Social Studies Council member, chair of Dade County Community Schools and a Phi Delta Kappa International, Delta Kappa Gamma-Omicron.

As president of AAUW’s Miami Branch from 1969-71, Braddock established a Seeds of Culture series at Florida Memorial College, the historically black university that relocated to Miami Gardens. She spent hours collecting and hauling books to the college library in her family’s station wagon. As a result of her efforts, over 13,000 books were donated.

According to Beverly Nixon, the first black president of the Miami branch from 1985-87, AAUW’s centerpiece Educational Foundation Program gift was named to honor Ruth Braddock. The purpose of this gift is to encourage women to gain advanced training and knowledge for academic or professional careers.

Ruth’s interest in racial issues was reflected in her master’s thesis, “Assimilation and Accommodation of the West Indian Negro and the American Negro.” In the early 1960s during severe racial tension in Homestead, the publisher of the South Dade News Leader challenged the willingness of any school board member’s wife to walk alone through the all-black area of West Perrine.

Ruth Braddock accepted the challenge and walked through the neighborhood helping to alleviate some of the fears about integration. There was no incident. Her continued concern for cultural diversity included memberships in the Council of International Visitors and the United Nations Association.

She is a founding officer of the Women’s Chamber of Commerce, a member of the National Women’s Political Caucus, Parent Teacher Student Association, Third Century, U.S.A., University of Miami Alumni Association, YWCA, the League of Women Voters, History Miami, the Natives of Dade/Miami Pioneers and the Grey Panthers. She headed a geriatric study for the Mental Health Association, continues as a long-term care insurance specialist, and is a member of Old Cutler Presbyterian Church.

Names and faces not to be forgotten, Ruth Shack and Ruth Braddock, are examples of pioneer change agents. They have done so much, for so many, for so long; and it is noted they continue giving.

Dorothy Jenkins Fields, PhD, is a historian and founder of the Black Archives, History and Research Foundation of South Florida Inc. Send feedback to djf@bellsouth.net.

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