Jennifer Disney, Ph.D
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The fourth South Carolinian to be selected as the National Mother of the Year was Betty Jean Ulmer McGregor, the 2009 Mother of the Year. She was married to Sam Evans McGregor, Sr. of Hopkins in 1951. After serving in the military, the young couple returned to run the family dairy farm, which they did for the next 35 years. She received an undergraduate degree in early childhood education, which she said prepared her well to raise her family of five children. She jokingly said she should have majored in accounting, as that was the part of the family business she inherited. Running a dairy farm allowed the children plenty of opportunities to learn responsibility: feeding baby calves, gardening, keeping farm records, and operating machinery. Each of the children received a modest weekly allowance, which they were required to put in the bank and donate some to a worthy cause.
For a time in the 1960s, they wrote a family newspaper, the McGregor News, which recorded life in the busy household. They cared for two elderly parents in their home, a lesson in compassion she believed shaped the life of her youngest son, who was present for the final years of his paternal grandfather's life. He would later become one of two ministers in their offspring.
During the upheaval of school integration in the 1970s, when other white families pulled out of public schools, the McGregors chose to keep their children in public schools. Sam McGregor served on the local school board for 10 years during that time. She says, “Parenting means giving children roots and wings.
Roots grow deep when parents demonstrate by example, a deep faith in Christ and love and respect for one another. Life is not about having no problems, rather about how we deal with them. Families develop bonds when they eat together and share the day's events, worship and play together, have family responsibilities, and take advantage of education opportunities. As parents, we need to spend individual time with each child, to listen to their opinions and questions, to let them know how important they are. Each child should feel special. Their wings are made strong when we encourage individual creativity and give them room to explore and develop their talents and interests. Above all, teach them by example to be compassionate, kind, and respect the faith and culture of others.”
The McGregors wanted their children to learn about life outside of their small community of Hopkins. They kept a map of the world in their kitchen and often housed international students in their home. When the children chose to leave the farm and sprout their own wings in careers that took them to other parts of the world, she and her husband did not grieve - even though that meant they would eventually sell the farm and move to a retirement center in Columbia. The McGregors remain active in retirement with traveling, church and community activities and visiting family. When Mrs. McGregor delivered her speech at the National Convention for American Mothers, Inc. in Portland, Oregon, she closed with these words of wisdom: “Since today is my 79th birthday, I think I am now qualified to give advice: Be kind to your children, they may be the ones who pick out your nursing home.”
Oral History | United States History | Women's History
McGregor, Betty Jean Ulmer, "Interview with Betty Jean Ulmer McGregor" (2015). South Carolina Mother of the Year Oral History Archives. 27.