The woman – Tobie Grant – had donated 40 acres to the county to be used for the betterment of the segregated community.
On June 24, 1962, the library built on the donated land was named for her. Grant, a famous psychic who counseled long lines of residents and helped police locate missing persons, attended the naming ceremony in a wheelchair.
She died at age 96, almost six years later, on March 16, 1968.
Alison Weissinger, DeKalb County Library director, said that no ceremony is planned to mark the 50th anniversary of the naming of the library for Grant.
“I didn’t know,” she said. “It caught us by surprise.”
Weissinger said a story and a copy of the photo of Grant that hangs in the Tobie Grant Homework Center will be posted on the library’s Web site.
Jacqueline Steele-Yarbrough, a great-great-great-grandniece of Grant, called the library last week to remind it of the important anniversary coming up.
She said she doesn’t want her father’s great-great-aunt to be forgotten.
“I had a famous auntie,” said Steele-Yarbrough, who grew up in Scottdale and now lives in Decatur. “She was a philanthropist. I am just so proud of her.”
Steele-Yarbrough grew up hearing stories about Grant, who had her first vision when she was 8 years old. She was said to have predicted the detonation of the atomic bomb years before it was dropped on Hiroshima.
During her heyday, 40 to 50 black and white clients a day waited for hours for the opportunity to get advice from her on love and marriage and on locating missing jewelry, among other things.
An astute businesswoman, Grant amassed a small fortune in real estate and insurance stocks. She also owned cemeteries and a drugstore and was a benefactor of Morehouse College.
A September 1964 article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said that in the 1920s, many businessmen refused to make an investment without first consulting Grant, who was part American Indian.
In addition to the library and recreation center, the Tobie Grant Manor apartments in Scottdale also bear Grant’s name.
Her great-great-great-grandniece was 8 years old when the library was named for Grant. She still remembers the day.
“It was an exciting day,” she said. “The Hamilton High School Marching Hornets performed.”
It would be decades more before another DeKalb library would be named for an African-American.
That happened in 1992 when the Wesley Chapel Library was named for William C. Brown, a former DeKalb commissioner and a longtime chairman of the library’s board of trustees.
But 50 years later, Grant is still the only black woman for whom a DeKalb library is named.