‘Mother of the community’ respected for helping the needy, her piano talent

By Nick Blank nick@claytodayonline.com
Posted 1/26/22

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – A long-time piano player and first Black teacher to integrate Doctors Inlet Elementary died on Jan. 16. She was 87.

Mary Tuggles taught for 47 years and was well-respected …

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‘Mother of the community’ respected for helping the needy, her piano talent

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – A long-time piano player and first Black teacher to integrate Doctors Inlet Elementary died on Jan. 16. She was 87.

Mary Tuggles taught for 47 years and was well-respected in the community. She lived through the Civil Rights era, and her daughter Tawana Tuggles said it was difficult for her to see those things and talk about them.

“The type of personality my mother had, whatever she did, she wasn’t a person to talk about it,” Tawana Tuggles said.

Tawana Tuggles said pastors would come to her mother for advice. If someone in the community needed clothes or food, Mary Tuggles was there, her daughter added, even clothes for a person’s wake.

“She took care of needs,” Tawana Tuggles said. “She was a confidant to many. She had a lot of wisdom.”

Several children have benefitted from Mary Tuggles’ attitude and generosity toward education.

“She always pushed education for children and for them to get scholarships and go to college,” Tawana Tuggles said. “She knew that in order to have a good life, you have to be educated.”

At the Jan. 17 Martin Luther King Jr. ceremony at Vera Francis Hall Park, Tuggles was honored by three former mayors. Felecia Hampshire, who performed a few songs for the crowd, called Tuggles a living legend and said there were several lessons to learn from her life.

“The short songs we were singing, Mrs. Tuggles taught us all of that,” Hampshire said.

Councilmember Connie Butler said Tuggles upheld King’s goals of knowledge and understanding. Councilmember Van Royal said Tuggles was one of the first residents he met when he was campaigning.

“She said, ‘Van, I just want you to know I expect you to do a good job. I’m going to be watching you and I’m going to call you.’” Royal recalled. “And she did.”

Mary Tuggles stopped playing piano in mid-2019, her daughter said, but she played for more than 70 years. In the 1970s and 1980s, she helped start Clay County Community Chorus and later helped with the development of the Augusta Savage Arts and Community Center. Among her favorite tunes were “Won’t It Be Grand,” “Jesus Is A Rock” and “Oh, How I Love Jesus.”

“Music was very important to her,” her daughter said. “She started playing for churches when she was a teenager basically.”

Other hobbies included cooking and travel, especially to gospel and church conventions.

“She just went everywhere,” Tawana Tuggles said. “Everybody knew her, out of state, in state, they knew her.”

Tuggles’ wake is 4-6 p.m. at First African Missionary Baptist Church on Friday, Jan. 28. Her funeral starts at 11 a.m. a day later at Congregational Holiness Church.

“God called her to be a mother for the community and that’s what she was,” Tawana Tuggles said.

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