The number of Carnegie Medal awardees who are female and now over the age of 90 has to be a small one, given that only 8.9 percent of the total number of awardees are women. Margaret Williams Herrington of Atlanta, Ga., who turned 94 in February of 2010, is in that select class. She was awarded the medal in 1932 for saving a boy from drowning in a creek in Conyers, Ga., and she keeps it on display in her home.
Herrington was only the sixth female from Georgia to have been awarded the medal by 1932. She was a 14-year-old schoolgirl from Oxford, Ga., on May 24, 1930, when she saved W. Herbert Dick, 15, from drowning in Big Haynes Creek. Battling a current of 3 m.p.h., she supported the boy over a course of 70 feet before a man in wadable water drew them in with a fishing pole. Herrington used award funds of $975 to pay for her education at Oxford College of Emory University and the University of Georgia, earning a degree in teaching in 1936. She married her husband Elliott after graduating, taught third-graders for a year, and then was a substitute teacher for several years.
Herrington still lives in the house she and her husband built in 1947. The couple raised three daughters, Lynn, Penelope, and Margaret, and now there are nine grandchildren and “about the same number” of great-grandchildren. After 54 years of marriage, during which the couple lived in California and New York, Elliott died in 1990. “We liked to move around and see different places,” Herrington said. “We wanted to see the country.” As a widow, Herrington kept up her travels, joining a group she found through her bank. Her trips took her all over the country and Europe, mainly Germany. “I’ve been to Alaska and Hawaii and everywhere in between,” she said.
One nice turn for Herrington and her husband came in 1970, when she was reunited with the boy she rescued. Every Sunday for the next 15 years he and his wife brought them vegetables and fruits from their garden.
Note: Margaret Williams Herrington died at the age of 95 at home on Jan. 7, 2012.