By Kevin Wilson
Rubie Carmichael was a teacher for most of her life, even after classes were dismissed.
Carmichael taught schoolchildren for 37 years. She also took time to teach her siblings about the family past, and her children about how to make the most of the present.
“She taught me what it was to be a woman of character and a woman of dignity and a woman of grace,” said Shantel Mitchell, Rubie’s granddaughter. “She was so loving and also, so strong-willed.”
Carmichael died at the age of 100 Aug. 5 in Clinton, Okla., spending her final months with her family in the same area where her life began.
Carmichael was born Nov. 12, 1903 in Rush Springs, Oklahoma to Joe and Elizabeth Beevers, the second oldest in a family of four girls and seven boys. Her family moved in a covered wagon to Quay County in 1907 and homesteaded in the Forrest community. She attended school in Forrest through the ninth grade and then went to Portales her sophomore year, to Clovis her junior year and graduated from Portales High School in 1923 as valedictorian of her class.
Her family was still growing while she was away, as her brother Gene Beevers was born 21 years after her. When they did have chances to get together, Gene said she and Rubie would just talk about old times.
“She knew a lot of the family history that we younger guys didn’t know,” Beevers said. “She enlightened us a whole lot of some of the family history that she knew.”
Carmichael married one of her father’s hired hands, Oliver Carmichael, on Oct. 28, 1922 in Clovis. Together they had two children — Doug, who had a WWII career in the Army as a member of the 509th Bomber Squadron and died in 1947, and Chloe.
Now Chloe Mitchell, Rubie’s daughter said she learned a lot from her mother — but never in the classroom. When Rubie taught classes in the same school as Chloe, she’d make sure to transfer to a different grade to avoid having Chloe in the class.
Chloe Mitchell still got quite an education, though.
“One of the great things about that was when I was little, she was teaching high school English,” Mitchell said. “She would tell me the story they had read. I had a real headstart, a really good grasp of literature. She’d bring it home and make it fun.”
It continued with Chloe’s daughter, Shantel, now a senior at Oklahoma Baptist University.
“She always told so many stories of what it was like to grow up,” Shantel said. “I took a Western civilization class, learning about the 20s and 30s. It was interesting just to be able to go back to her and experience it firsthand.”
Carmichael also taught her family that if you start something, you finish it no matter how long it takes. Chloe said that while her students would take a summer vacation, she would go right back to learning — for 10 summers she’d rent a room in Las Vegas, N.M. and attend classes at New Mexico Highlands University. She earned her degree in 1940 and did graduate work at Eastern New Mexico University.
For all of her life, Carmichael knew what it was like to be a teacher and a student. She tried to pass that information along to others as well.
“She helped me a lot in school,” Beevers said. “She straightened me out a lot on my relations with the teachers. Back in those days, that was (discipline with) a hickory stick.”
The way Carmichael taught earned her a spot in the National Educators Association Southeastern District Hall of Fame and the New Mexico State Hall of Fame. Her teaching was a mix of the older methods, and some methods that are used today.
“One of the big buzz words in education is cooperative learning, where you teach in small groups. She did that in the 1930s,” Chloe Mitchell said. “She didn’t want a room with desks that screwed down. She wanted a room with tables.”
The education continued for Carmichael long after she was done teaching in 1967, after stints at Field, Floyd and Melrose.
“She was an avid learner,” Chloe Mitchell said. “She loved to watch history things (on TV), she always read. She would just devour the Daily Oklahoman. She would take Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report. She’d probably take 8 to 10 magazines at a time.”
Carmichael also presented programs for the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Though the Confederate flag is now viewed by some as an element of racism, Carmichael’s family didn’t see that type of behavior in Rubie.
“She was a person who accepted everybody,” Chloe Mitchell said. “She didn’t see color or position or any of those things. She just saw the person and accepted them for who they were and loved them.”