A home demonstration agent and community leader in and around Starkville, Sadye Hunter Wier was born on 3 December 1905 in McLeod, Mississippi, near Macon, to Samuel J. Hunter and Minnie Lane Hunter, graduates of Memphis’s LeMoyne-Owen College who went on to become the founding teachers of the Noxubee Industrial School in Macon. As a young girl, Hunter was an honor student at the school before attending high school at the Mary Holmes College in West Point. She transferred to Nashville’s Fisk University and then to Talladega College in Alabama. She became a close friend of the daughter of Talladega’s white president, but she also waited tables to make ends meet.
Hunter returned to Macon as a home economics teacher in 1923 but quickly moved to better-paying teaching positions in Okolona, Aberdeen, Shuqualak, Starkville, Senatobia, and Grenada. In 1932 she returned to Starkville to marry Robert Wier, a barber and businessman. Her husband did not want her to work, but she persisted, teaching for eleven years at the segregated Oktibbeha County Training School. She provided instruction in history, English, and music while serving as library director and managing a minstrel troupe that performed in the area on Friday evenings. She also washed towels and did a variety of other tasks for her husband’s barbershop.
In March 1943 she left her teaching career to become a “Negro home demonstration agent” with the Mississippi Cooperative Extension Service. She worked with black families in Newton County, Union County, and Winston County until 1954, when she moved to Lowndes County, a change that enabled her to live at home in Starkville and commute to work rather than having to board during the week.
“Miss Sadye” had an enormous impact on her clients, teaching them everything from money management to quilt making. She also became a kind of expert at race relations, getting both white and black leaders to support her efforts. Beginning in 1961 she successfully fought attempts to place her and other black agents under white control.
She retired in 1965 but quickly took on a variety of new duties. For several years she served as coordinator of the federal Neighborhood Youth Corps for twenty-one counties. Working for Prairie Opportunity, she established canneries for poor people in Clay and Noxubee Counties. She was one of the founders of Starkville’s Association for Retarded Citizens and served as its first president. She almost single-handedly saved Starkville’s Colored Odd Fellows Cemetery from abandonment, and for twelve years she served as a trustee of the Oktibbeha County Library System.
In 1950 Robert and Sadye Wier were instrumental in recruiting black physician Douglas L. Conner to Starkville: his medical and civil rights activities ultimately left an indelible mark on the community. The Wiers also regularly provided accommodations in their home for visiting blacks whom local hotels would not accept. The Wiers also took in family members in need.
Wier was not a leader in the civil rights movement. A Baptist and a Democrat, she worked within the segregation system to better the lives of black people. When integration came, she simply continued her persistent, nonthreatening pressure on the white power structure. She remained influential until her death in Starkville on 24 August 1995. She was buried in the same cemetery she had helped preserve.
- John F. Marszalek, in Mississippi Women, Their Histories, Their Lives, ed. Martha H. Swain, Elizabeth Anne Payne, Marjorie Julian Spruill, and Susan Ditto (2003)
- Sadye H. Wier with John F. Marszalek, A Black Businessman in White Mississippi, 1886–1974 (1977)