The Valdosta Daily Times
Virginia Culpepper has a framed copy of her birth announcement. The card and envelope are yellowed, though the wording remains legible. The envelope bears the address of her uncle, Beverly Broun, an attorney in Charleston, W.Va.
The card announced the birth of Katherine Virginia Hutchinson on Dec. 6, 1913, in Monticello, Ga., to parents Thomas “Hutch” Monroe Hutchinson and Virginia “Jennie” Broun Hutchinson.
A few weeks ago, Virginia Culpepper celebrated her 100th birthday with children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and friends at Langdale Place.
Many long-time Valdostans will recall Culpepper as serving as the features editor, a columnist, a gardening writer, as starting the long-running newspaper cookbook and working in numerous other capacities for decades with The Valdosta Daily Times. At 100, she retains the wit, charm and insight that distinguished both her articles in The Times and put her in demand as a speaker for various clubs near and far.
On Friday, she told the story of visiting Dr. Joe Stubbs several years ago. He told her she would live to be 100. Culpepper shakes her head and rolls her eyes, recounting the answer she gave Dr. Stubbs. “I told him I didn’t want to live that long because I’d interviewed a lot of old ladies and all they did was brag about turning 100.”
Several years ago, Virginia Culpepper wrote a memoir for her family. More recently, the family had her manuscript published as a hard-cover volume.
Her parents married on April 15, 1912, in Baltimore, Md. He was from Georgia. She was from northern Virginia. The newlywed Hutchinsons sailed from Baltimore to Savannah. They received word of the Titanic’s sinking as they traveled.
Two years after Virginia’s birth came younger sister, Broun, christened with their mother’s maiden name; Broun always called her older sister, Girl. Each summer, Virginia and Broun traveled to their mother’s native Virginia to stay with their maternal grandparents, the Brouns.
The Hutchinsons moved to Valdosta in the late 1910s when Virginia was 6, “and I never left,” she says with a smile.
Virginia attended Georgia State Womans College, which eventually became Valdosta State. She majored in history, the subject she loved. After graduation, she worked one year in Clyattville as a teacher, a job she did not love. During the work week, she spent the nights with a family in Clyattville. This was the Great Depression so the school could not pay her throughout the year. She would not receive her teaching pay until later, after she was married, when she and her husband used it to purchase dining room furniture.
Virginia Hutchinson married Bill Culpepper on June 9, 1938. In her memoir, she introduces Bill under the heading of “The Best Thing.” She writes, “I thought Bill was so good looking! ... We dated often, sometimes going to movies, often to church, on picnics and cookouts, playing tennis, raced pigeons, went to dinner in restaurants. ... He brought me flowers sometimes, and courted me with little gifts, candy, pretty sentimental cards, and in many thoughtful sweet ways. He won my heart! He was always a perfect gentleman.”
When asked the traditional 100-year-old question, what is the most amazing thing you’ve witnessed in your lifetime, Virginia Culpepper does not give the traditional historical answer of a man walking on the moon, or world wars, or civil rights, or computers, she says, her husband.
“My husband was a wonderful man. A Christian man. In our 62 years together, I never heard him use a cuss word. I never even heard him say, dog gone it.”
Bill and Virginia Culpepper had two daughters, Ginger and Kate. Bill Culpepper passed away Jan. 4, 2001.
In the early 1960s, Virginia Culpepper took a job with The Valdosta Daily Times. She started as the farm editor. She loved reporting on agriculture because “farmers were really honest. They would tell you their crops had failed and why.”
She became the features editor and interviewed numerous people from First Ladies Lady Bird Johnson and Rosalynn Carter to ventriloquist Edgar Bergen whom she interviewed along with his famous puppet Charlie McCarthy to a Rumanian prince to Joan Crawford to a bride and groom and the entire wedding party on roller skates to author Eugenia Price to a lady wrestler and a woman who worked on telephone poles.
“I met so many different people,” she says. “That’s what I loved most about the job was meeting so many different people.”
At the age of 65, after more than 20 years with The Times, she faced what was then mandatory retirement. A year later, then-Valdosta State President Dr. Hugh Bailey asked her to become the school’s public-relations representative. She served in that position until the age of 70 when she again faced a mandatory retirement age.
She says she loved her job at The Times. If she had her way, Virginia Culpepper would not have retired then, and who knows, she may have continued working until her hundredth birthday and beyond.