Gloria Lebby Continues family business in father’s footsteps
Gloria Lebby is proud to continue her family's tradition of serving the community.
Lebby and her mother, Mrs. E. Mitchell Lebby, run the family's three funeral homes. Her mother is also a retired principal from the Blackville school district.
Her father, the late Clarence Lebby Sr., opened the first home in Denmark in 1935. Today there are locations in Barnwell and Blackville as well. Her mother joined the business when she married Lebby Sr.
It's about "service to the community," Lebby said, "I'd like to continue as long as I'm able to do so."
She said her parents made many friends throughout the area because of the business.
Lebby, who has spent most of her life in Barnwell, began working at the funeral homes full time in 2007, but she had been a part of the business for years.
She said it is a demanding job, but also is rewarding.
"Some nights you don't get to bed. ... It's a twenty-four-seven responsibility," she said.
Lebby said her job allows her to meet many different people, and that she's learned a lot from listening to others' stories.
"No two people are alike," she said." If everybody was the same, we would be some very boring people."
Asked about the significance of being a black woman who runs a business, Lebby said the times have changed for both minorities and women.
"More opportunities have opened up for women," she said. "We see women at all levels, you know, of leadership now."
Lebby didn't always think she would take over the family business.
"All of my family members are academicians as well as school administrators," she said.
Lebby received a bachelor's degree from St. Augustine's in Raleigh, N.C., where she majored in history. Then she received a master's in education from S.C. State College (now S.C. State University) in Orangeburg.
She also has a specialist degree in education from Southern Mississippi and a doctorate of education from Nova Southeastern University in Florida.
Currently, she teaches part time at Voorhees College in Denmark.
She said education is fundamental to running a business because it teaches leadership and communication skills.
Asked about the importance of understanding history, Lebby said people should do research on their own to stimulate their curiosity and take it upon themselves to reach out and learn about other cultures.
"The subject of people ... whatever nationality, race ... is being talked about everyday," she said. She added people shouldn't just wait for a particular month to learn about a particular group of people.
America is, after all, a melting pot society, she said.
Lebby said she has seen the times change throughout her life. Specifically, she talked about how technology has changed all aspects of society.
"You have to change with the times," she said, it's a part of life.
Lebby said she always looks forward to meeting the challenges of another day, and that her life has been interesting and educational.
"For me, it has been nice," she said.
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