Langdale Place resident, Betty Holcombe, featured in the VDT

7/23/2012

Woman gives 1,700 books to local library
Donates hundreds more to church


Dean PolingThe Valdosta Daily Times




VALDOSTA — Betty Holcombe has a funny family story about her love for books.

The story involves the number of books which Betty Holcombe has collected and read through the years and her late husband, Judge T.N. Holcombe Jr.

With his wife’s books lining shelves along walls in several rooms of the house, and even more books being stacked along those shelves, and the books outgrowing shelves and the shelves rising from their grown children’s former bedrooms, the one-time Lowndes County probate judge would proclaim, There’s not room in this house for more books and he would add, according to the family story, that if Mrs. Holcombe, whom he called “Mama,” passed before him, he would take the books to the dump the next day.

Betty Holcombe tells this story with a laugh and a warm smile: The same expressions cross her face as she speaks of this being part of her husband’s keen sense of humor, how well her husband danced, of the family they raised, and her love for reading and books.

Reading has been an integral part of Betty Holcombe’s life. Now, her love for reading and her generosity will influence others’ lives.

Betty Holcombe and her family recently donated 35 boxes of books, an estimated 1,700 volumes, to the South Georgia Regional Library and an additional estimate of 400-500 books to First United Methodist Church.

The Times recently met with Holcombe and daughter Debbie Nagy, as well as Friends of the Library members Anne Gunther, Liza Newsom, and Kay Scott to discuss the donation.

The FOL members say some of the books go into the library’s main shelves, while other volumes will be available for purchase from the Friends’ Book Store located in the back of the Valdosta-Lowndes County Library. Book store books often represent volumes already available in the library, or are no longer relevant. Book store proceeds go toward the FOL’s support for the library.

As for Betty Holcombe, she has read since early childhood. Though she has read numerous novels and non-fiction books on various subjects, history has long been her reading passion.

“History has always interested me,” Holcombe says. “… All of it. If I go to the book store and find a book that interests me, I buy it.”

Though she says all eras of history, especially American history fascinate her, she has read numerous volumes on Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

As for her history, books run throughout Holcombe’s biography. Born in Columbus, she moved as an 8-year-old girl to Valdosta with her family. Here, her grandmother ran a store on West Hill Avenue. Holcombe recalls reading as a small girl. Her love for books remained undiminished as she met T.N. Holcombe Jr., their marriage and their raising children.

Though she stayed home mostly to raise her family, Holcombe helped her husband in Probate Court. She worked at C&S Bank. In the 1970s, she returned to her education, attending Valdosta State College, then she taught history for several years at Valdosta State.

As the years passed, her book collection grew. She laughs explaining why she believed in purchasing her books.

“I bought them because I did not want to have to worry about taking them back to the library,” Holcombe says.

She also enjoyed buying them because she often re-read favorites and, by owning them, they were always within reach.

The Friends of the Library share stories of how Holcombe presented many intriguing book reviews for the library’s Bookfellows Club. In presenting a spoken review of a book, she read a volume at least twice prior to a presentation. Holcombe laughs, saying she also tried selecting more accessible books, rather than some of her favorite obscure histories, when presenting a Bookfellows review.

Religious books are also among Holcombe’s favorite books, often combining both history and articles of faith. She taught Sunday school and Bible study classes at First Baptist Church. Her religious knowledge has led some of her friends to refer to Holcombe as “Mother Superior.” Her religious books were first offered to First Baptist; when this church had no room for her collection, First United Methodist had available space for the volumes.

Though she would have preferred keeping her books, a move to Langdale Place led to the decision to see them donated. Holcombe has always kept her books catalogued by subject matter. Still, her family went through each book, keeping some volumes for themselves, dividing them into appropriate boxes for the library and the church.

Holcombe is pleased to witness the books being used by others and knowing they will be read for possibly generations to come.

Still, that doesn’t mean she’s stopped reading, or beginning her book collection anew. She already has a stack of new books at Langdale Place. As she has throughout her life, she reads each book one volume at a time.

At the time of this interview last week, Betty Holcombe was reading a book on Yalta.  After that? She does not know, she says, but you can bet it will likely be a book on history. And you can be certain she will have a book in her hands.

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