May reunion: a family reflection

Starting  Friday, July 17, until  Sunday, July 19, over 100 descendants of Isabella (Granny) will

Courtesy photo Members of the May family reminisce during the 2012 reunion held in the Mt. Olive Community.

Courtesy photo

Members of the May family reminisce during the 2012 reunion held in the Mt. Olive Community.


converge on the May Family Pavilion to celebrate their heritage. The pavilion is in the Mt. Olive

Community located on Viola Road, just off Garr Road. 

In the early 1800s, a small child named Precious by her master, was captured in Africa and brought

to the Carolinas as a slave. She was soon impregnated by the planter who had purchased her.

In 1818, Precious had a baby girl, and he named her Isabella. The May family story begins with the importance of knowing your name.

Isabella was not six years old  when a plantation owner from North Louisiana (Hilly, west of Dubach) went to the Carolinas to purchase slaves. She was thrown in as “good measure” and given to the house slave to be raised. 

At 13 years of age she began to have children by the slave owner and continued to live in the home with her children even after the Emancipation Proclamation. 

This was the beginning of the May Family. There were 10 children born to this union: Gus, John, Frances, Betty, Emily, Mary, King, Vate and Green. The 10th child, a son, was  ostracized after he went to Mississippi and passed as a Caucasian. 

Five of the remaining children grew to adults, married, had children and prospered in Lincoln, Union and Claiborne parishes.

Granny Isabella lived for 113 years and told the story over and over to her family. God was always first, family second, and accumulating knowledge was third. 

Granny never knew the word education or how to read or write, but she was wise in the knowledge of God and the ways of man. She passed this knowledge on to her children. It was important that they seek an education and own their land. Some of the May property from the 1800s is still under family ownership.

Isabella’s oldest son, Gus May, moved to the Mt. Olive Community just north of Grambling, seeking a better education for his children. Like his father, he was a realtor, and financier of young farmers, churches and schools. He was involved with the Allen Greene School that became Louisiana Negro Normal, renamed Grambling College, then Grambling State University.

He married Nellie Walton and that union produced 10 children. Five of his children settled in the Northern Louisiana area. Son Phillip May married Viola Swift. Of his daughters in Northern Louisiana, Willie Elsie married L.V. Garner; Sarah Beth married Fred Goree; Samantha married Reul Shelton; and Frances Ardonia married Frank Gaulden. 

Many descendents of these unions are still located in the area. Many of these descendents were educated at Grambling College. 

The family now resides in many states and several countries, still carrying on the legacy of Granny Isabella. The family has produced educators, politicians, bankers, businessmen, lawyers, doctors, ministers, nurses, beauticians and laborers.