Once again Nashville residents and many from far beyond came, called, texted, and prayed heartfelt prayers of love and tribute to an earth angel who received her final wings.
Eartha ‘Rosa Lee’ Houston was born in Rutherford County Tennessee on November 22, 1923 to Thomas and Iona L. Gaines. She was the youngest of three children that included Amanda Wade and Hattie Mae Gaines. Her father, Thomas Gaines, passed while she was very young. Her mother, Luther Iona Gaines, raised the three girls in Nashville. They were raised in the North Nashville community and attended Mt. Zion Baptist Church. Rosa would go on to raise her own three children at Mt. Zion as well.
She attended Nashville Public Schools and as a young girl was favored by her teacher, Cora Fields. Over time Mrs. Fields and her husband Rev. Charles Fields, then pastor of Pleasant Green Missionary Baptist Church, became Rosa’s foster parents. Rosa would spend weekdays at the home of the Fields and return home to her mother and sisters on the weekends. Mrs. Fields eventually paid the cost for Rosa’s college education. Rosa, in turn, named her youngest daughter ‘Cora’ in honor of her relationship with Mrs. Fields.
She graduated from Pearl High School in 1941. Shortly after, she met Charles Lester Holmes. They married when she was 19. She paused her college education at age 20 to move to Ft. Belvoir, Virginia where her husband was stationed in the Army. Later, when she was expecting, she returned home to Nashville to have her first born, Charles L. Homes III. While waiting on her husband to complete his service, she raised her child and saved the money her husband sent each month for his family. When her husband returned home, she had purchased their first home.
While raising her three children, Rosa returned to college to complete her degree in business administration at Tennessee State University. She graduated in 1953 when her third child, Cora, was just three months old. She began her career at Fisk University working for Controller Isaiah T. Creswell. In 1954, she began working for the Davidson County Metropolitan Public Schools and continued her career there until she retired in 1986. After retirement, Rosa used her business skills to provide administrative support to Harold Love, Sr. at Tennessee State University. She later offered her services at The Samaritan Ministries and later worked part-time at the Metropolitan Teachers Credit Union where she was also a board member.
After her separation from Charles, Rosa met Claude T. Houston. They happily married, and he eagerly began to help raise her children and assisted in sending each one of them to college. In 1965 they had a home built at 2007 Jordan Drive. Rosa hand selected every detail of the home, commissioning custom furnishings and designs. She asked Claude, a rock mason, to build the fireplaces and other complements. She told her husband that she wanted the home “to be for her children.” In addition to her children and grandchildren, numerous relatives, friends and college students Rosa has attended Mt. Zion Baptist Church her entire life. She became a member around age eight. During her time at Mt. Zion, she served in numerous ministries including: the Usher Board, the Choir, the Senior Ministry, and the Trustees. She was a Sunday school teacher, a founder of the Pace Matrons and was often tapped to represent the church at various conferences and Christian events. She was very proud of her time as the church historian. She led a team of dedicated members to publish the Mt. Zion Church History book. Rosa Lee served on the building committee when the Old Hickory Boulevard location of Mt. Zion was constructed. She sought and received approval for a history room in the new building and often conducted tours for individuals who wanted to learn about the history of the church.
Rosa was engaged in numerous community and social organizations and had so many wonderful friends.
She was a founder of Le Douz Amis Social Club, a social club for 12 African American women based in Nashville. The club had a rich 50-year history before dissolving. She was a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.; a founding member of the African American Church Historians; and a charter member of the Nashville Chapter of the National Association of Negro Women and Business Professionals Club. She was also a founding member of the Kentucky Derby Club, a social organization with chapters in seven states. Each year she enjoyed attending the annual meeting and the Kentucky Derby. In her later years Rosa was very active in the Fantastia in Red Chapter of the Red Hat Society. She has been honored by countless organizations for her leadership, dedication and service.
Rosa was fiercely dedicated to family and loved her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren dearly. She also cherished her extended family, and in 1960 she founded and planned the first Norris Family Reunion.
The annual event attracts between 125-200 family members and in 2018 celebrated its 58th year. As the family historian, Rosa would speak at every reunion about the importance of cont-inuing the family legacy.
Rosa was a beautiful, intelligent, loving and generous woman with a wonderful heart and kind spirit. She was a blessing to those who knew her. She lived a Christian life, treating others with kindness, concern and love. Although two daughters preceded her in death, she mothered and mentored many other young women, treating them as if they were her own children. She was a friend, confidant and supporter to many and never met a stranger. She always offered an encouraging word and lifted many spirits with her wonderful sense of humor.
“Because of her staunch commitment and involvement with the Mt. Zion Church’s History Room, others may want to contribute photographs and artifacts to it. If so, we are asking anyone who is interested to contri-bute in honor of Rosa Lee Houston to the Mt. Zion Baptist Church History Room.
They can be sent to the Old Hickory Boulevard location at 7594 Old Hickory Blvd., Nashville, Tenn. 37189,” said granddaughter Michelle.