From medicine to social work, Humphrey always helping others

Margueritte Humphrey
Margueritte stands with grandchildren Justin and Morgan

During the month of February, The Examiner celebrates Black History Month by spotlighting members of the community whose outstanding actions are exemplary lessons, not only for African-Americans, but also for people of all races. One humble lady stands out not only as a voice for those who can’t speak, but as an advocate for today’s youth.

Margueritte Humphrey is usually more comfortable working behind the scenes in the organizations she is involved with, but the result of her helpful actions can be seen daily through the lives she has touched in her efforts as a social worker.

Born and raised in Beaumont’s North End, Humphrey graduated from Charlton-Pollard High School in the late 1950s. She remembers her upbringing as a relatively pleasant one. She played baseball with friends and enjoyed movie nights downtown. She was a member of the YWCA and participated in community dances and camping trips.

Her hardworking mother was head of the household and did her best to provide for her three children. “We weren’t exactly middle class, but all of our basic needs were met and some extras,” Humphrey said. “Sometimes, I think about how necessary it is to have a car, but we rode the bus or walked everywhere.”

Humphrey is the eldest of her siblings and learned her strong work ethic from her mother and grandmother.

“She reminded us often, be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all,” Humphrey said. “I know that has something to do with my career because I was asked to apply for every job I’ve held because someone knew of my previous work.”

After graduating, Humphrey took up a few odd jobs at a coffee shop and Hotel Beaumont until she was able to realize her true calling, helping people.

“I knew I wanted to be a LVN when my son was born,” Humphrey recalled. “We managed my tuition at Lamar, and I was on my way.”

She trained at Baptist Hospital, and was hired in the segregated unit for African-Americans after graduation and passing the State Licensing Exam. While working as a nurse at Baptist Hospital, Humphrey was intuitive with her patients and began picking up on subtleties indicating possible underlying reasons why some of the patients were really there.

“I had noticed that there were more to some problems that people presented, that weren’t just medical,” Humphrey said. “I was becoming more interested in those needs and how I could help with that.”

When Baptist Hospital opened a position for a discharge planner, Humphrey was recommended as the best person for the job.

As a discharge planner, she helped patients and their families with the transition of moving from the hospital back to the home and assisting them wherever possible. She also became aware of the many social service needs of patients and the community, and returned to Lamar University to study social work. After earning her bachelor’s degree, Humphrey became the hospital’s first social worker. She loves helping people reach their full potential and after touching the lives of countless patients in her 20 years of service at Baptist Hospital, she became a case manager in a pilot program for the Regional Planning Commission’s Area Agency on Aging. She was a driving force of the program that assesses needs, provides in-home services and/or identifies needed resources for the elderly and disabled in Jefferson, Orange and Hardin counties.

She was asked to apply for the risk manager’s position at Schlesinger’s Geriatric Center five years later.

“It was a position that I took very seriously,” she said, “because it required monitoring the quality of care of the residents.”

She personally reviewed every complaint made by the residents and families, and worked to correct and resolve issues with the executive director.

Humphrey’s drive and determination to improve the quality of life for so many caught the attention of philanthropist Regina Rogers, and after being a mentor for The Ben Rogers “I Have A Dream Program,” was offered a position as the student affairs director in 1997.

“She did such an extraordinary job as a mentor, I knew she would be perfect for the position,” said Rogers. 

“I saw the job as an opportunity to encourage and guide young people to success in education, professional careers, productive members of society and positive role-models,” Humphrey said.

Over the years, she has helped guide the lives of many children who may not have succeeded without her patience and persistence.

Of the 36 “dreamers” currently enrolled at Lamar University and Lamar Institute of Technology, almost half of them are from some of the early high school graduating classes. 

“As they say, ‘Once a dreamer, always a dreamer,’ and we keep the line of communications open so they all always feel that they are a part of the ‘Dreamer’ family,” she said.

Aside from her work with the “I Have a Dream Program,” she has also served on the boards for Some Other Place, Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission, been a Sunday school superintendent and past presidents of Girls’ Haven & Ehrhart Charter School boards, Southeast Texas Social Workers Association, board of the Alzheimer’s Association of Beaumont and the YWCA. Humphrey is also very active in her church and has received the Douglas Memorial Recognition of Service award for her continuous involvement.

While she has guided the lives of many young people, one of her greatest accomplishments is raising her son Darrell.

Humphrey says it’s been an interesting career path full of twist and turns over the years, but says her common goal has always been helping those in need.