Photography Jason Huynh
As Ann Culpepper sat down for her interview with Grand, she immediately began speaking about the 2019 NCAA Division Men’s Basketball Tournament. Her alma mater, the University of North Carolina, had been eliminated, so she would be cheering on Virginia because of the Atlantic Coast Conference connection. She also stated she would try and root for Auburn due to Charles Barkley and his commercials involving Spike Lee and Samuel Jackson.
“I’m particularly fond of the marvelous commercial where he has the dog, ‘Charles BARKley and the bird, Larry BIRD,” laughs Culpepper. As soon as the conversation began, the tone for this particular senior profile was set. Before we forget, Virginia went on to win March Madness, so the ACC did prevail for Culpepper.
Ann Culpepper is a Rome City historian and educator. For years, she has been the person people have turned to for information on some of the most important places here in the city. From her volunteer days at East Rome High School, and later Rome High School in the media center, to being a chaperone on school field trips, guiding tours of Broad Street, Myrtle Hill Cemetery and the ‘City Clock’ (now called the clocktower), she has always been the holder of history here in the city of Rome.
“I was born here in Rome several years ago,” smiles Culpepper as she lets out a huge laugh shortly after. “I have lived here all of my life except for my four years in college and my first year of marriage. I was an only child and some people are apologetic about that. There is a thought in society– that I consider a myth– that an only child is selfish. I was raised as to not be selfish, and that I had to give up things,” continues Culpepper.
“An example of that is years ago I had an aunt to pass away. She had some of the most beautiful giraffe statues that I absolutely loved, and she promised them to me when she passed. Well when the time came, my uncle expressed that he wanted them, so my mother gave them to him and promised me that I’d get them when he passed on. Some years later, I visited his apartment in Florida and didn’t see the statues. I asked him where they were, and he told me that he had come in drunk from a party and smashed them to smithereens. That has absolutely been the hardest test of my unselfishness,” chuckles Culpepper.
You see, Culpepper’s mother and father instilled in her a sense of volunteering and giving back very early in her life. “This town has been good to me and I’ve always wanted to repay it where I could,” smiles Culpepper. And pay it back she has.
Culpepper was a volunteer in the public-school system for years, including the 20 years in the media center at East Rome High. “I loved every minute of every year at that school. My daughters went through East Rome as well. It was just a marvelous time in my life,” she says.
Along with the schools in the area, Culpepper has also volunteered in the business bureau and at other business conventions. She was a volunteer and very involved in the transfer of the Olympic Flag during the 1996 Olympics when it was being brought over from Barcelona, among other experiences. But outside of East Rome High, her other favorite places to volunteer are in Downtown Rome; more specifically Broad Street, the Clocktower and Myrtle Hill Cemetery, of which she has conducted tours for decades.
Culpepper started giving tours when she was asked to fill in for the original tour guide who had had an emergency and could not be there that day. She stepped in as interim tour guide and has never stopped.
“Here I was standing there with a mic in my hand, nervous as all get out. I felt like had I opened my mouth, my tongue was going to fall out,” she says with a boisterous laugh. “I got it done, though, and I really owe that ability to something from my childhood.
“What I’m about to tell you is one reason I cannot watch “Driving Ms. Daisy,” as that movie hits very close to home. My grandfather was blind and needed a driver, and as a child when I was out of school, I would ride around with them. My grandfather knew a lot about the area, and he would share it with me, which is essentially how I learned the history of Rome—was through the eyes of a blind man,” explains Culpepper. “My grandfather was a marvelous man and I truly wish I had realized how wonderful he was during his lifetime.”
One of Culpepper’s favorites to give tours of is Clocktower Hill.
“I used to tease Mr. John Bennett that when I died, I was going to be cremated and I want my ashes be mixed in paint and painted inside the walls of the clock,” says Culpepper.