'Gramps Graduates': 106-Year-Old Man Receives Honorary High School Diploma

Photo: @birdeebird (TikTok)

A Black centenarian received an honorary diploma from a South Carolina high school this past weekend. Over a hundred people showed up to watch 106-year-old Fred Allen Smalls accept the honor from Georgetown High School on February 16, according to WPDE.

Birdella Kinney, Smalls' granddaughter, told reporters she spent more than a year planning the graduation ceremony. She also shared various clips from the event on TikTok, as well as content about her celebrated grandfather.

Applause erupted as two people helped Smalls walk across the stage, accept the diploma, and turn the tassle on his graduation cap. The presenter even highlighted his "unwavering determination and spirit" after the diploma was conferred.

Born on February 5, 1918 in Plantersville area of Georgetown County, Smalls was raised by his grandmother and aunt, who he credits for his longevity and success in life.

“He attended school in Plantersville in a building in the woods without a name," Kinney said. "He was able to complete grades 1-5 under the instruction of Mr. Jim Skinner who taught all students in the same classroom. At the early age of 15, he accepted Christ as his Savior at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Plantersville, SC."

Smalls moved to Mullins, a small town that's roughly 120 miles away from Columbia, at a young age to work in the tobacco industry and be with his family. He completed 8th grade at Mullins High School before moving to Washington D.C., where he eventually got hired at his lifelong job.

Reporters said he retired in the 1960s when John F. Kennedy was the President of the United States. Since then, he's spent his retirement with Kinney and their dog, Bella.

The long-lived South Carolina native got both local and national attention over the years. He was featured in NBC News' coverage of Black centenarians celebrating on TikTok, and he was recognized by Marion County and the City of Mullins.

This wasn't even the first time Smalls received an honorary high school diploma. WPDE said he was granted one from Joel Elias Spingarn Senior High School in November 2023.

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