Willie Mae “Trudy” Phelps Spencer

Published 9:39 am Friday, March 18, 2022

Mrs. Willie Mae “Trudy” Phelps Spencer was born in Bovina, Mississippi in Warren County, near the Freetown community, on June 21, 1925, to Eliza Amos Phelps and Beatrice “Bat” Phelps. She was the “knee” baby, the baby girl,” and the third of their four children. Beatrice had 10 additional children that he reared in his second marriage. Her maternal family members were landowners in their rural community, where she was reared. Trudy, as she was affectionately called by her family and friends, was baptized at age 11 at Mt. Hebron Missionary Baptist Church, a small rural church, where her maternal grandfather, Ben Amos, was one of the founders and builders. Trudy remained an active member of Mt. Hebron until it closed in December 2014. She was a member of the choir for decades and a mother of her church from 2010-2014. Upon the closing of Mt. Hebron, Trudy became a member of the Mt. Heroden Baptist Church in Vicksburg, Mississippi where she also served as a mother until her earthly transition.

Trudy was educated in a one-room schoolhouse, Clear Creek School, in “the country,” and at St. Mary’s Catholic High School in Vicksburg, Mississippi where she graduated in 1944. She continued her education at Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College in Lorman, Mississippi, and Southern Christian Institute (which merged with Tougaloo College in 1954). After becoming well prepared educationally, she attained her Mississippi teacher’s license. Later, Trudy, who was always interested in “hairdos,” received her Mississippi cosmetology license after successfully completing the course of study at Rosalie’s Beauty School in Vicksburg, which was owned and operated by her favorite first cousin.

Trudy’s first and forever love and best friend was Louis Spencer, Jr., from her young age of 22 and his of 26.  As Vicksburgers, they both were avid music and dance lovers, especially enjoying rhythm and blues, with a very special connection to the Red Tops Band, where Trudy’s life partner was a founding member. Trudy and Louis spent their earthly life together in Vicksburg until Louis became ill in 2009 when they moved to Madison, Mississippi. In 2010, Louis preceded her in joining their Heavenly Father.

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A daughter, Gwendolyn, was born to this special union. Gwendolyn married Wesley F. Prater, who became Trudy’s “son” for almost 53 years. They, along with Trudy’s two grandchildren, Djenaba and Wesley Spencer, and her great-grandchildren, filled Trudy’s life with immense joy and pride.

As an employee, Trudy remained active in the Vicksburg workforce as a cosmetologist for many years. Trudy was also among the first entering group of three African American women employees of the Westinghouse Plant in the Vicksburg area in the early 1960s. Additionally, during “post-retirement,” for a number of years in the 1970s, she was co-operator of Glady’s Grocery Store, along with her husband, Louis.

Trudy was an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary of the Tyner-Ford Post Number 213 in Vicksburg. Trudy also enjoyed old and new friends and was actively engaged with the Madison County participants at the Senior Citizens’ Center in Flora, Mississippi, where she was crowned “Prom Queen,” in 2013. For several more years, she engaged with the Baptist Adult Day Health Services in Jackson, Mississippi. In 2015, at her 90th birthday celebration, she received a commendation from George Flaggs, Mayor, City of Vicksburg, in recognition of her work and contributions to her community.

Trudy believed in treating people the way she wanted to be treated and continuously practiced the golden rule in her daily life.  She was an exemplary woman of faith, a devoted and dedicated spouse, and a committed, unconditionally loving mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin, and friend.

On Wednesday, March 16, 2022, Willie Mae “Trudy” Phelps Spencer made her final transition into her eternal reward while at her daughter’s and son’s home in Madison, Mississippi. Trudy was 96 and the last living child of the four children born to the union of Beatrice and Eliza Amos Phelps. Trudy has the blessed distinction of living the longest number of years of a female on the Amos (maternal) side of her family and the second oldest living person on the Phelps (paternal) side, at the time of her earthly passing. She is preceded in death by:  Her husband, Louis Spencer, Jr.; her parents, Beatrice Phelps and Eliza Amos Phelps Jones; her brothers, Willie “Brother,” “Tip-Toe” “Dit” Phelps, Elijah “Billy” Phelps; and her sister, Rosa Bell, “Sister” Phelps Jones. She is also predeceased by her favorite cousin, Rosalie Nichols Strong; her loving aunt and uncle, Kenny and Nettie Nichols; and her special aunt, Pearlie Henderson.

Lovingly remembering, rejoicing, and cherishing her memory are: Her only child, a daughter, Gwendolyn Spencer Prater and son-in- love (law), Wesley F. Prater, Madison, Mississippi; granddaughter, Djenaba Prater, Zachary, Louisiana; grandson, Wesley Spencer Prater (Rhea), Madison, Mississippi; great-grandsons, Aden Prater Swan and Elison Prater Swan, Zachary; great granddaughters, Baleigh Adams and Lily Claire Prater, Madison; a very special niece and sister to Gwendolyn, Bernadine Rice (Vincent) of Sarasota, Florida; niece, Linda Smith of Vicksburg; niece, Toya Phelps Nix (Tyrone) of San Antonio, TX; nephews, Charles Phelps, Barry Phelps, and Sammie Rainey (Janet Sue), all of Vicksburg; brothers, Benson Sims (Frankie), Chicago, Illinois , Louis Phelps (Laverne), Kennesaw, Georgia; William Phelps (Carlene) of Lakeview, Georgia, and Michael Phelps (Patricia) of Vicksburg; sisters, Bobbie Bradford, Chicago, Illinois, Lois Claiborne, Detroit, Michigan; and Willie Jean Davis (Alejandro) of Vicksburg; special great-nieces, Denise Coleman, Houston, Texas; Melissa Rice, Hanover, Maryland, Chandra DeLisa Flowers and Danielle Phelps, Vicksburg; special great-nephews, Lawrence Walker (Trish), Delaware, Ohio; Brian Phelps (Melva), Austin, Texas; Derrick Rainey, Sr. (Lisa), Vicksburg; and Darryl Rice, Reston, Virginia. Trudy also leaves special cousins, Marshae Henderson, Nettie Rose Ravick, and Tangie Amos Neal, and numerous loving cousins including the Phelps, Amos, and Henderson families and other supportive friends and families, especially, Hazel Brown (1944 classmate), Claudette Haggard, Evelyn “Vonn” Hammonds, Phyllis Anthony, and the Luster, Davis, and McKay Families. We loved and honored Trudy during her earthly life, and now we respectfully accept God’s plan and release her, body and soul, to our God Almighty, while our cherished memories of Trudy remain in our hearts.

Memorial contributions, in Willie Mae Spencer’s honor, may be made to support the Drs. Wesley and Gwendolyn Prater Endowed Student Scholarship Fund, Tougaloo College, 500 West County Line Road, Tougaloo, Mississippi 39174.


Visitation will be held on Sunday, March 20 in W. H. Jefferson Funeral Home from 4 to 6 p.m. in the funeral home with facial coverings worn while inside the building. A private burial ceremony will be held at a later date.