Ludie Simpson was born Anna Louise Simpson in 1887, but was known to almost everyone as “Miss Ludie.” Thanks to her generosity a large tract
of land owned by her family since in the early days of Gwinnett County has been preserved for residents to enjoy in the years to come.
Growing up on a farm by the Chattahoochee River a few miles from Norcross and never marrying, she became a school teacher. She graduated from the State Normal College (a school for teachers in Athens, later incorporated into UGA) and Columbia University in New York City, where she earned a master’s degreein education.
She taught at Joe Brown School and other locations in the Atlanta public school system for many years, living as a boarder in the West End section of the city during the week and returning to Norcross and the farm on the weekends. After her retirement from the Atlanta schools she lived in Norcross and taught at the local high school well into her 70s. And she had a side job for many years – selling encyclopedias door-to-door in Atlanta and Gwinnett!
Ludie loved to travel – making trips to such places as the Philippine Islands and Europe in the 1930s, and taking a group of school children by train from Atlanta to the New York World’s Fair in 1939.
Jane Simpson’s 230 acres of land along the Chattahoochee was divided between Ludie and her siblings in their mother’s estate, and in following years Ludie bought the shares owned by her sister and brothers. Late in life she decided to give the land to the Presbyterian Church, with the provision that they build a chapel there in memory of her mother, and that they never sell the land. The Presbyterians did not want to take on such a large responsibility and declined the offer, but the North Georgia Methodist Church, to whom it was offered next, accepted, and it became their Simpsonwood Conference Center.
The conference center was successful at supporting itself for many years, but by the early 21st century it was a money-losing asset for the church, and they decided they could no longer keep it going. They received permission from a Gwinnett County judge to break the “no sale” provisions of Miss Ludie’s gift, and in 2015 sold it to Gwinnett County and the City of Peachtree Corners, who plan to develop it as a park.