Bessie Mae Royster was bomAugust8,1927 in Gulfport, Mississippi to the marriage of Arthur (Little Doc) Boyd Jr. and Rosa Lee Norris-Boyd. Bessie and her two sisters, Lucille (Lu Lu) and Lee Anna (Lee Lee) were reared in the segregated "Quarters" of Gulfport near their maternal grandparents Albert and Susie Norris. Bessie received Christ in her life and was baptized at a young age. As a teenager, she became a member of St. Paul A.M.E. Church. Bessie attended 33rd Avenue School. At age twelve, Bessie and her sister Lucille, age 10, were sent to Birmingham, Alabama to Aunt Mamie's for a year of finishing school. In addition to rigorous academic studies, the sisters were given an education in etiquette and the mores of Colored Southern aristocracy.
ln 1942, Bessie was delighted to rejoin her mother and youngest sister who had moved to the Oak Park area of Sacramento, California after Rosa Lee divorced and remarried. Bessie became an active member of Kyle's Temple A.M.E. Zion Church where she later taught Sunday School and became a Deaconess. She was also part of the prayer ministry called the sick and shut-ins and helped to provide breakfast before Sunday services. Bessie was a Sac High Dragon. When Negro students were denied participation in extra-curricular activities & school clubs, Bessie organized the Booker T. Washington Club so that Negro students would be represented in the Year Book. That was the beginning of a lifetime of community activism and service.
Bessie was married at eighteen to Jimmie Royster, her childhood sweetheart, who joined Bessie in Sacramento after graduating. They have six children, Macia, Stanley, Tyron "Ty", Ramona "Mona", Jeron "Jerry" and Danny. Bessie's nieces and nephews; Joseph, Rosalind, Michael, Bill, and Glenda were in her home daily and loved as her own. Her porch was always filled with neighborhood children who feasted with the family on her delicious food. They learned to respect her strict but fair standards for behavior towards one another. No fighting was allowed (in front of her) especially among family members. One of her often repeated lessons was: "You may have the whole world to fight outside of these walls but within them, we will love and support each other." Another lesson was that "family is anyone who loves and supports you." Bessie also taught "It is not the color of a person's skin that matters but the condition of their heart." This belief can be attested to by the many extended family members from different ethnic groups who are her acquired children and call her Mom.
Bessie was a strong believer and advocate for quality education for all students. She found time to be a lifetime member of the P.T.A. She served as Parliamentarian at American Legion & Donner Elementary schools. She was also on the PTA at Stanford Jr. High and Sacramento Senior High which was attended by all six of her children. Bessie was also tireless in promoting and fundraising for youth activities. She believed children should be kept intellectually stimulated and physically exhausted so they didn't have the time or energy to get into trouble. Bessie led Brownies, Girl Scout and Boy Scout Troops, an Oak Park drill team and girls' softball team. She also chaired Little League meetings and worked in the Snack Shack while being the "Warden" of the cul de sac on I lth Avenue.
Bessie owned Royster Catering for 50 years. Family members, friends and others needing work were trained and employed in the business. Single moms and students were compensated well for working hard. All who worked for her had to be able and willing to meet her high standards and work under her eagle eye for detail. Bessie provided elegant meals for the special occasions of the most prominent families and politicians in and around Sacramento. Her clients included farmers, ranchers, educators, businessmen, and women. Governors Earl Warren, Edmund G. Brown and Ronald Reagan; Chief Justice Anthony Kennedy; Senator David Roberti; Councilmen Sam Pannell and Grantland Johnson were among her customers. Parties, weddings, and political fundraisers were scheduled based on Bessie's availability. Her biscuits, hors d'oeuvres and extravagant fruit centerpieces became legendary "must haves" for a successful event. When one of Bessie's grateful customers asked what he could do as a special thank you for her services; she responded: "I would like to go to lunch at the Sutter Club." At lunch, he realized he was the first to bring a Black person to that exclusive club. No matter how important or influential the client, no one who disrespected Bessie or her employees, ever got a second chance to do the same. The parties and dinners are given for clients never exceeded the love and preparation Bessie gave to occasions for family and friends. Nothing made her happier than to celebrate with loved ones. She rejoiced in every accomplishment achieved by family, especially her grandchildren, great-grandchildren, grandnieces, and nephews.
Bessie changed her membership to First English Lutheran Church because of their early service time which allowed her to attend church before going to work and be a part of the first fully integrated church in Sacramento. She taught Sunday School and was one of the first females on the church council. She also ushered and used her catering skills to fundraise for the church. Her greatest desire was that her descendants know and have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. She was most happy when the family gathered for church services and afterward in the backyard of her daughter and son-in-law's home.
Bessie's family, church and successful business did not keep her from holding offices in the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs; Camellia City and Viola M. Brooks Civic and Social Clubs, The Women's Civic Improvement Club and Sacramento Women's Council. Bessie and her friend Stella Brandon revived the Oak Park Neighborhood Council to address an inequity of services provided to the community. Her commitment to help all the "somebodies" she could, led her to serve on the Oak Park Mental Health Advisory Board founded by her friend, Walter Mae Mikes. After retiring from the catering business, Bessie completed a seven-year course with Bible Study Fellowship where she cared for the children of B.S.F. Leaders.
Bessie was preceded in death by her parents Arthur Boyd and Rosa Lee Thompson; step-father Tommy Thompson; sisters Lucille Carter and Lee Anna Ford; son Tyron Royster; nephew Joseph Carter; niece Glenda McKinney; and great-grandson Josiah Fuller. Bessie leaves to cherish her memory, her sons, Stanley Royster and Jeron Royster of Los Angeles, California and Danny Royster of Sacramento, California; daughters Macia Fuller (Paul) and Ramona Royster of Sacramento, California;20 grandchildren; 28 great-grandchildren;4 great-great-grandchildren and a host of nieces nephews, acquired children and faithful friends.
Bessie Mae (Mom, Grandma, Grandma Grandma, Auntie Mae, Little Girl, Aunt Bessie, Mom Royster) will be remembered with love and thankfulness. Her passing will be mourned but not as those who have no hope of seeing her again. Her love for her LORD, practical advice, loyal and loving leadership of our family will have a lasting and beneficial influence. We are eternally grateful.
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