Tillie Mae (Bing) Bryant was born on July 6, 1942, to Missouri and Henry Bing in Estill SC. She graduated from Estill Training School early, at the age of 16. She attended Morris College in Sumter, SC, where she earned her degree in Education. At Morris College she met her husband Robert Louis Bryant. Tillie and Robert enjoyed 52 years together before his death. She worked for the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office as the Clerk of the Grand Jury and a paralegal for more than 25 years. In the past, she worked for RCA where she was a member of a team assembling equipment that helped to send the first man to the moon. With her husband, she owned Bobby B’s Best In BBQ restaurant in Somerville, NJ.
Tillie lived a life of purpose and courage. In the 1960’s she was a critical member of the Civil Rights Movement. She marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., strategized with a young Congressman John Lewis, participated in lunch counter sit-ins ,and was jailed many times. During one jail stay she wrote her story on a now famous roll of jailhouse toilet paper. When asked recently why she put her life on the line during the Civil Rights Movement, she said, “I wanted my children and future generations of all races and backgrounds to have freedom and a better life”. This roll of toilet paper is being donated to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture to help preserve the history of the US Civil Rights Movement.
Throughout her life, Tillie was dedicated to helping others. She often could be found participating in philanthropic activities like Toys for Tots, The March of Dimes, and Hands Across America. She was a founding member of the Keturah Chapter #63 of the Eastern Stars of Somerville, NJ and the chapter’s first Worthy Matron.
Tillie was the family historian and became an expert genealogist. Using census and church records and visiting cemeteries, she was able to trace her family’s roots back more than 10 generations to the early 1700s. She was thrilled when her research was validated by professional genealogists from the TV show Finding Your Roots!
Tillie enjoyed traveling, especially taking cruises. Traveling with Robert and family and friends, she visited 6 continents, numerous countries, and took more than 80 cruises during her adventures. If you could not find Tillie, you knew to look in the casino! She loved playing slot machines and attending casino shows and performances!
Tillie was an artist creating memorable paintings and drawings. She also loved crafting! You frequently found her doing needlepoint, making unique dolls, or bedazzling something with a glue gun and sequins. She recently won an award at the Somerset County Senior Citizens Art Show for a doll exhibit entitled “Dancing Ladies”. She was an avid gardener and always had a yard full of fresh vegetables and beautiful flowers and plants.
Along with Robert, Tillie loved to entertain and have cookouts, especially their annual Fish Fry! Their home was always open to everyone.
Tillie was a loving wife, mother, grandmother, and friend. She is predeceased by her husband Robert Bryant, her parents Henry and Missouri Bing, and her brother Robert Bing. She leaves to cherish her memory three children, Wanda Hope (Robert), Robert Jr., and Nicole Warner (Matthew); four grandchildren, Justin Bryant, Tyler Hope, and William and Kayla Warner; siblings Janet Bing and Howard Bing (Nanresa); brother-in-law Charles Bryant (Lynelle), and sisters-in-laws Latricia Bryant and Ian Bryant; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.