REMEBERING Margaret Benham Radford

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Margaret Benham Radford
Margaret Benham Radford January 1932 – December 2022

Margaret ‘Patsy’ Benham Radford made her transition to her heavenly home on Friday, December 9th.. at age 90.
Star Pupil – Basketball Player – Wife – Mother – Minister’s Wife – Surrogate Mother – Christian – Motivation Speaker – Loyal Friend
These are just a few words that describe the legacy of love and life lived by my Mama, who was as well a surrogate Mother to hundreds of other boys and girls. Born in Cartersville, GA on January 15, 1932, she was the fourth of ten children to Bradford and Flora Benham.
Before I share more about our Mother, these are the Arrangements: Mother Radford will lie in state at John P. Franklin Funeral Home on Wednesday, December 21 between 2 and 6 p.m. A Celebration of Life service will be held on Thursday, December 22, 2022 at Orchard Knob Baptist Church at 2:00pm. There will be a private burial service. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Margaret B. Radford Educational Scholarship Fund to benefit underserved, orphaned, and in need boys and girls.

By Faith Radford Edwards
Mrs. Radford’s story: The Benham family were a close-knit family group and all of the children were raised to be studious and-God-fearing. “Patsy”, Margaret’s nickname, and sister Agnes, 18 months apart in birth, were always close, lovable to each other, and partners in childhood antics. Originally Patsy and Agnes were two years apart in school. That changed when around junior high, Patsy, who continued to excel in academics and sports, was ‘skipped’ a grade in school! Both girls were excellent basketball players and known throughout Bartow basketball county as those ‘dynamo Benham girls’.

Margaret graduated high school at age 15 as Class Valedictorian and received a scholarship to Payne College in Augusta Ga.

During one summer while at home and working, Patsy met and fell in love with a ‘bad boy’ whom had been introduced to her by Joe, Agnes’ fiancée. Agnes signed for Patsy to get married to John before Margaret left for her junior year at Payne College. (Of course, Margaret’s parents would not sign.) Margaret finished her junior year and gave birth to a baby girl, Faith in June 1950.

Margaret decided to put her education on ‘hold’ to be a dutiful wife and mother. Husband, John, the former ‘bad boy’ was called into the ministry. Six years later, Margaret and John moved to Atlanta to work and study: he in Seminary and she worked part-time as assistant principal at a private school while attending night classes. They were now parents to a daughter and son; the children stayed in Cartersville with family and visited on the weekends.

Margaret brought the children to Atlanta and they attended private school while parents worked and studied. John was called to pastor a church in Chattanooga; Margaret put the needs of the family before her dreams and the family moved to Chattanooga in the early 1960’s. It was also at this time that both Margaret and John went to work at the Bonny Oaks School as house parents. Bonny Oakes served as home for dependent and neglected children from 1895 to 1984.

Margaret was now the wife of a full-time minister; doting Mother to their 2 biological children, and surrogate Mother and role model to approximately 54 boys and girls who were housed on the ‘black side’ at Bonny Oaks School.

Margaret’s mission was to ensure these children got a chance for better opportunities. As was customary in that time, there were amenities available to the boys and girls on the ‘white side’ at Bonny Oaks that were not available to the boys and girls on the ‘black side’. Working with the school’s director/superintendent, Malcolm Adamson, and every other person in a leadership role at Bonny Oaks and in the Hamilton County system, Margaret fought for the place the children called home to be equal in amenities and to have better opportunities. She worked with both the elementary and high schools to ensure the children from Bonny Oaks were not placed in non-challenging classes and demanded the children not be ostracized because they lived at an orphanage.

As a minister’s wife, she taught Sunday School, started and directed Children’s Choirs; presented classes to both youth and adults on living life by Christian principles. She taught the girls and boys at Bonny Oaks how to cook, clean, balance a checkbook and accept responsibility! Times changed and Bonny Oaks was no longer segregated (Federal Law passed) and Mrs. Radford became Mother/House Parent to numerous black and white children. She never made a difference in children of various races, loved them all and encouraged them to become worthy and responsible citizens.

Bonny Oaks School (home) closed and the children became wards under the direction of Family & Children Services. After over 20 years at Bonny Oaks, Mrs. Radford went to work for Family & Children Services which later became the organization Partnership and is now known as The Partnership for Families, Children and Adults. Later, she managed teen group homes established to provide assistance to troubled young men and women. She retired in 2005 after 45 years of service to children and community.

She enjoyed serving in various churches and was a spiritual and motivational speaker until she was unable to drive a car, and unable to walk. Sis. Radford wrote and delivered more than 100 bible-themed, Christ -centered messages to thousands who were in attendance at churches, conferences, and special gatherings. She was known for being a sharp dresser; admired for wearing big and beautiful hats; performing the ‘holy dance in pulpits when the spirit hit; and speaking the TRUTH… ..no padding, no chasers.

Margaret Radford has raised, nurtured, mothered, and guided generations of boys and girls as well as provided facts, information, and humor to countless men and women during her more than 60 years as Instructor, Caregiver, Mother, Role Model, and Confidant, while demonstrating Christian values and using God’s Words of the Bible as her guide.

She has received numerous awards and certificates, in both community and religious areas, including being honored as an Outstanding Baptist Minister’s Wife and named in 1998 as Black Pioneer Woman of Excellence by the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., Chattanooga Chapter.

At the time of her transition, her FAMILY remained one of her greatest joys. She was a very proud Mother, GrandMother, Great Grand Mother, and Great-Great Grand Mother, serving as matriarch over five generations. Her favorite color wass still Red, her favorite fabric was Mink and her favorite book, the Holy Bible! During activity time at Life Care of Hixson where she was a resident, she learned to play dominos in her late 80s and was a singing member of the Trembling Troubadors, a Parkinson’s support group!

Below are some excerpts taken from the Bonny Oaks website that was developed years ago for the former staff and residents to keep in touch.

Charles Calloway
Bonny Oaks – 1982 to 1989
Message: “I would like to say that Bonny Oaks School made a difference in my life and the people that gave their time to take care of me. I thank the Lord for what he has done to my life and how he brought me from a long way. The one person that I thank the most is Mrs. Radford. She was and still is my hero because of everything she taught me and the love she had for me. I am now a Deacon at Chandler Baptist Church, father of four kids, and I have a lovely wife, Kim Careathers, the Lord has blessed me with. I am an employee at Carta Bus Transportation. I just want to say Bonny Oaks made a difference in my life.”

Johnetta Fugh
Bonny Oaks – 1970 through 1976.
Message: “Looking back, Bonny Oaks was the best thing that ever happened to me. When I was there, it was a White and Black side but it changed, we learned to love each other. We learned to cook, to be responsible. Please, Oakknight, send a message!!!!!!”

Diane Stone
Bonny Oaks – 1962 through 1976
Message: “I would like to thank Mrs. Margaret Radford for all she did for me and my sister, Georgia Calloway, and my two brothers, Vernoral Stone (who has gone on to be with the Lord) and Charles L. Calloway. We all had some time at Bonny Oaks. The years I was there were good years and some were bad years, but most of all, we all came out alright! I am working at Memorial Hospital (18 years). Georgia is also working at Memorial Hospital. Charles is retired from Memorial Hospital and we are all doing just fine! I will never be able to thank Mrs. Radford for all she has done for us. She taught my sister and I how to be young ladies and how to treat our husband even before we were married. I just want to say “THANK YOU” from the bottom of my heart, Mrs. Radford. Diane Stone Hermon, Georgia Calloway and Charles Calloway”

Mrs. Radford has been at Bonny Oaks since the 1960’s and still works today for the Family & Children Services at the boys cottage, Keese Hall. Over the years she has assumed many titles during her decades of dedication to the children, including Houseparent, Assistant to the Director and Director of Campus Life. She is proud to tell you that she is 80 years old; that her son, Henry, received a scholarship and graduated from the University of Miami in the state of Florida; that her daughter, Faith, lives in Chattanooga, runs a successful business and has two sons; and that she is extremely proud of her grandson, Ben and two great-granddaughters, Kaylx and Shelby! When asked if many of the children from the Black side of Bonny Oaks ever returns to see her, she said “They come back and find you! I receive many Mother’s Day cards from them, and I still know them all by name”. Mrs. Radford writes the following message to her “Men and Women”:

Dear Men and Women

I want you to know how thankful I am that God saw fit to put me in your lives. There were so many days of hardship, mental anguish but there were more days of joy, anticipation and happiness through the many challenges that we had. I look back on all those days and, as I close my eyes, I can remember each of you. Remember the birthday parties, the barbeques, the days you received your report cards – how proud we were of so many good report cards. And, I also think about all the report cards that were hid, that were changed and some just got lost in the shuffle – as well as all the A’s and B’s that were hung and framed and things taken home with you.

I know as you read this, you will chuckle but I hope and pray that all of you are good Mommas and Daddys. I know some of you are taking care of your own parents and I think that is wonderful. I look back on those days as our accomplishments, for, in this group there are lawyers, anesthesiologists, nursers, teachers, preachers, funeral directors, those who are aspiring artists, and those who are entertainers, cooks, chefs, beauticians, barbers. There are a lot of single parents I am proud of and some good Mommas and Daddys who are bringing their children up in the fear of God. Remember to always reach for your dreams. Never stop dreaming, never stop living, loving, believing. For there is a higher Power than all of us.