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Updated: 10:17 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, 2009 | Posted: 10:17 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, 2009

Margaret Clifford, granddaughter of Booker T. Washington


Margaret Clifford, granddaughter of Booker T. Washington photo
2002 AJC photo
Margaret Clifford retired as an Atlanta University professor. A portrait of her famous grandfather is in the background.

By Rick Badie

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

October through December was candy-making time at Margaret Clifford’s home.

Fall provided the ideal temperature for chocolate to settle just so. Sweets from Washington Candy Co. were shipped worldwide during the holidays.

Mrs. Clifford’s late mother founded the business in Tuskegee, Ala., in 1922. Mrs. Clifford re-established it in 1981, keeping a promise to carry on.

For Mrs. Clifford, fulfiling that pledge reflected traits she considered the pillar of any community. They also were the ideals her grandfather — Booker T. Washington Jr. — promoted a century ago as the most influential black leader in America.

And they were the cornerstone of numerous presentations Mrs. Clifford made to local schools and organizations about the founder of Tuskegee University. Her message, said a daughter, Robin Banks of Atlanta, complemented her grandfather’s — will your way to greatness.

In 2004, Mrs. Clifford said so herself in an interview with the National Visionary Leadership Project, a nonprofit that preserves the history of extraordinary black Americans.

“Honesty, thrift, character — those are the kinds of things he so strongly believed in,” she said at the time.

Margaret Washington Clifford, 88, of Atlanta died Saturday of heart failure at Emory University Hospital. The funeral will be 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta. Murray Brothers Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

Born in Chicago, Mrs. Clifford moved with her family to Tuskegee. She attended the university — then called Tuskegee Institute — from kindergarten through college. She was a high school graduate at 16; she graduated from college in three years, earning a master’s degree in education. She earned a second master’s degree at Atlanta University.

In California, she was a teacher and administrator for Oakland Public Schools. In 1976, she became a counselor at Atlanta University. Mrs. Clifford was active at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. She belonged to various groups, including the National Council of Negro Women, and the Inquirers Club, one of the oldest African-American book clubs in the country.

Melba Hughes of Atlanta knew Mrs. Clifford nearly 20 years. When Mrs. Hughes’ daughter married, the bridge lover offered to provide party favors. “She had a sincere love for other people,” Mrs. Hughes said. “She had a generous and caring spirit.”

She married Paul Clifford, himself the grandchild of a civil rights pioneer — J.R. Clifford — who had been aligned with Booker T. Washington Jr.’s critics and had, with W.E.B. DuBois, founded the Niagara Movement, forerunner of the NAACP.

Margaret and Paul liked to joke about their grandfathers’ disagreements.

Additional survivors include a son, Marshall “Butch” Abuwi of Augusta; a sister, Gloria Jackson Baskin of Los Angeles; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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