Edwina Elliott never officially earned her master's degree in social work, but that didn't stop her from working in the field for more than 40 years.
In 1931, the Augusta native graduated from Alabama's Talladega College and enrolled in the Whitney M. Young School of Social Work, then located on Auburn Avenue near Citizens Trust, her father's bank. The segregated school only offered certificates as degrees.
While enrolled, she met her husband, George Forriss Elliott. In 1933, they graduated, married and moved to St. Louis. She worked for the Missouri and Illinois chapters of the American Red Cross.
In the 1950s, the Young school became part of what is now Clark Atlanta University, which offered a master's program in social work. Since Mrs. Elliott had studied the curriculum, worked and even taught in the field, Clark Atlanta officials figured she deserved a master's degree.
So in 2005, Mrs. Elliott donned a cap and gown with graduate students at Clark Atlanta and received her degree.
On Sept. 22, Mamie Edwina Dugas Elliott died of natural causes at Life Care Center of Lawrenceville. She was 101. A memorial will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Atlanta. Murray Brothers Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Mrs. Elliott was born in Augusta, the third child of Henry Clayton Dugas, a businessman, and Mamie Aiken Coles, a teacher. She graduated from Augusta's Haines Normal Institute, attended Fisk University for two years then transferred to Talladega College.
In the Midwest, she was an adjunct social work professor at St. Louis-area schools. For the Red Cross, she provided services to families of military personnel during World War II and the Korean War. She eventually became a Red Cross agency director and retired in 1962. Her husband died in 1977.
In 2001, at 90, Mrs. Elliott returned to Atlanta to be near family. When she turned 100, TV personality Willard Scott saluted the diminutive educator on air. Called "the duchess" by family, she enjoyed playing bridge.
When Mrs. Elliott received her master's degree from Clark Atlanta University, she called it an honor.
"My late husband and I always regretted that we were not able to return to Atlanta to finish our degrees," she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Her son, Forriss Dugas Elliott of Lithonia, said she considered the degree a significant milestone, one of many witnessed or experienced as a centenarian.
"Through the years, I can recall the milestones," he said. "There was great pride for her with the advent of Brown v. Board of Education. There was pride when a black gentleman became the first state senator in Missouri, and the highlight of it all was going to vote for Barack Obama. To her, all these things signaled the decline of segregation and the increase of integration."
Additional survivors include eight grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.
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