By Rick Badie
The Atlanta Journal-
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 kept a promise to carry on the business. 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.
Margaret Washington Clifford, 88, of Atlanta died of heart failure. 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. 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.
Clifford’s niece Sarah O’Neal Rush, aka Sarah Washington O’Neal Rush, attends Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland. Her late mother, Agnes Louise Washington O’Neal, and Aunt Margaret were sisters, two of four daughters born to Booker T. Washington’s youngest son, Ernest Davidson Washington and Edith Meriwether Washington.
“Aunt Margaret was my vice principal when I attended Hamilton Jr. High School, today known as Calvin Simmons Middle School, in Oakland and I am one of sixteen of the great-grandchildren of Booker T. Washington. As the founder of the Booker T. Washington Empowerment Network, Inc., I carry on my great-grandfather’s legacy of lifting those who struggle to lift themselves. I am also the co-author of “Timeless Treasures-Reflections of God’s Word in the Wisdom of Booker T. Washington.” She is a columnist for the Oakland Post. And Booker T Washington visited Jennie Prentiess, the surrogate mother of Jack London at her west Oakland home at the turn of the twentieth century.