BLACK HISTORY TRIBUTE
ROBERTA BROWN FORD
Roberta was born November 12, 1912 in Jakin, Georgia. Her parents were Toby and Viola Brown. She received her early childhood education in Jakin, Georgia. In order to receive quality secondary education, her parents sought various sources. She was fortunate to be accepted into Allen Normal School in Thomasville, Georgia. The challenge was transportation to Thomasville. As a young girl she caught a ride with the mail carrier to Donalsonville, Georgia and from there bus transportation of some sort to Thomasville. At Allen Normal, she paid for her tuition by providing domestic service to plantation owners who were sponsoring the school. She would often speak of the rich education experience especially the Latin classes. Mrs. Currethurs, a Quaker was apparently one of her favorite teachers. The history of Allen Normal can be found at Jack Hadley Black History Museum in Thomasville, Georgia.
Roberta’s parents Toby and Viola were progressive and believed in seeking the best education for their children. Six of the nine children received a degree beyond high school. Two presumed a trade, and one chose to be a housewife. Roberta continued her education at Fort Valley Normal School. After graduation Roberta returned to Jakin, Georgia to teach at Mt. Meig School, a one room school just across the road where she grew up and lived until she passed away. Some of her students were her brother in law’s children, second cousins, her husband’s first cousins and many of whom was very near her age.
After her marriage to Joshua C. Ford Sr., she left the teaching profession to help him with the family farming operation and to raise a family of six. Joshua passed away at an early age and unfortunately crops were still in the field. The family and friends assisted with harvest. With no other means of income she took on the task of managing a portion of the farm. Her two young sons did not have the maturity or skills to operate tractors and other farm machinery they owned so she purchased a mule and with the help of the immediate family for years they produced crops and livestock on 60 acres. Roberta was a strong lady. She used her ability to communicate and convinced farm creditors and suppliers that she could keep the farm and make the farm productive. As with farm operations she had some good years and not so good years. Occasionally, she would use her skills providing clerical work and horticulture skills to assist a nurseryman in order to supplement the family income. Like her father and mother, she valued an education. She knew what it took to get a quality education. Using farm resources and a combination of her ability to make other connections, five of her six children attended college and one sought a trade and eventually owned her own business. One of her greatest contributions was to help other children to seek higher education. She was influential in helping many with college applications, and helping them find resources to attend college and trade school. Using her writing skills, she helped many people in the community to craft letters, understand correspondence, write speeches, complete government and non-governmental applications. She is credited with crafting letters for people in the community that helped some people save their land. She also helped students write essays and gave them the courage to present them. Older people in the community would say she could “pull a pen.” That was a complement for a good writer. Because of her desire to teach and provide outreach she has a desire to help uplift people in her community by participating in the local community organizations such as Parent Teachers Association. She was not one to be out front on issues but she would support those in leadership. One of her mottos was “Do a good job, but do not do things for form or fashion and outside show to the world”.
In the early 50s her neighbor’s child, Isabelle Daniels a Tigerbell at Tennessee State University and Olympic track winner was competing around. The lifeline for information from the media to the community about her success was orchestrated by Roberta. When Isabelle returned home to our tiny rural community, who else but Roberta was able to get her an opportunity to tell her story on local TV in Dothan, Alabama. That was a time when few people in the community had a television. Three or four families gathered at one house to view her interview. All could not get in the house, therefore they had to view through open windows. She was always paving the way for others and not looking for any credit. As was her motto “Don't do things for form or fashion and outside show to the world.” Roberta B. Ford, my dear, you are my Black History Hero.