“Mother” Mary Hughes has begun the countdown to her 100th birthday celebration.

Mother Hughes celebrated her 99th birthday on Dec. 9 (her actual birthday is Dec. 8) at a gathering of friends and family at Frank Ski’s restaurant. The celebration was put together by her son Herbert J. Bridgewater, writer of the former Social Swirl column for the Atlanta Daily World. Bridgewater, well known around town for his charitable and community volunteer efforts, said this party was the kick-off for the big 100th birthday celebration.

As she has for the last 74 years, Mother Hughes is donating boxes of clothing to charity — one box for each year she has been on earth.

Bridgewater recalled her early years for those gathered, including Clayton Commission Chair Eldrin Bell, Fulton School Board member Catherine Maddox, East Point Fire Chief Rosemary Cloud, TV and real life Judge Glenda Hatchett and radio personality Frank Ski.

She was born Dec. 8, 1913 in Maxie, GA, in Oglethorpe County and both her parents died before she was a year old. She was taken in by the white family that her mother worked for, but ran away from the abusive family at 11 years old. She ended up in Atlanta and attended Booker T. Washington High School.

She went on to become a registered nurse, worked for the late Grace Towns Hamilton – the first woman to head the Atlanta Urban League and the first black woman to be elected to the Georgia General Assembly. From there her love of the Atlanta community continued and in 2005 at the age of 91, she became the oldest person to graduate from the Interdenominational Theological Center with a certificate in Theology.

Known as a very good cook, her friends conspired with Bridgewater to gather her handwritten recipes and produce “Heartwarming Recipes from Mother Hughes’ Kitchen.” The book was presented at the party and will be made available shortly. All proceeds from sales of the book will go toward a scholarship fund.

Judge Hatchett read a letter of congratulations from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Frank Ski’s family came by for hugs and kisses.

Bridgewater announced that Judge Hatchett, Frank Ski, Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran and Congressman John Lewis will be honorary chairs for the 100th birthday celebration that will be a big gala at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Atlanta.

I was privileged to be among the guests for this year’s celebration of a life well lived. I look forward to being with Mother Hughes to celebrate 100.

M. Alexis Scott is publisher of Atlanta Daily World.

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