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The Legendary, Mother Markham
Markham was blessed with a long life, family and friends.
She was a woman who went by multiple aliases such as Mattie, Aunt Mattie, Momma, Grandmamma, Cut-n-Mattie and many others, but Mattie Markham was so much more to those who knew and loved her.
She was born Mattie Stephens on October 17, 1907 to Matthew and Victoria Stephens. According to the 13th Census of the United States in Prentice, Mississippi, Stephens was the fourth of nine siblings born that year.
Stephens was the daughter of sharecroppers and her grandparents were former slaves who took care of her. Stephens would continue to share the knowledge and legacy with her family that her grandparents imparted to her.
After her mother passed, Stephens took on the role of mother and looked after her siblings in the main house of the plantation. The family would soon flee for safety when Stephens was found in a compromising position. They would take up residence with church mother, Mother Beatrice Buggs, also known as Big Mama.
Stephens would eventually devote her life to Christ, partly due to her relationship with her father. She remained a Christian all the days of her life and until her passing. Stephens was a part of The Church and Kingdom of God in Christ under the leadership of Bishop H.M. Harris, Bishop D.H. Harris, Bishop Charles M. Whittiker Sr., Shepard Charles M. Whittiker Jr. and currently Pastor Darlene Harris.
Stephens in her young adult years met and married Albert Sims and had a daughter from that union, Betty Jean Sims. She would later come to meet and remarry James Markham and from that union she would have ten additional children, three who preceded her in death. The Markhams raised Joel Andrew II, George, Barbara, Shirley, Linda, Carolyn and taken in, through love and acceptance, Shirley Davis became her daughter. Davis in her own words would say, “Granny, you know what? You’re my best friend!”
A wife and a mother was a position Markham enjoyed and obviously did successfully. She made sure her family was taken care of and provided for on a daily basis. She had an uncanny skill as a seamstress, and would make her own clothes with nothing more than a single needle and thread. Markham was known to cut out a garment without so much as a pattern and make an outfit.
Markham worked for USC Medical Center formerly known as “General Hospital” for more than 18 years. She later settled into life as a homemaker. She would serve the community and others in many capacities. She was a licensed teacher, worked for the Good Samaritan Club and in missionaries. She was also very active in the church as an usher, in the choir and was Mother of the Congregation and Shepherd Mother.
Mother Mattie Markham as many would come to know her, was described as a true prayer warrior. It was said when she prayed to God, He would listen. Markham was seen as a truly anointed woman who was known even to pray in her sleep.
She lived on the corner of 59th and 8th avenue for over 25 years and was an adopted mother/grandmother to the neighborhood children. Markham had a generous spirit as she was known to feed anyone who passed by her house and was hungry. She even cut a hole into her screen so she could feed those who wanted something to eat.
Mattie Markham made the news when she was featured in the Sentinel in 2009. She had turned 101 years old and had lived to witness the nations first Black President, a site she thought she would never see. “I never thought I would see it,” said Markham. “A Black man as President.”
Mattie Markham passed on October 11 and will be dearly and sorely missed. She leaves to cherish her memory three daughters, Shirley Green, Carolyn Black (John), and Shirley Davis, 13 granchildren, 29 great-grandchildren, 27 great-great grandchildren, two great-great-great grandchildren; one God-daughter, Darlene Harris and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and extended family and friends.