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Oldest Living Miss Maroon & White dies

Mrs. Eloise Usher Belcher, the oldest living Miss Maroon and White, died Wednesday, June 22, 2005, in her Orangeburg, South Carolina, home at the age of 88.

Mrs. Belcher, Miss Maroon and White 1937, was with the Morehouse family during the homecoming celebration last October as the College honored the former Miss Maroon and White courts.

Those of who attended the opening of the "Crowns and Gowns" exhibit in October 2004 or who attended the coronation will remember this remarkable, spry and stunningly beautiful woman.

When she was introduced at the coronation, there was a thunderous applause in the Martin Luther King Jr. Chapel. All of the former queens wanted to take pictures with her.

Born in 1918, she graduated from Spelman College in 1938 and went on to have an illustrious career in education at Atlanta University and South Carolina State College, where she taught English and directed the theatrical productions.

Her late husband Dr. Algernon Belcher was a distinguished professor of business and economics at South Carolina State University. She is survived by a sister, Mary Lou Usher Hebert, who had the distinction of being Miss Fisk University and a brother, Dr. Samuel Usher. Dr. Jane Smith, her cousin, is director of the Spelman LEADS Program and a former attendant to Miss Maroon and White.

“It was an honor to represent the College and pay tribute during the service to our queen,” said the Rev. Herman “Skip” Mason, College archivist.

He said that in her funeral program and in the obituary that ran in the Orangeburg newspaper her return to Morehouse during homecoming was highlighted.

“The entire city of Orangeburg was thrilled that we recognized her,” Mason said. “What a joy that we gave her roses while she could still smell them.”

At the funeral, Mason met several friends of Mrs. Belcher, including the oldest living queen of South Carolina State University. She and Mrs. Belcher were members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the members of which performed a special last rites ceremony during the funeral service. Frank Staley, whose father, grandfather and son graduated from Morehouse, was also present at the funeral.

Now Dr. Gladys Forde, who resides in Houston, Texas, is the oldest living Miss Maroon and White. She reigned in 1938 and Mrs. Ruth Scott Simmons, attendant to Miss Maroon and White in 1936 is the oldest living attendant. These two women represent with age and beauty this beloved Morehouse tradition.

—reported By the Rev. Herman “Skip” Mason, College archivist

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