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Hester Ford, the oldest living American, born in 1905, passed away over the weekend at the age of 115. She died at home, surrounded by her large extended family.

The Charlotte, NC, resident was born during the “Progressive Era” of the United States, a time between the late 1800s and early 1900s during which Protestant Pastors pushed for social justice reform. Theodore Roosevelt had just started his first term as President of the United States, and W.E.B Dubois was only beginning to form the foundations of what would become the NAACP. There were just 45 states in America at the time of Mrs. Ford’s birth. 

Racism was rampant during Mrs. Ford’s early years; when she was just 10, Birth of a Nation, with its positive description of the Ku Klux Klan, premiered in theatres across the country. As a teenager in 1918, she survived a flu outbreak that killed over half a million people across the United States. Mrs. Ford also saw two World Wars. 

Hester Ford Day

Her family is proud of her long legacy. “She not only represented the advancement of our family but of the Black African American race and culture in our country. She was a reminder of how far we have come as people on this earth,” said her great-granddaughter, Tanisha Patterson-Powe.

Mrs. Ford grew up working on a plantation in South Carolina, picking cotton and plowing fields. She met and married her husband, John Ford, a steelworker, when she was 15, and the two moved to Charlotte, NC. Mecklenburg County, in Charlotte, celebrates Hester Ford Day every year on September 1. 

In 2019, the Gerontology Research Group confirmed Mrs. Ford was the oldest living American. During her life, Mrs. Ford married and had 12 children, and was a trailblazer and innovator, according to Ms. Patterson-Powe. 

One of a kind woman

“She never ‘fit into a one size fit all box’ as she was a master inventor and innovator — a trailblazer setting her own trends within the community and her home,” said Ms. Patterson-Powe, who added that Mrs. Ford was strong and did not indulge in self-pity. “Her legacy and memory will continue to live on through her family and everyone she has touched to make the world a better place for generations to come.”

Mrs. Ford moved to Charlotte, NC, in the 1950s, where she lived until her death. Her husband of 45 years passed away in the 1960s. Mrs. Ford’s family included 48 grandchildren, 108 great-grandchildren, and approximately 120 great-great grandchildren. 

Rest in Power, Mrs. Ford.

Erika Stone is a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Oklahoma, and a graduate assistant at Schusterman Library. A Chess Memorial Scholar, she has a B.A. in Psychology...