By Tia Lyn Lecorchick staff writer
Rufus and Amy Benford, longtime Morgan County residents, married 61 years ago back in 1953. T
hey met at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Madison and a few years later they married and went on to have eight children, six grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.
Mayor of Madison Fred Perriman is proud of couples like the Benfords, who have stayed married for more than 50 years. “These are miracle marriages,” said Perriman. “Today, a lot of people do not want to endure hardship. We want to tell the stories of couples like this so young people will know that marriages can last.”
But for couples like the Benfords, embarking on a life together and starting a family during the pre-Civil Rights era of the South was no easy task. “It was pretty terrifying,” said Rufus Benford, 81. “Somehow with the help of the good Lord, we were able to weather that storm.” “I was always nice to both sides, and the other side eventually starts to respect you when you do the right thing,” said Amy Benford, 76. “The Bible tells us to have the faith of a mustard seed, but we needed to have even bigger than that in those days!”
Rufus Benford recalled struggling to provide for his family early on, when he earned just $3 per day. “When we first moved here, everyone was segregated. After the schools were integrated, we started making some progress.” Amy Benford recalled how children were much more accepting of the inclusion of African-Americans students into school compared to their parents.
“The parents are the ones who taught their kids we were different. Kids don’t make those kind of judgments. We always taught our kids that, black or white, we all have red blood and the Lord made us all. We’re supposed to get along,” said Amy Bendford. The Benfords lived quiet lives centered around family. “We tried to give our children everything we didn’t have,” said Rufus Benford. “A lot of parents like us didn’t get much of an education, so some parents never realized how important education is. We know how important an education is in order to make a living and to get a decent job. My hope is to see everyone get a good education.”
After 61 years of marriage and raising a family, the Benfords credit their success to one thing. “Love. Love is the only thing that keeps anyone together,” said Rufus Benford. “Yes, it is love. No marriage is perfect. You have to give and you have to take. You have to learn do things together,” said Amy Benford. Their son, Scottie Benford admires his parents for their unyielding dedication to each other and to their family. “”It is rare to see two people show unconditional love towards each other and as a union be able to lead others in love,” he said.
Their daughter, Pamela Benford, a social worker in Madison, is proud of her parents and what their marriage symbolizes. “They have a strong marriage because of their faith in God, their involvement in the church and community. They serve as role models for parents because of their commitment to each other and their family,” she said. The Benfords hope the community continues to make changes for the better, for all people. “I am hoping people learn from our history and that people learn to do what’s pleasing to the Lord. Someone has to take care of the poor people in this world. It should be the responsibility of everyone. The poor will always be with us for the rest of our lives. It’s the good people who take care of them,” said Benford.
“We got to learn to live together and be peaceful. Let everyone use their own gifts. It’s about togetherness and love. We are all in this together,” added Amy Benford.