Living Legacy

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Milledge Gordon, Jr.

Milledge Gordon, Jr. is the son of the late Milledge Gordon, Sr. and Irene Gordon. He is the fifth of 13 children. Milledge served in the US Army and is a Vietnam War veteran. Milledge is married to Beverly Binion Gordon. They have been married for 36 years. They have four daughters; the late Donnis Davenport, Kim Binion, Catrina Edwards and Yosmia Johnson. Milledge is a deacon at Springfield Missionary Baptist Church with Pastor Kenneth Jones.

Milledge Gordon, Jr. is the owner of Gordon Mobile Home Carrier, Inc. Milledge has been in the mobile home business for 48 years. When asked why he became interested in the mobile home business, Milledge provided the following response: “By the time he returned home from Vietnam, a couple of his sisters had purchased mobile homes. The homes were not set up correctly.” Being the caring person that he is, especially for his family, Milledge decided to “fix” his sisters’ homes himself. When the mobile home company sent someone to make the repairs, Milledge had already completed the work.  The owner of the dealership was impressed by Milledge’s skills and offered him a job to move and set up homes. Before Milledge could accept the job, he had to obtain a business license.

Milledge sought advice from the late James Pete Thomas, a fellow licensed business owner, regarding the necessary steps to get a license in Morgan County. The late Eugene Baldwin represented Milledge in Atlanta to obtain his business license. In the meantime, local businessmen had to state the need for this type of work. The late Brooks Pennington was the only local businessman that offered to write a letter of recommendation for Milledge to receive a license. 

Milledge was subjected to racism, but he did not allow the obstacles to deter him. With his deep-rooted faith in God, he continued to persevere and operate in his calling. Milledge moved and set up mobile homes by day and worked at General Motors in the evenings. He did this for twenty years. Milledge retired from General Motors in 1994. He continues to run his business full-time as of today. 

Milledge paved the way for other African American men to own and operate businesses; Curtis Peters (Peters’ Mobile Home), Joe Ward (Ward’s Mobile Home) and the late Fred Lewis (Fred’s Mobile Home).

Lenion Carlton Bonhart

Born in Taliaferro County, Georgia on January 19, 1933, Lenion Carlton Bonhart’ s parents taught him and his five siblings the importance of working hard and getting a good education. Bonhart attended Murden School in Crawfordville, GA, this is where he developed his love for basketball. His coach, Mr. Telleton loved professional basketball players, Bill Russell and Sam Jones and talked with him about their talent and abilities often.  This left a lasting impression on Bonhart, he even wore his mustache and goatee like Bill Russell.  After graduating high school, he wanted to go to college but couldn’t afford it.  Later that year, he was drafted into the United States Army where he served for four year with two of those years in Korea. 

The Army was a blessing as it paid for him to attend college.  He earned a bachelor’s degree in Health and Physical Education from Albany State College and later his master’s degree in Administration of Education from the University of Georgia.  At a time when there weren’t many male educators, Mr. Bonhart was hired straight out of college to work as a Teacher and Basketball Coach for Pearl High School in Morgan County under the leadership of Mrs. Marie B. Martin.  He was living his dream of teaching and enjoyed working with the students as the Head Coach.  Bonhart stated “Pearl High wasn’t a big athletic school, but it was home to some very talented and athletic students. They got the job done.”  He worked for Pearl High School until the Morgan County School System began desegregation in around 1971.  There were many people that didn’t want integration, however, the Superintendent, Mr. Crawford, sought Bonhart to be the Assistant Principal for Morgan County High School and he accepted the challenge knowing that his presence would help the black students transition during this tense time in our history.  The children and their families knew they could trust him.  His love for basketball and education was the driving force behind his illustrious career of 31 years in education.  Mr. Bonhart is most affectionately remembered for his distinctive voice and disciplinary style.   

Mr. Bonhart met his wife, Jean Rogers Bonhart while attending Albany State. They have been married for over 50 years. Family is everything to him. Bonhart is a father to four sons, and he raised his granddaughter, Brandi as his own.  He loves to watch Georgia Tech Basketball and the University of Georgia Football teams. 

Bonhart remembers what he received most from going to college…it was opportunities.  “My father didn’t get an education and we struggled. I went to college and got the best job around…teaching and coaching at Pearl High School.  Your best bet is to stay in school and get an education.” 

Excerpts from an article written in 2007 by Alvin Richardson for the Morgan County Citizen:

In the decade prior to school integration Pearl’s Tigers racked up season after season in which they won nearly all of their games, competed for championships, and became known as one of the top basketball programs in Georgia.  They were coached by Lenion Bonhart, who later went on to be an assistant principal at Morgan County High School until his retirement in 1989.

Lenion Bonhart came to the Morgan County school system in 1959 fresh out of college where he played basketball at Albany State.  He was hired as a teacher and was given the additional responsibility of starting a basketball program.  It was a project that would have daunted many because there was not even a gym to practice in or a place to play home games.  Coach Bonhart made a basketball court outside of the area that was then the vocational building.  Using poles and plywood he built goals to use for play and practice and from that humble beginning built a program that would rival any other in the state.

In an interview with Coach Bonhart he was asked to recall some of the biggest wins of the period.  “In 1968 we were the first team to ever beat Alto at their place.  They always had college age players and some of the best high school age players in the state.  Once we beat them, our kids felt like they could beat anyone.”  He was also asked about his best teams of the era.  “The 1968 and 1969 teams were probably the best, but the first class to play in our new gym in 1964 and 1965 were nearly as good.  The 1968 team was fourth in the state and the 1969 team had everyone back and could have won the state championship, but we were disqualified in the playoffs because of a scorebook error.

Coach Bonhart also talked about the region rivalries that were always tough matchups.  “Hancock had good teams every year as well as Monroe, Eatonton, Monticello, and Greene County.  Their coaches always did a good job.  I coached against Arthur Daniels (Hancock), Coach Asbury (Greene), Lester Davis (Monticello), Coach Lynch (Monroe), and Herbert Stokes for a long time and they were not only good coaches, but good people.”

As the interview continued Coach Bonhart talked about the ups and downs of the profession.  “Before we got the new gym, there wasn’t as much enthusiasm for organized basketball, but once the gym got built and Mrs. Martin (Marie Bass Martin) became principal, everything got much better.  Mrs. Martin wanted the kids to have sports as part of their school life and she was a big influence.  Once those two things were in place, our program was in good shape.”

As with any successful program there were good athletes and Coach Bonhart certainly had his share.  Many of these men still live in Morgan County.  Players like James Allen, Donald Harris (recently retired MCHS basketball coach), Asbury Williams, James Parks (now Doctor James Parks) Ulysses Fitch, Carl McCray, Barry Currington, and Ronnie Berry, all played key roles in making Pearl Street a top flight program.  Then there were the most prolific players of that era.  Brothers Melvin and Grayson Wade, Henry (Bimp) Russell, Walter Davis, and Tommy Smith were all college caliber players who left a legacy for other young men with basketball aspirations to follow.

Mr. & Mrs. Rufus Benford, Sr.

Mr. Rufus Benford, Sr. was born in Walton County and was educated in the Walton County Schools in Walnut Grove.  He worked on several farms before becoming a mechanic for Bennett & Thomas Farms for 26 years and then for Bob Carter’s Pontiac and Heritage Pontiac dealerships.  Mr. Benford later retired from the City of Madison but continued to be the community mechanic for many.

Mrs. Amy Lee Reid Benford was born in Morgan County and was educated at the Springfield and Burney Street Schools in Morgan County.  She received her G.E.D. and worked for the Morgan County Board of Education from 1971 until she retired 28 years later.  

The Benfords were both founding members of the Morgan County Branch of the NAACP in 1969. They have continued to serve to this very day, and both hold Life Memberships.  Over the years, they both held various officer positions and are still honorary members of the Executive Board of the Morgan County Branch of the NAACP.

The Benfords are members of Springfield Missionary Baptist Church in Madison GA.  Mr Benford serves on the Deacon Board and has served as Sunday School Superintendent and Treasurer.  He lends his voice to the Male and Senior Choir and wherever else he is needed.

Mrs. Benford serves faithfully as well, she is an Usher, she leads the kitchen committee, is a member of the Senior Mission and Seasoned Sisters.  Mrs. Benford is also a member of the Star of Amaranth Eastern Star No. 15 where she has served as Worthy Matron and Treasurer.

Mr. Benford is a member of the Buckhead Str Lodge #213 and has served as Worshipful Master.  He has served on ACTION, Inc.’s Advisory Board and Morgan County Senior Center Advisory Board.  He also served as Secretary of the Deacon Co-op.  The Benfords are Life Members of the Pearl Burney Alumni Association, the Morgan County Democratic Party Committee and were members of the Morgan County Civic League.

The Benfords have been married for 66 years and have 8 children, one of which is deceased.  They both love gardening and working outside and Mrs. Benford loves to cook and bake.  The Benfords were the Grand Marshals of the Morgan Branch NAACP 50th Anniversary Black History Parade in June 2019!

Pledge Browning Sr.

Pledge Browning Sr. was born and raised in Madison, GA.  He attended the Thankful Brownwood Community school, and later he attended the Pearl Burney High School.  He was united in marriage to a wonderful lady, the late Ruby Neal Keeley Browning for over 30 years.  They were blessed with seven wonderful children.  As a young man Browning worked many years on a farm in Madison GA and he worked many more years doing construction in Florida and in Atlanta, GA.  He is currently employed by the Morgan County School system, where worked for over 15 years.

Browning has been part of a great church family for over 50 years!  Browning has been a Deacon at Thankful Baptist Church for 30 years.  His faith is very strong and understands to achieve anything it requires faith and believing in yourself, your vision, hard work, determination and dedication.  He believes that all things are possible for those who believe.  Browning believes if you keep your faith, you keep your trust, you keep the right attitude, if you’re grateful, you’ll see God opens new doors.  

Browning has several scriptures that he lives by daily and offers as encouragement to others.  “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13. 

“Have Faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” 2 Chronicles 20:20.  

“Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9.

However, his most favorite scriptures are “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believe in him may not die but have eternal life.” John 3:16 and “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, he causes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name sake.” Psalms 23:1-3.  

Browning favorite words of encouragement come from the late Pastor Clark “May Heaven smile on you and bless you real rich.  Browning’s life means friends and family who you can trust and who trust you.  Browning says he is pretty much on the happy side of life.

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