Marian W. Scott
November 5, 1923 – August 30, 2020
Marian Willis Scott, a devoted wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, died August 30, at age 96. She was the widow of William Alexander Scott, III, son of the founder of the historic Atlanta Daily World, the nation’s first sustained Black-owned daily newspaper.
Marian was born in Atlanta on November 5, 1923 to James H. and Queen Benning Willis. She missed her first year in school because of pneumonia that almost took her life. “I was blessed to have such a full and wonderful life,” she would often say as she reflected in later life.
She attended Oglethorpe Elementary School where she met her future husband in second grade. Marian and William were classmates from then on through Atlanta University Laboratory High School, which was located on the campus of Spelman College. His pet name for her was “Susie” short for Suzie Q, a popular dance in the 1930s, and for her long twin pigtails. In 10th grade, she made him sign a contract that they would marry and have two children: a boy and a girl.
After their graduation in 1941, she attended Spelman while he attended Morehouse. In 1943 William was drafted in the U.S. Army during World War II. Just before her senior year in college, they fulfilled the first part of their contract promise. She married her childhood sweetheart in New York City on August 28, 1944, just before he was shipped overseas.
This was kept a secret because Spelman did not permit married women students. “I held my breath,” Marian said, until she saw her name on the graduation list of Spelman’s Class of 1945. This was one of her favorite stories that she enjoyed telling.
Around the same time as her graduation, William was part of the only Black (colored) unit present at the liberation of one of the Nazi Concentration Camps. As a photographer with the 183rd Engineer Combat Battalion (ECB), at Buchenwald, Germany, on April 12, 1945, he recorded some of the heartbreaking scenes of unthinkable atrocities.
Later, on a U.S. Military ship to and from Japan — as the war was ending, William taught himself the game of chess which had a huge impact on the rest of both their lives.
Upon William’s discharge from the Army, they had two children: WA IV (Rip) in 1946 and (Marian) Alexis in 1949, completing their contract promises.
During the 1950s, the family traveled to New York City nearly every summer where William improved his game by playing top-rated chess players, and the family experienced many places and things which they could not do back home in Atlanta during the Jim Crow Era.
One of their greatest trips was to the West Coast by way of Omaha, Nebraska, where William played in the 1959 US Open Chess Tournament. Afterward, the family continued their drive west through Yellowstone Park, the Grand Tetons, Reno, Nevada, San Francisco, Muir Woods and onto Los Angeles, California, where they stayed with relatives and went to Disneyland.
And in 1963, William A. Scott, III became the first Black Georgia State Chess Champion.
In addition to managing her family properties, Marian worked alongside William at the Atlanta Daily World from 1955 until 1975. When she retired, she was assistant cash manager. During their time working together at ADW, they desegregated many of the downtown restaurants at lunchtime following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Back in 1951, Marian was one of 34 mothers who established the Atlanta Chapter, Jack and Jill of America, Inc. She became a charter member for her two children to engage them in social and educational activities in spite of segregation.
Beyond Jack and Jill, Marian supported them throughout their careers. As her daughter Alexis worked her way up at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Cox Enterprises, Marian became a second mother to her first grandson, Cinque. And when Alexis took over the family newspaper as publisher of ADW and became a commentator on The Georgia Gang on Fox 5 Atlanta, she was a second mother to her youngest grandson, David.
Likewise, for her son, “Rip” she became the best grandma in the world to his four children during his nearly 40-year career as an air-traffic controller with the Federal Aviation Administration. His stressful job required fierce concentration, a brutal and irregular work schedule, including erratic hours and shift changes.
In addition to her commitment to her family, Marian was a Boule member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Kappa Omega Chapter, which she joined in 1952. She was a charter member and the last surviving member of the Fourth Series Bridge Club. She also served for several years as a collector for the “Mother’s March,” a door-to-door fundraising campaign for the March of Dimes in the mid-1950s.
Marian was baptized as a baby by Dr. E.R. Carter at the historic Friendship Baptist Church and moved her membership to First Congregational Church, U.C.C. after her marriage in 1944.
William preceded her in death at age 69 in 1992 from colon cancer, after 47 years of marriage. One of her six grandchildren – William A. Scott V – also preceded her in death at age 24 in 2004 from Parotid (salivary) gland cancer. Shaken to her core — like the rest of the family — Marian endured.
Eight years ago, Macular Degeneration took her sight. With family assistance she remained at home until 2016 when Marian was diagnosed with breast cancer and suffered a stroke which left her unable to stand or walk. As a result, she has been cared for at A.G. Rhodes on Boulevard for the last four years. In the era of the COVID-19 Pandemic, quarantine protections prevented her from having family visits during the last six months. More and more Marian slipped into confusion and dementia.
Finally, early on the last Sunday in August, she got her wish to celebrate forever, the reunion, with her sweetheart and husband William — the love of her life.
Marian exemplified both traditional femininity and uncommon fortitude – a Steel Magnolia. She was an honest broker with a generous and tender spirit who cannot be replaced.
With love and light, Marian is survived by her two children: William A. (Rip) Scott, IV (Kiawanne) and M. Alexis Scott (Brian McKissick); five grandchildren: Kevin (Teresa) Jennings of Maryland; Cinque Scott Reeves, Emily Z. Scott (Kara), Kai L. Scott (Tiffany) and David L. Reeves, Jr. of Atlanta; and seven great-grandchildren: William A. Scott VI, Nyla Scott, Zarah Scott, Ti’kaiah Scott, Nikia Scott, Karmen Scott and Kai L. Scott Jr. of Atlanta.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to Spelman College President’s Safety Net Fund or to First Congregational Church, UCC Building Fund.