New scholarship honors Staffords

A scholarship honoring Ellis and Beatrice Stafford has been established and will be awarded annually to Gurdon High School seniors planning to attend Henderson State University.

Beatrice Stafford graduated from high school in Gurdon when she was 16, and was a 1961 Henderson graduate with a degree in elementary education. She earned her master’s degree in 1971. Ellis Stafford also attended Gurdon schools and worked for Missouri Pacific Railroad for many years.

The scholarships were established by two of their children: Harold Stafford, a 1970 Henderson graduate, and Phillip Stafford.

The inaugural Ellis and Beatrice Stafford Scholarships were awarded to four Gurdon seniors May 7 during an awards assembly at the school. The recipients are Susana Loarca, Alia Williams, Angela Yang, and Tykeida Jones.

Beatrice Stafford attended segregated schools in a one-room school building in Gurdon. After graduating from high school, she attended Arkansas AM&N in Pine Bluff. But lack of funds brought her back home after one year. She married Ellis Stafford in 1941.

Beatrice was employed as a domestic worker until 1954 when she was hired by the Gurdon hospital to cook, clean, and do other tasks. She soon returned to college. After graduation, she taught at Bell High School for Black Students. After the integration of Gurdon public schools in 1970, she taught there until her retirement.

In 2000, Beatrice was inducted into the Gurdon School District’s Hall of Fame for her achievements in educational excellence. She died on March 18, 2015.

Ellis Stafford left school when he was in sixth grade following the sudden death of his parents. He entered the job market to help care for his siblings and himself. In 1941, after his marriage to Beatrice, Ellis went to work for Missouri Pacific Railroad.

He was laid off from the railroad in 1950 and went to work at the Reynolds Aluminum plant in Gum Springs. He was soon called back to Missouri Pacific, where he worked until he retired in 1982 as a maintenance foreman. Ellis died on Feb. 8, 2009.