Margaret Ann Benton was born on August 20, 1942 in Fort Pierce, Florida to Dr. Clem C. Benton and Arlena Howard Benton. She had three older siblings: Clem Jr., Arlena Yvonne (Bonnie), and Charles Philip (Bill).
She attended Mrs. McDonald's Kindergarten, Blessed Martin Catholic School, then Lincoln Park Academy which was then located on Means Court. After Margaret graduated from the sixth grade, she attended the new Lincoln Park Academy on 17th street and Ave I.
In high school, Margaret excelled in her studies and took a particular interest in current events and the Lincoln Park community advancement. She was always civic-minded and destined to be active in any community she lived in. During her junior year in high school, she co-founded Omega Lambda Tau, an organization whose goal was to beautify the community as well as provide social activities for Lincoln Park youth. She graduated from Lincoln Park Academy as the valedictorian of the class of 1960. Margaret attended Rockford College in Rockford, Illinois for one year before transferring to Ohio State University where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in History. During her time at Ohio State she studied abroad at Mexico City College in Mexico City, Mexico.
Margaret was a graduate of George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., where she received her Juris Doctorate. After obtaining her law degree, she clerked for the Neighborhood Legal Assistance Foundation in San Francisco. She was awarded a Reginald Heber Smith Law Fellowship and worked with the program in San Francisco.
Margaret later worked in Miami, Florida as a staff attorney and assistant director of the Community Lawyers, Inc., and as an Assistant City Attorney for the City of Miami. She established the first all-black women’s law firm in Dade County, the Law Firm of Benton & Mathews.
As an attorney in the Treasure Coast, Margaret served clients in St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Okeechobee and Indian River Counties for more than 20 years. She represented clients in bankruptcy, criminal defense, probate/wills, guardianship, and personal injury. Margaret also practiced Civil Law involving general civil litigation, employee defense in civil service cases, and as a Hearing Officer for St Lucie County School Disciplinary Hearings.
She was an active member of the Florida Bar and was admitted to practice before the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida and the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
Margaret was a member of Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Fort Pierce, Florida where she served as a Trustee and legal advisor.
Margaret served her community in various civic capacities as well, including memberships and/or leadership roles with the following: St. Lucie County Chamber of Commerce; City of Fort Pierce Planning Board; St. Lucie County Chapter of the American Red Cross; Bethune-Cookman University Associate Board of Trustees; NAACP; Fort Pierce Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; and The Treasure Coast Chapter of LINKS, Incorporated. Margaret was the attorney and a founding board member of the Fort Pierce Jazz Society, and the founder of Jazz Spectacular, the first jazz festival on the Treasure Coast.
Margaret and her family have owned and maintained the Zora Neale Hurston House in Fort Pierce, Florida since the time of Ms. Hurston’s death in 1960. The house is currently on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Margaret was active in local and state politics, and served as the Democratic State Committeewoman for St. Lucie County. She delivered the Welcome Address during former President Clinton’s visit to Fort Pierce at the Barack Obama Campaign’s Rally for Change in 2008, and has been a guest political opinion-editorial columnist for the local newspaper.
Ms. Benton also served as a chairperson of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Commemorative Committee, Inc., of St Lucie County, establishing the King Concert, which celebrates Dr. King’s legacy in music. She chaired the Martin Luther King Committee for the restoration of the historic Lincoln Theater, originally built and own by her father, Dr. Clem C. Benton. She also established the Lincoln Theater Benefit Ball. Both the King Concert and Lincoln Theater Benefit Ball were annual events dedicated to raising funds for the restoration of the Theater.
Margaret Ann Benton is survived by her loving sister Arlena (Bonnie) Benton Lee; nieces and nephews: Deborah Campbell, Yvette Benton Bullock, Craig Benton, Arlena Dawn Lee, Sabrina Hamburg, Clem C. Benton, 3rd, Eric Mario Benton, Julia Lee, and Rembrandt Benton; sister-in-law Carri Benton; friends, and the community that she loved.
Public viewing for Attorney Margaret Ann Benton will take place on Friday, December 21, 2018 at Stone Brothers Funeral Home in Fort Pierce, FL between the hours of 12:00pm and 5:00pm. A Service of Remembrance will follow from 5:00pm-6:30pm. Last rites from the Treasure Coast Links will take place from 6:30pm-7:00pm. Finally, the Omega Omega Service will be rendered by the Fort Pierce Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. beginning at 7:00pm. Funeral services will take place on Saturday, December 22, 2018 at Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Fort Pierce, FL beginning at 1:00pm. Burial will immediately follow at Pine Grove Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, please make and send contributions to Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona, Florida.
Flowers are delivered by the preferred local florist of Stone Bros. Funeral Home and Chapel.
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