TIFTON — Eunice Mixon, 86, says she is hopeful a recognition she is receiving in Atlanta this week will represent the work of all older Georgians, not just herself — and that her upbringing and the memory of her late husband can be honored by the recognition.
Mixon, of Tifton, is being honored Thursday by the Georgia Council on Aging as the 2018 Distinguished Older Georgian. Both chambers of the General Assembly will pass resolutions recognizing her contributions to the state and to south Georgia, and friends and family will join her for a reception in her honor at 2 p.m. in the state Capitol rotunda.
While she accepts the recognition, Mixon said she hopes to be able to display a positive image on behalf the state’s elderly population.
“I want them to see that elderly people are still contributing citizens,” she said.
A lifelong resident of Tift County, Mixon was born “in Dixie on a frosty morning” to Robert and Carrie Lastinger, later marrying Albert Mixon when he returned from World War II. Together, the couple started a farm where she was the top hand, cultivating the soil and feeding the farm workers.
“We weren’t really poor, we just didn’t have any money,” Mixon said of her upbringing.
Mixon embraced life as a”farm wife” and raised two boys with the help of a supportive husband. As technology replaced most of her efforts on the farm, she pursued her old ambition to teach. She started school at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, and a few summers later had earned a bachelor’s degree from Valdosta State University, as well as a master’s degree and a specialist degree in science education.
Mixon’s first official foray into state politics came in 1974 when she became Tift County campaign chair for soon-to-be Gov. George Busbee. She hosted dinner parties for large groups, either for fun or to get to know people from different parts of the state, a practice she continued for many years.
“All I had done (when Busbee contacted me) was farm and teach school,” she said. “I didn’t know what I was getting into.”
Over the years, Mixon served on some 15 boards and commissions and volunteered for election campaigns for presidents, senators and governors. She raised more than $25,000 for Alzheimer’s by dancing the waltz — first learning the step for that particular event — and was named one of 25 women for the 21st Century by the Georgia House along with other Georgia women such as Coretta Scott King and Rosalyn Carter.
She received the inaugural Eunice L. Mixon Award created by the State Bar of Georgia and was recognized as one of the 40 most influential south Georgians. Following the death of her husband in 1998, she spent 12 years working with the General Assembly as doorkeeper.
As she continued to become more involved with the state’s movers and shakers, she said she remained true to the “Golden Rule” attitude her parents had taught her when working with someone who had a different viewpoint.
“Don’t get bogged down in differences,” Mixon said.
The Distinguished Older Georgian Award was created in January of 2003 by the GCOA to honor a Georgian at of least 80 years of age who is a role model “for positive aging who has made significant contribution to society through occupational or volunteer efforts.”