By Jason A. Smith
As a local resident prepares to mark a milestone in her life, she says she is proud of the years she has spent in Henry County, and the reputation she has earned.
Bernice Mullinax, of Hampton, will celebrate her 80th birthday June 14.
Mullinax was born in 1928, and grew up in the small, rural town of Cullman, Ala. The oldest of three children, she moved to Georgia to live with relatives at the age of 16, and settled in East Point.
The reason for the transition, she says, was because she wanted to expand her options. "I came because I wanted to work after school," she explains. "In Cullman, there was nowhere to work."
After graduating from high school, Mullinax began to plant the seeds for her future career path, working at the Atlanta Terrace Hotel. The experience would be her first of several in the hotel industry. "I helped open up the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Atlanta in 1967, working at the front desk," says Mullinax. "My entire background has been in the hotel and motel business."
In 1971, she and her husband, Harold, moved to Henry County with their four children. "We lived on one of the paved roads in Henry County," recalls Mullinax. "There were very few at that time. A commissioner lived on the same road, and it was a running joke that we had a paved road because he lived on it."
The family resided in a home on 10 acres on Oak Grove Road in McDonough, an area Mullinax says has changed dramatically since that time.
"You sit back and watch a county road being turned into a four-lane," says Mullinax. "[Before], you could leave Oak Grove Road and go to the Big Star in McDonough, and never even pass a car on your way down there. You didn't have to worry about a stop sign. There was nobody coming up Jonesboro Road."
In 1973, Mullinax was given an opportunity to play a pivotal role in the county's history. She became the general manager of the Matador Motor Inn, then located in Stockbridge.
Owned by "well known" people , including Sen. Herman Talmadge, Richard Petty, James Parker, Harold McGarity, along with other members of the McGarity family, the Matador was the first hotel to open in Henry, Mullinax says proudly.
She worked at the hotel for three years, before leaving to perform volunteer work in a number of venues, including a hospital auxiliary and the Henry County Department of Family and Children Services. "I helped with meals and toys for the children, and I really enjoyed it," Mullinax says.
In 1994, the Mullinaxes left Henry County, and moved to Jackson. However, they returned to Henry three years later, after Harold Mullinax suffered a massive heart attack. He died later that year.
Despite the sadness of losing her mate, Bernice Mullinax picked up the pieces of her life, and found work at the Kroger on Hudson Bridge Road in Stockbridge. She remained there until June of 2007.
Today, Bernice Mullinax considers herself a "modern person, who strives to stay as active as possible. I have worked all my life. To just be idle, not doing anything, is miserable. I'd rather be out working. In fact, [former co-workers at Kroger] kid me and want to know when I'm coming back."
Mary Clanton, 69, has been a close friend of Mullinax's for the last 30 years. Clanton says Mullinax has been a "great friend" to her, and anyone else she meets.
"We do a lot of things together, and we just enjoy life," says Clanton. "We're more like sisters."
In addition, Clanton says her friend is regarded well by everyone with whom she comes in contact. "She knows everybody, and everybody knows her," Clanton says.
As for Mullinax, she says being well known in Henry, is a positive thing. "Most of what [people] know about me is good," she says. "It's not anything I would be ashamed of.
Today, Bernice Mullinax lives in Hampton with her two dogs, a 15-month-old poodle, named Misty, and a 15-year-old miniature pinscher she calls Amber. The former hotel manager loves her life, and says she has learned a valuable lesson over the last 80 years.
"I have learned that, as long as you work hard and have a dream, you can accomplish it," she says. "Regardless of the hard knocks, life is wonderful. I'm still enjoying every minute."