In his early 20s, Milton Scandrett hooked a ride on a train from Atlanta to the District, bent on marrying the girl of his dreams and raising a family far away from the harsh realities of racism he encountered in the Deep South. He accomplished both fetes, along the way making ends meet by planting vegetable gardens along George Palmer Highway in Prince George's County, Md., working as a railroad cook and a sanitation inspector at Union Station.
But Scandrett celebrated a major milestone this past weekend at Fort DuPont Park in Southeast in honor of his 100th birthday. The festive surprise party complete with party favors and a huge sheet cake which also acknowledged Scandrett and his wife Susie's 72nd wedding anniversary, drew family and friends from near and far.
"It was truly a wonderful celebration, and as far as I know, dad was genuinely surprised," said the couple's son Arthur Scandrett, 70. "Everyone had a great time. Dad saw friends he hadn't seen in years. He got loads of cards – including one from President and Mrs. Obama expressing their congratulations."
Isabelle McCleod, 87, from Prince George's County, Md., attended the party with her husband Elmore, 92.
She said her better half, who worked alongside Scandrett "for years" on the B&O Railroad, had been feeling ill prior to the party, but wanted to reunite with his friend.
"He really wanted to be there, so we made plans and he enjoyed himself," she said. "The party was very nice. They talked about old times."
Scandrett's birthday is August 8. His son said that his father's faith in God, coupled with the love of his 93-year-old wife have sustained him.
"He's a good and loving family man who did so much for us," his son said. "At 100 years old – he's very deserving of a party."
The elder Scandrett served as an army sergeant in Japan during World War ll. But his son noted that his father never received proper recognition for service to his country. "I've seen where younger men and women in the military were honored, but my dad has never gotten his due," he said.
Nowadays, Scandrett isn't as active. But as a one-time devout churchgoer, on occasion, he still attends John Wesley AME Zion Church in Northwest with his wife. The couple met in D.C. in 1939 and married the following year. They've lived in their Southeast home, just around the corner from their son, since 1964.
Scandrett retired 40 years ago from B&O Railroad but stayed on the go, enjoying activities around the house.
"Up until he was 98 years old, he'd be out in the backyard working – raking, checking on his garden and planting flowers for my mother," his son said.
The younger Scandrett has many fond memories of his father – including the "mountains of whippings" he got for missing curfew and other boyish misdeeds.
"I'm glad I got those beatings," he said. "Because of my dad's strong discipline, I have always had the utmost love and admiration for him."