Ferguson, Janet, Former Civil Rights Activist, Pioneering Woman in Radio News Janet Ferguson, born Janet McCormick Chatten, a civil rights activist in Atlanta in the 1950s and 1960s and a pioneering woman in radio news who wrote Mike Wallace's shows for the Air Edition of the Chicago Sun in the late 1930s, died of natural causes in Atlanta on October 1, 2012. She was 97. Janet was born in 1915 in Chicago and grew up in Winnetka, Illinois. . She married Harry George Boyte in 1944, after their meeting in North Africa during WWII while both were working for the Red Cross. She and Harry had two children. Harry Boyte later became known for desegregating the Atlanta Red Cross as its manager in the 1950s, and served as a Special Assistant to Martin Luther King from 1963 to 1966, the only white person on the executive committee of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Janet staunchly supported this work in the face of considerable opposition from family and neighbors. She also took leading roles in the civil rights movement in her own right as one of a handful of white women in the South outspokenly opposed to segregation in the 1950s. She led successful efforts to desegregate the Atlanta League of Women Voters and the Atlanta public libraries and served on the board of the Georgia Council of Human Relations. She also organized the city-wide interracial Y-teen group while on staff of the Atlanta YWCA, which toured the South performing their play on desegregation. Her public involvements dated from her college days at Denison University in Ohio, where she obtained her undergraduate degree, and graduate school experiences at the London School of Economics and at Northwestern University, where she obtained her master's degree in journalism. In addition to her position as a radio news editor, Janet Chatten served as an editor for Scholastic Publications in New York before joining the Red Cross in World War II. She continued to write throughout her life, starting a newsletter for volunteers with the Atlanta Red Cross, founding the St. John Drum newspaper in the Virgin Islands, where she and Harry lived from 1973 to 1976 before his death in 1977. In East Lake Commons, a co-housing community in Decatur, Georgia, where she moved in 1999, she founded the community's Dancing Fox News. In 1983 she married Dwight Ferguson, a long-time leader of the Atlanta Friends. In 1987 they moved to Highland Farms in Black Mountain, North Carolina. After Dwight's death in 1991, Janet moved back to Atlanta, serving as secretary and in many other roles for the Atlanta Friends Meeting. In her eighties she co-authored A Way Opened, the history of the Meeting. Janet Ferguson is survived by her son Harry Boyte, her daughter Anne Boyte, her grandchildren Craig Boyte, Jae Ramirez, Luke Truan, and Rachael Frank, a great grandson, Erik Truan, three stepdaughters Joanne Clements, Audrey Doehne, Carol Turner, and their families. Memorial gifts should be sent to the Atlanta Friends Meeting. A memorial service to celebrate Janet's life will be held at the Atlanta Friends Meeting on October 27, at 11 am, 701 West Howard Ave., Decatur GA 30030. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Janet Ferguson's name to the Atlanta Friends Meeting.

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  1. Some call her Janet; I call her grandma. She has been an extremely influential person in my life and I’m sure in other’s lives too. I will always remember her. ;

  2. Anne, Sending you and all of Janet’s family/Family and friends/Friends a big heartfelt hug. For such a tiny woman, she was truly a giant.
    Much love, Sallie

  3. Dear Anne,
    I am so sorry for your loss. Please extend my heartfelt condolences to Harry and of course to Rachael, Luke, Martin, and all the other members of your family.
    Your Mother lived a life of enormous spiritual generosity, deeply held beliefs, and extraordinary courage in turbulent times. What depth of character it takes to live that way, and what a gift to you and your children to have had her in your lives for so long. I hold you in my thoughts and heart and I hope your circle of family and friends is a comfort to you. With love,

  4. I was very fortunate to paddle with the remarkable Janet Ferguson on Lake Burton within the past 10 years. As in all she did, Janet was a formidable paddler, even in her 80s. While I only knew her in her later life, I could easily imagine the magnitude of her earlier accomplishments.

  5. Janet was a beautiful soul to know. I will always treasure the copy of John Muir’s Travels in Alaska she gave me.

  6. My condolences over the loss of your mother, Anne. I know you are proud of her and her legacy. We have been fortunate to be blessed with her presence of spirit, help and guidance in our Meeting.

  7. What an inspiring woman. She lived an incredible life. She leaves an indelible mark on this world for the better. My condolences to the family.

  8. Anne –
    What a wonderful life your mother had – such an amazing woman who gave life to another amazing woman. I know you will have many wonderful memories to treasure!


  9. Janet was an inspiration. I miss her presence in Meeting for Worship and I regret that, because I will be in North Carolina on the day of her memorial, I will be unable to attend.

  10. Janet,

    I’m going to email St. Peter and warn him to think twice before he agrees to play Scrabble with you if I can find his address.


  11. I remember pumping Janet for stories about her work as a journalist, as I drove her back to her assisted living residence after one of our Ladies Lunch gatherings at Thai Chili. I was always amazed at her adventures! Very inspiring.
    Then, too, I admired so much her ability to recite poems and quotations from memory when she gave a message in meeting. I will miss her.


  12. My love to Ms. Ferguson family. What an amazing life she led as role model, public citizen, adventurer, advocate, mother and grandmother, and beloved friend and human being. My sympathies are with all her family and friends.

  13. Anne, my family and I send our condolences to you and your family. Janet was a truly remarkable woman. I will forever be grateful for her generosity of spirit, for sharing her wisdom with me, and most of all for her friendship. She was one of those people I wanted my daughters to know as they grew up,someone who had truly lived history and who spoke through her actions.

  14. To The Family of Janet C. Ferguson, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the entire family. Whenever we lose someone whom we love so dearly, it can bring unimaginable pain. As you face this most difficult time, I pray that you can find peace and comfort in God’s promise at Rev. 21:3,4 He will soon “wipe out every tear from their eyes and death will be no more neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” What a beautiful ,peaceful time we have to look forward to. Please hold this promise close to your mind and heart. As you do, you all with dwell kindly in my thoughts and prayers. With warm Christian love and deep respect.

  15. I knew Janet from Friends’ Meeting and always admired her and enjoyed her company. I look forward to going to her memorial. My Best Wishes and my love to all her family.

  16. I’m deeply sorry for your loss. I know death is never an easy thing to experience. From what I’ve read, she seemed like a very strong and influential woman. But there is hope that you can one day see her again. It’s found in the book of John where it says that all those in the memorial tombs will hear Jesus voice and come out to a resurrection. No more tears will we shed nor pain will we feel. God promises in Revelation that he will wipe out every tear from our eyes and death will be no more. I hope these words of encouragement help the family to be more at peace.

  17. Soon the “God of all comfort” will put an end to sickness and death for all time. Isaiah 33:24 My sincere condolences to the Ferguson family.

  18. May the family find comfort in fond memories, and in knowing that God is “near to those that are broken at heart; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.” Psalm 34:18 Our loving Creator, Jehovah God, has promised to soon “swallow up death forever…and wipe the tears from all faces.” Isaiah 25:8 With deepest sympathy.

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