CFL News
March 29, 2012

Civil rights pioneer Addie Wyatt dies at 88

Chicago's own Addie Wyatt, civil rights and labor leader, paved the way for generations to come

Source: ABC 7

By Evelyn Holmes

Chicago is remembering Rev. Addie White, a trailblazing leader in the fight for social justice and labor rights.

Wyatt passed away Wednesday at the age of 88.

Wyatt became the highest ranking female labor union leader in the country. She was also co-pastor of the Vernon Park Church of God on Chicago's South Side.

Many at the church say Wyatt's legacy is simply too great to measure. Still, it is highlighted by her work at the church that she founded, as well as her activism.

"What I remember the most about Rev. Addie is her strength, and her love, and her complete devotion to family and God and community," said Senior Pastor Jerald January. "Those three things meant the most to her."

January is one of the many remembering Wyatt as the woman who spent decades tirelessly fighting for the rights of others.

At the church Wyatt cofounded with her husband Rev. Claude Wyatt -- in a heated garage with a handful of parishioners -- there is sorrow over her passing.

The retired co-pastor of the South Side church had humble beginnings on her path to a life committed to activism. Starting as a 20-year-old meatpacking worker, Addie Wyatt climbed the union ranks to become the first female vice president of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America, one of the highest ranking female labor leaders in the country, and a founder of the National Organization for Women.

Wyatt was commissioned by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to help start Operation Breadbasket, which grew to become the Rainbow/PUSH coalition.

The organizing skills of Rev. Wyatt were utilized by six presidents of the United States. She participated in the Selma march and the March on Washington.

And although in 1975 she was named one of Time magazine's women of the year, today she's being remembered for how she cared about people.

"She would say 'Keep on going children. You all keep doing what you have to do, I'm where I want to be.' The Rev. Addie, if you knew her, she never went anywhere she didn't want to go," said Rev. January. "Whether it was protesting at Selma, or marching on Washington, or being at the White House, or going to heaven, that's where she wanted to be."

Church officials say that Rev. Addie continues to inspire them. They are moving forward with plans to build a new, larger church in the south suburbs. They say Wyatt inspires them to be good to people, to care about people, as well as be committed to activism.

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