Remembering Rev. Addie L. Wyatt, 88

Civil rights, union leader recognized for decades of work

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By CHINTA STRAUSBERG

Known as a trailblazer and one of the nationfs first African American union leaders, the Rev. Addie L. Wyatt, 88, died on March 28 at Advocate Trinity Hospital.

Her career as a workerfs rights advocate began more than 60 years ago.

Rev. Wyatt worked at a meat packing company from 1941-1953. Once there, she was elected vice president of the Local 56 workerfs union, the first African American to hold such a high labor union position. She went on to become the director of the Womenfs Affairs and Human Rights Departments of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters. In the 1960s, former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt appointed her to a position on the Labor Legislation Committee of the United States Commission on the Status of Women.

Wyattfs many admirers have expressed sadness in the week since her death.

'She was one of the most pivotal labor, civil rights and religious leaders of the latter half of the 20th century," said U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush in a statement released last week. 'Rev. Wyatt was a humanitarian and a powerful, yet passionate voice for the rights of women, African-Americans and all others she believed were denied the opportunity to live the American dream."

One of Rev. Wyattfs best friends, Rev. Willie T. Barrow, was reportedly with her at the hospital when she died. The two were inseparable and together worked on both labor and civil rights issues over the decades. Rev. Wyatt was also a personal friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Her husband, the late Rev. Dr. Claude Wyatt, died in April of 2010. Married since 1940, the couple founded and were co-pastors of Vernon Park Church of God, 9011 S. Stony Island Avenue in Chicago. They were married for 69-years and had two sons, Claude S. Wyatt and Renaldo Wyatt. She was ordained in 1955 as a Church of God minister.

In the 1970s, Rev. Wyatt held a powerful position in the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, and in 1974 founded the Coalition of Labor Union Women. She became the international vice president of the United Food and Commercial Workers in 1976. She was the first African American woman to hold a high union leadership position in an international union.

Rev. Wyatt was born on March 28, 1924 in Brookhaven, Miss. to Ambrose and Maggie Cameron. Rev. Wyatt came to Chicago in 1930 when she was 6-years-old. She raised her siblings after her mother died, saying that they were like her own children.

She and her husband always took time to give back to the community, especially with their civil rights work. They both worked with Dr. King, including marching with him in the March on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery and other civil rights endeavors. Rev. Wyatt also worked closely with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) as an adviser.@

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