Last week, Americans said farewell to two giants who fought for civil rights. Dr. Benjamin Hooks and Rev. Dr. Claude Wyatt were leaders in their fields and helped shape liberty and equality for African Americans.
Rev. Wyatt, one of Chicago’s leading ministers, was active in the Civil Rights Movement. One of the founders of Operation Breadbasket, today known as Operation PUSH, he, with his wife Addie, walked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King in the early 1960s. In 1953, his wife, a strong union leader, was elected vice president of Local 56 of the United Packinghouse Food & Alliance Workers.
Rev. & Mrs. Wyatt were founders of Vernon Park Church of God. He died Sunday, Aprill 11 at the age of 88.
Rev. Wyatt is survived by Dr. Addie Wyatt, his wife for 69 years; his son, Claude S. Wyatt III; and three generations of grandchildren. Another son, Renaldo “Rennie,” preceded him in death. Services were held April 19 at Vernon Park Church of God, 9011 S. Stony Island Ave. in Chicago.
Benjamin Hooks died on April 15 at the age of 85.
Hooks, an ordained Baptist minister, led the NAACP for 15 years.
In 1965, he was appointed to the Tennessee Criminal Court, making him the first black judge since Reconstruction in the South. In November 2007, President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Hooks’ inspiration to fight social injustice and bigotry stemmed from his experience guarding Italian prisoners of war while serving overseas in the Army during World War II – foreign prisoners were allowed to eat in “whites only” restaurants while he was barred from them.
When no law school in the South would admit him, he used the GI bill to attend DePaul University in Chicago, where he earned a law degree in 1948. He later opened his own law practice in his hometown of Memphis.
His cousin, William Hooks, is a judge currently assigned to the Criminal Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County.
‘Godmother of Civil Rights’ dies
In acknowledging her lifetime as a key civil rights leader, President Barack Obama on Tuesday called the late Dorothy Height “the Godmother of the Civil Rights Movement.”
Height died on April 20 at the age of 98.
Her accomplishments are too numerous to list, but many will remember her leadership with the National Council of Negro Women. In 1957, she was named president, a position she held until 1997. Height fought for equal rights for African Americans and all women. She also served as national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. In 1994, President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and in 2004, President George W. Bush awarded her the Congressional Gold Medal for her many years of service.
In 1997, C. Delores Tucker called Height an icon to all African-American women. “I call Rosa Parks the mother of the Civil Rights Movement,” she said. “Dorothy Height is the queen.”