Thursday, April 29, 2010

Civil Rights leader laid to rest- Eulogized by President Obama


WASHINGTON — President Obama eulogized the civil rights leader Dorothy Height on Thursday as a “drum major for freedom,” describing the civil rights and women’s rights leader as an American icon who tirelessly pursued justice.

Ms. Height, who died on April 20 at 98, had an “unambiguous record of righteous work,” Mr. Obama said during Ms. Height’s funeral at Washington National Cathedral. Mr. Obama drew frequent chuckles from the audience with a fondly humorous portrait of the feisty Ms. Height.

“When you have a nephew who’s 88, you’ve lived a full life,” Mr. Obama said.

“We did come to know her during the early days of my campaign, and we came to love her as so many loved her,” the president said. “We loved her stories, and her smile, and those hats.”

He said Ms. Height had been a constant presence at the Obama White House. “She came by not once, not twice,” he said. “Twenty-one times she stopped by the White House.”

Ms. Height, who even in the last months of her life took part in health care discussions at the White House, had been scheduled to come by in February for a meeting between Mr. Obama and civil rights leaders, he recalled.

Even though Washington was buried by a blizzard, he said, Ms. Height wanted to come anyway. “She was not about to let just a bunch of men in this meeting. It was only when the car literally could not get to the driveway that she decided not to come.”

Ms. Height was widely viewed as one of the last links to the social activism of the New Deal era. Her civil rights career spanned almost a century, starting with antilynching protests and culminating in the inauguration of Mr. Obama. She recounted for reporters first meeting the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he was 15 years old, and she was on the stage when Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963.

Mr. Obama ordered American flags to be flown at half-staff on Thursday in Ms. Height’s honor.

Article written by Helen Cooper

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