The country lost one of its foremost champions for organized labor and civil rights last week when the Rev. Addie L. Wyatt died at age 88. The union leader advocated for equal work and leadership roles for minorities and once worked alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
From the Chicago Tribune:
In 1955, she and her husband, the Rev. Claude S. Wyatt Jr., founded the Vernon Park Church of God, leading a group of about 25 people in a renovated garage. By 2000, the congregation had grown to nearly 1,000.
"Rev. Wyatt was at the forefront of four movements at the same time — political, community, church and civil rights," said goddaughter and administrative aide Marilyn Cannon.
The Rev. Wyatt, 88, died Wednesday, March 28, at Advocate Trinity Hospital on the South Side after a long illness, Cannon said. She had been a resident of the South Side since moving to Chicago from Mississippi in 1930.
"It's important to know that Addie Wyatt is an example of the power of one," said Carol Adams, president and CEO of the DuSable Museum of African American History. "As one individual, she was able to impact some of the most significant areas of our time."
Born in Brookhaven, Miss., the former Addie Cameron and her family came north during the Depression after a conflict between her father and his white boss in Mississippi. They settled in the Bronzeville neighborhood, and she attended DuSable High School, where she met her future husband.
The Rev. Wyatt and her husband led a gospel group called the Wyatt Singers and occasionally performed with gospel legend Mahalia Jackson. She took a job in the cannery of the Armour & Co. meatpacking company in 1941 and joined the UPWA the next year.
Rising from a union delegate to vice president to president of the UPWA, the Rev. Wyatt was a tireless worker for equal justice and a leader in the field of labor at a time when women — in particular, African-American women — rarely held such positions.
"She was part of that generation of great warrior-queens that said, 'Where help is needed, that's where I'm going to be,'" Adams said.
In 1961, the Rev. Wyatt was appointed by former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt to serve on the Protective Labor Legislation Committee of President John Kennedy's Commission on the Status of Women, and she later served three terms on the Illinois Commission on the Status of Women.
Read more at the Chicago Tribune.