Local reflections on the life of Dorothy Height

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Hundreds gathered in Washington, D.C., today to celebrate the life and mark the death of one of America's central figures in the civil rights movement. Dorothy Height spent much of the past century pushing for equal rights for both women and African Americans.

Tonight we hear reflections on an extraordinary woman from those who knew and worked with Dr. Height. They call her an icon and a major humanitarian on a global scale. But before that, she was a Richmonder, who went on to influence countless lives for more than half a century.

Dorothy Height lives forever, now in memories and photographs, like the one Raymond Boone passes by every day.

"It reminds me of just an outstanding woman of worldwide recognition," Boone said, speaking of a 2003 photograph framed in an office hallway.

Ray was a young reporter in the 1960's covering the height of the civil rights movement when he first met this quiet but powerful leader. A lifelong friendship blossomed as he became the editor and publisher of the Richmond Free Press.

"She was tenacious. She was passionate about not only civil rights, but human rights," Boone said.

Even as the times and technology changed around her, Dr. Height's influence never went out of style.

"She didn't speak very much, but when she spoke, you listened to what she said," said Sen. Henry Marsh.

Marsh first met her in 1981. He was mayor of Richmond at the time. But when Dr. Height was in the room, all eyes were on her.

"A lot of people will remember her for her distinguished hats, but those of us who knew her will remember her for her thoughtful, persistent, pursuit of equality," Marsh said.

Height had the ear of presidents and first ladies. Historians note that her place alongside the greats of the civil rights movement is secure.

"She was an icon. And she was a woman of grace. Even people, who don't know about her, recognize her name. She stands for dignity, grace, this quiet grace, and determination," said Maureen Elgersman Lee, Executive Director of the Black History Museum of Virginia.

But Dorothy Height wasn't about the accolades. A thousand awards were nothing compared to a young woman's smile.

"She, unselfishly, committed her life to correcting wrongs. Not only for black people, but for all people," Boone said.

Friends say she what she leaves behind is a compass for equality: To never forget where we've been, and always remember, where we're going.

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