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Statements on Dorothy I. Height's death

Officials have started to release statements on the death of civil rights matriarch, Dorothy I. Height, who passed away Tuesday morning. She was 98.

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Ms. Height was among the coalition of African American leaders who pushed civil rights to the center of the American political stage after World War II, and she was a key figure in the struggles for school desegregation, voting rights, employment opportunities and public accommodations in the 1950s and 1960s.

To add your own thoughts or remembrances on the life of Dorothy I. Height, visit our reader forum: Lives Remembered: Dorothy I. Height

President Obama:

"Michelle and I were deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Dorothy Height - the godmother of the Civil Rights Movement and a hero to so many Americans. Ever since she was denied entrance to college because the incoming class had already met its quota of two African American women, Dr. Height devoted her life to those struggling for equality. She led the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years, and served as the only woman at the highest level of the Civil Rights Movement - witnessing every march and milestone along the way. And even in the final weeks of her life - a time when anyone else would have enjoyed their well-earned rest - Dr. Height continued her fight to make our nation a more open and inclusive place for people of every race, gender, background and faith. Michelle and I offer our condolences to all those who knew and loved Dr. Height - and all those whose lives she touched."

Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.):

"As President of the National Council of Negro Women for four decades, Dr. Height spoke out passionately for racial and gender equality, and was instrumental in securing desegregated schools and public places, as well as voting rights for African-Americans. Whether she was protesting discrimination in Harlem in the '30s, bringing her powers of persuasion to bear on First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in the '40s, advocating school desegregation in the '50s, or standing beside Dr. King at the Lincoln Memorial in the '60s, Ms. Height had a career, and a life, of selfless service. She will be greatly missed."

Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards, (D-Md.):

"During a time when women and African Americans were regarded as second-class citizens, this African American woman strove to change that and rose to become a key figure in the civil rights movement; meeting with first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and President Dwight D. Eisenhower in pursuit of racial and social equality. The country would not be the same were it not for the hard work and dedication of Dr. Height, whose career spanned more than six decades and changed the lives of countless Americans."

Cora Masters Barry:

Cora Masters Barry, former first lady of the District, said Dorothy Height "was an integral part" of the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center since its beginning.

"I'm so grateful that the kids at the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center knew her," said Barry.

D.C. Wire has a full report on Barry's statement.

Eleanor Holmes Norton:

"I am a child of the civil rights movement," said D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, "and I have lost my godmother and the godmother of the great movements of her time."

"Dorothy walked a straight line for human rights that accommodated no division among groups. When confusion arose among Black people as the women's rights movement emerged, Dorothy led by example. Black women quickly came to understand that if they had two strikes against them, it would do no good to let either remain. Dorothy seemed to know how important her continuing participation and presence was for the many causes she championed because she continued to speak and attend events until she was admitted, under protest, to Howard University Hospital where she died this morning. Dorothy Height was a woman of immense grace and elegance, but she did not go quietly. She lived as an activist until the very end of her life, for the great causes that bear her signature."

Michael Brown, D.C. Council member-at-large:

She was a woman of enormous stature in death as she was in life. Her towering presence was an inspiration to the powerful and the everyday folks. She walked with kings and queens and never lost the common touch for the least among us. With quiet dignity, she made an indelible impact on every major movement in America from the Garveyism, to Civil Rights, to the desegregation of schools, to labor and worker rights to women rights, to family rights, to the Million Man March and beyond. She was a mainstay in the life of America."

Kwame R. Brown, D.C. Council member-at-large:

"She led a monumental life and we are indebted to her for the lasting contribution she made to the civil rights movement. As a personal friend and son of the civil rights movement, I aspired to public office because of her. By determining her life's work to serve as a leading voice for those that couldn't speak, Dr. Height took the stand for equality. The gates of freedom have opened wide and warmly welcomed her to her new home."

Mayor Adrian Fenty:

In a statement, Mayor Fenty said he has ordered flags in Washington to be flown at half-staff today and tomorrow. He proclaimed today, April 20, 2010, "Dr. Dorothy I. Height Day" in the District.

Today, the District of Columbia mourns one of our most distinguished citizens, Dr. Dorothy I. Height. Dr. Height exemplified grace, dignity, and strength, at all times.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell:

"A Virginian, Ms. Height demonstrated the incredible good that can be accomplished by a passionate individual advocating a just cause. ...Today I order all state flags to fly at half-staff in honor of Dorothy Height, and I ask all Virginians to pause in remembrance of her life and her legacy. Our nation is a better place because of Dorothy Height."

A full statement from Gov. McDonnell, who made national headlines for proclaiming April "Confederate History Month," is available here.

Maryland Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown:

"Americans mourn the passing of Dorothy Height today. She has left our world, but her legacy lives on. While we are all the beneficiaries of her good work, she gave a special voice to the oppressed and fought for their inclusion. By opening doors for her own education, she opened them for African Americans and women across the nation. She lived her life by carrying the example set in her own words. It was a life of 'quiet dignity and a kind sense of caring and a feeling of joint responsibility.' Ms. Height will be missed dearly, but her dedication to equality and inclusion will not be forgotten."

P. Irene Jones of Eastern Senior High School:
dorothyheight2.jpg"March 8, 2010 was one of the proudest days in our school's history. Students and staff of Eastern Senior High School in Washington, DC were honored to be photographed with one of America's most notable Civil Rights icons, Dr. Dorothy Height. We extend our prayers and deepest sympathies to her family."

Alan W. Houseman:

Houseman, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy, said Ms. Height's death is "a great loss for the nation and for those who believe that all people residing in the United States should be treated equally and with dignity and respect. No one provided greater leadership in our country's efforts to overcome racism and poverty, and few if any others had the moral authority to move people to action."

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan:

"Dr. Height understood that the civil rights movement started at the schoolhouse door. During the civil rights movement, she organized women of many races and faiths to support the freedom schools in Mississippi. She maintained her commitment to education by working closely with several of my predecessors in efforts to increase parental involvement in schools and close the achievement gap. President Obama and I believe that education is the civil rights issue of our time. Today, we lost a great partner in our work to reform schools."

Japanese American Citizens League:

Floyd Mori, executive director of the Japanese American Citizens League, a group that was part of the Leadership Conference of Civil and Human Rights, a national coalition of civil rights groups. Ms. Height was president of the Leadership Conference:

"We have lost a person who was an inspiration to me and thousands of others who have worked in the civil rights arena. I was privileged to have been a colleague of hers on the Leadership Council's Executive Committee, where she was a regular participant. She always had a word of encouragement and inspiration on the issues on which we all toiled. We will miss her but the spirit of her commitment will continue to inspire us and the many who follow in this great work."

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley:

"I was saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Dorothy Height, known to many as the godmother of the civil rights movement. From a young age, Dr. Height lead a life dedicated in the fight against injustice, and in defense of equality everywhere. As a parent, I'm proud to have Dr. Height's example to teach a new generation of Americans the sacrifices so many before them made to eliminate racism in America."

First Lady Katie O'Malley will serve as Honorary Chair of an event this Sunday called "Hats on for Dr. Dorothy I. Height," a Salute to a Lifetime of Service. The event will launch two programs in her honor at Coppin State University.

D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray:

"The District of Columbia and the nation have lost an icon in the passing of Dr. Dorothy Height. Dr. Height played crucial roles in the women's and civil rights movements, having toiled with the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mary McLeod Bethune to forge steady progress for people whose rights were denied.

"Dr. Height, who was Chairman and President Emerita of the National Council of Negro Women, had a prominent presence in the District of Columbia, as the organization's headquarters is located on Pennsylvania Avenue. Moreover, hundreds of thousands of District residents have enjoyed NCNW's Black Family Reunion on the National Mall each year. I am grateful for Dr. Height's active support of many local causes, organizations and individuals."

"I express my sincere condolences to Dr. Height's family and thank them for sharing her with the District and the nation. We all will truly miss the 'godmother' of the civil rights movement."

D.C. Council member Marion Barry

"Today the world lost one of its most insightful, visionary advocates for civil rights and the rights of women and families. Dr. Dorothy Irene Height has been a friend to me both personally and professionally. I will miss her wisdom and whit. I will miss her honesty and forthrightness. And, I will mourn her passing with the celebration of a life that leaves a legacy for people of all nationalities to emulate."
I extend my prayers and condolences to Mrs. Height's family, and I pledge my service and support to her Organization and friends who vow to perpetuate her legacy.

Janet MurguĂ­a, president and CEO of National Council of La Raza, the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States:

"Dorothy Height was a role model to me and other women leaders in the civil rights community. She broke down barriers for so many of us to follow--with her signature grit and consummate grace--and for that, we will always be deeply grateful."

Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund:

We African American Women seldom do just what we want to do, but always what we have to do. I am grateful to have been in a time and place where I could be a part of what was needed.

This is the quote inscribed on Dr. Dorothy Height's Congressional Gold Medal, just one of the many dozens of awards Dr. Height received over her extraordinary life, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The brilliant Dr. Height was a lantern and role model for millions of women and a long haul social change agent blessed with uncommon commitment and talent. Her fingerprints are quietly embedded in many of the transforming events of the last seven decades as Blacks, women, and children pushed open and walked through previously closed doors of opportunity. To me she was a dearest friend, mentor, and role model, and the Children's Defense Fund was blessed to have her serve on our board for over 30 years. When she passed away on April 20 at age 98, we all lost a treasure, a wise counselor, and a rock we could always lean against for support in tough times.

By Washington Post Editors  |  April 20, 2010; 9:22 AM ET
 | Tags: dorothy height dead, dorothy height died, dorothy height tribute  
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I knew Ms. Height's name from my CD collection, "A Call to Conscience," which has Dr. King's speeches. She introduced the "I Have a Dream" speech. I knew, therefore, that she must be a significant figure in the civil rights movement. I had no idea until reading this just HOW significant. She is certainly one of those people whose passing creates a double regret: that she is gone and that I never had the honor of knowing her. She shall be missed.

Posted by: saulpaulus | April 20, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Let's talk about "patriot's". A true patriot has past. It is souls like hers that bring light and hope in this world.An immortal among the common folk as myself. May God bless her and may others bear the yolk and continue the great work she did.

Posted by: misewicz | April 20, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

I saw Ms. Height receive the key to the District of Columbia at the Emancipation Day ceremony on Freedom Plaza a few years ago. I feel lucky now to have been able to witness it. I believe that she asked if that meant that she could shop for free in the District for the day. I thought that was pretty funny.

Posted by: | April 20, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

She had some great hats!!!!

Posted by: wagtdn | April 20, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

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