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Civil Rights And Labor Leader, Rev. Addie Wyatt Dies At 88

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Addie Wyatt

Addie Wyatt

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CHICAGO (CBS) – She was a pioneer in the labor movement, the civil rights movement and the women’s equality movement.

On Thursday, Chicagoans were mourning the death of the Rev. Addie Wyatt. She died at Advocate Trinity Hospital on Wednesday at the age of 88.

CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley takes a look at the life of a woman who made a life out of breaking barriers.

At the Vernon Park Church of God, they’re already mourning the loss of the icon they simply called Reverend Addie. She and her husband Claude Wyatt co-founded the South Side church in 1955.

But that’s just part of her legacy.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports

Rev. Jerald January, the pastor of Vernon Park Church of God, said, “I think the model she created for women – and men, but women particularly – through the National Organization for Women, through her civil rights work, through her church work particularly – all these different works – I think she set a template for women to follow.”

Addie Wyatt began work as a meat packer in 1941, and by 1956, she was vice president of the local meat packers’ union.

Dr. Carol Adams, President and CEO of DuSable Museum, said “she was in the labor movement when it was rough for a woman to achieve a position of significance. … An African-American at that; and she moved all the way up to international leadership.”

Wyatt was just as active in civil rights as she was in the labor movement, putting union money behind Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1955 Montgomery bus boycott.

Rev. Jesse Jackson, co-founder of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, said “she and the late Congressman Charlie Hayes were amalgamated meat cutters. They took the first $10,000 down to Montogmery from Chicago. They were that involved, directly, in that struggle.”

In the 60s, Wyatt and her husband invited Dr. King to Chicago, to lead a movement against segregated housing.

“I think she was envelope pusher, because she had a great sense of social justice. She wanted things to be right, and she was willing to work on that,” Adams said.

In 1975, Time magazine named Wyatt one of its 12 women of the year. She was also one of the original supporters of Operation Breadbasket, which later became Operation PUSH.

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