CHICAGO (CBS) — Civil rights activist Willie Barrow, who was President Barack Obama’s godmother, has died at the age of 90.
Rev. Jesse Jackson confirmed Barrow died overnight. Jackson called Barrow a “global citizen” who he’ll miss very much.
The diminutive Barrow was known as the “Little Warrior” for her fight for civil rights. She had been hospitalized for more than a week with a blood clot in her lung.
Rev. Michael Pfleger called Barrow a force of nature.
“She was just so spontaneous, never holding back what she thought or what she believed; about life, about marriage, about raising children – you know, she had lost a son earlier in her life – but about what people ought to be fighting for,” he said.
Pfleger, a fellow activist, said Barrow was short in stature at 4’11”, but she was a giant in the fight for civil rights.
“When you would get discouraged, or get disgusted to see how … slow change was taking, Reverend Barrow was one of those who had been there since the beginning of the civil rights movement. She’d always say to me, ‘Stay on the battlefield. Keep doing what you’re doing. Keep fighting,’” he said.
Born Willie Taplin in rural Texas in December 1924, she one of seven children raised by a Baptist minister and his wife.
Barrow had an impact on the civil rights movement when she was only 11. In 1936, she refused to get off a school bus reserved for whites only.
In an interview when she was honored by the Chicago Urban League three years ago, she spoke of her outrage as a child, when black students had to walk to school, while white children rode the bus.
“I told the driver, I said ‘We all are alike, we all got butts, and all we got to do is sit down on the seat, and you’ve got plenty of room. So why you want me to get off this? Because I’m black? No, we’ve got to change that,” she said.