Thursday, January 31, 2013

Before Norma Rae -- There Was Brookhaven's Addie L. Wyatt

Photo may be subject to copyright.
Used for educational purposes only.
Meet Addie L.Wyatt -- perhaps one of the more celebrated Brookhavenites of whom you may have never heard.

Born in Brookhaven on March 8, 1924, Addie L. Cameron moved with her family to Chicago at age 6 after her father got into a dispute with his boss during the Great Depression.

Her father's taking a bold stand at a very uncertain economic time in American history must have made a powerful impression on young Addie and undoubtedly shaped her life in immeasurable ways.

She would grow up to be a union, church, civil rights, AND feminist leader.

A "Warrior Queen," she went to work in the meat packing plants of Chicago in 1941 and soon became the first female president of a local chapter of the United Packinghouse Workers of America.

Deeply spiritual, she and her husband, the Rev. Claude S. Wyatt Jr., renovated a garage in 1955 and founded the Vernon Park Church of God.  Initially leading a flock of about 25 people, their following grew to nearly 1,000 by the year 2000.

And the accomplishments kept on coming.  She went on to serve as an adviser to elected officials and leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

With Barbara Jordan, she was the first black woman to be featured as Time Magazine's Person of the Year, in 1975.  She was also honored by Ebony Magazine.

Last year in mid March, shortly after I began this blog, I discovered this "Gee, I didn't know that" story and made a mental note to track down her contact information and call her in the hope of interviewing her about her earliest memories.

Just one week later, I would Google her name again and sadly discover that she had died on March 28 at age 88.

An opportunity lost.

For more information on this trailblazer, please see this link and/or this one.


  1. All I can say is "WOW" and thank you, Mollie, for filling in such a big gap in my knowledge of selfless women who helped give all of us lives with more choices today.

  2. My pleasure, Bettie. I had no idea, either. Google and curiosity is a wonderful thing!!