Rev. Wyatt ‘A Woman of God, quiet but walked with big stick’

Congressman Rush: ‘Wyatt was our International Woman’


By Chinta Strausberg


A number of people who attended Saturday’s funeral services for the Rev. Addie L. Wyatt said she was not only elegant in life and in death, but that she was a “virtuous” woman who broke the glass ceiling for women of all colors and a trailblazer for generations to come.

Funeral services for the 88-year-old Wyatt were held at the Vernon Park Church of God, 9011 S. Stony Island, where she and her late husband, Rev. Claude Wyatt, were co-pastors. Married for 69-years, her husband, whom she married on May 12, 1940, passed in April 11, 2010. Rev. Addie Wyatt passed on March 28, 2012 after telling her best friend, the Rev. Willie Taplin Barrow, she was tired and “wanted to go home.”

Many spoke of her eloquence and Rev. Barrow, who said being at her best friend’s funeral was very difficult and who received a standing ovation, said Wyatt always dressed fashionably.  She spotted businessman Howard Medley and said he would always take them out to dinner. Barrow also mentioned Rev. Calvin Morris, who heads the Community Renewal Society.

As Rev. Wyatt lay in a pink-colored coffin dressed in a pink suit and after a bouquet of pink and red roses were placed on top of the now closed casket, barrow remembered a conversation she had the Tuesday before Wyatt died.  “She told me ‘I am tired. I am real tired,” but I had no idea she was ready to go home….”

Rev. Dr. Alvin Lewis remembers the Wyatt’s when they began in Altgeld Gardens and how they worked with grade school drop outs many of whom went on to become professionals like him. He credited the Wyatt’s for their nurturing and caring for today having four degrees. “That is Addie’s legacy…. Addie was a worker. Addie was a winner. She fought the fight. She won the battle.”

Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. called her “a genius” and first met her in 1964 when he came to Chicago to go to school. The Wyatt’s, Jackson said, were his “surrogate parents, strategists” and a woman who “when she could not walk, she came in a wheelchair.”

Wyatt received numerous resolutions including one from President Barack Obama. Her pastor, Rev. Jerald January, Sr., looked up the meaning of her name and said it was German meaning she was noble, sweet or pleasant, aristocracy.  He said Wyatt “was a good woman,” a true woman of God who taught people in Altgeld Gardens that “they could be unified in the projects. She was a servant to God.”

After a video of the Wyatt’s were shown, her son, Rev. Claude Wyatt, III, sang one last song to his mother,

“On Friday, the nation gathered to celebrate International Women’s Day and today we gathered at Vernon Park Church of God to celebrate the life, labor and legacy of our very own International woman, the Rev. Addie Wyatt,” said Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-1st) who attended the funeral of his friend and comrade in the Civil Rights struggle.

Saying Rev. Wyatt was not just a friend but also a counselor, Rush added: “She was one of the most pivotal labor, civil rights and religious leaders of the latter half of the 20th century.  Rev. Wyatt was a humanitarian and a powerful, yet passionate voice for the rights of women, African-Americans and all others she believed were denied the opportunity to live the American dream.”

Rush was referring to Wyatt being a long-time union labor leader that began in the early 1950’s. She had taken a typing test and had passed but because she was sent to work on an assembly line. She fought against racism in the workplace and in the unions and was twice elected vice president of her local, UPWA Local 56, in 1953.

Wyatt didn’t stop there. She was elected international representative “before being tapped in 1976 as the first female international vice president of the United Food and Commercial Workers in 1976,” said Rush.

Besides Rush, other elected officials and civil rights leaders were present Saturday including the Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., his son, Rep. Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. (D-2nd), Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-7th), Illinois Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-16th), Senator Donne Trotter (D-17th), former U.S. Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun, former Senator Roland Burris, Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) William Lucy, International Secretary-treasurer, Rev. Jerald January, Sr., senior pastor at the church, businessman Howard Medley, author/historian Timuel Black and his wife, Zenobia, and a number of ministers and family.

Brown said of Rev. Wyatt, “She was a mentor and a strong supporter. She came to several of my events in her wheelchair just to show her support. She was someone who had strong shoulders for us to stand on and be stabilized until the day she died. She was always about the business of helping others lifting as she climbed from the labor, religious and community standpoint. She will be missed. I love her and I appreciate all that she did.

Davis, who knew the Wyatts since 1960,’s said the they “have been part and parcel of every movement for justice that has existed in the city of Chicago. They were intrical part of the labor movement, the civil rights movement and the religious rights committee. They’ve been outstanding members of a community and to actually have an opportunity” to have known Rev. Wyatt.

Zadine Brookshire, who attends bible school at the church, said, “This is a great servant who is going on home to be the Lord. This is her season and may she rest in peace.”

Wyatt was buried at the Oakwood Cemetery, 1035 E. 67th St., Chicago, Illinois, next to her husband where she is “together again.”

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: