Civil rights icon Dr. Dorothy Height, who was the leading female voice of the 1950 and 1960s civil rights movement and stood on the platform with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during his historic "I Have a Dream'' speech, died in Washington DC today. She was 98.
"Height, whose activism on behalf of women and minorities dated to the New Deal, led the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years. She continued actively speaking out into her 90s, often getting rousing ovations at events around Washington, where she was immediately recognized by the bright, colorful hats she almost always wore. She died at Howard University Hospital, where she had been in serious condition for weeks. In a statement, President Barack Obama called her ''the godmother of the civil rights movement'' and a hero to Americans. "Dr. Height devoted her life to those struggling for equality ... and served as the only woman at the highest level of the Civil Rights Movement -- witnessing every march and milestone along the way,'" Obama said."
The newspaper continues:"'One of Height's sayings was, 'If the time is not ripe, we have to ripen the time.' She liked to quote 19th century abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who said that the three effective ways to fight for justice are to ''agitate, agitate, agitate.'"
Height counseled Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson on critical civil rights issues. Height also "walked in lockstep with first lady Eleanor Roosevelt" to push vital changes for women's rights, reports The Root.
Height also lended her influence to push for gay rights, adds LGBT POV's Karen Ocamb.
"Height and her friend Coretta Scott King, widow of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, were among those LGBT allies who worked the halls of Congress in 1996 with Elizabeth Birch, then-president of the Human Rights Campaign, when the Employment Non-Discrimination Act faced its first vote on the Senate floor. Vice President Al Gore was on standby to cast the deciding vote if necessary – but the Senate rejected ENDA 50-49."
While speaking at the 1997 Human Rights Campaign Annual Dinner, Dr. Height applauded the LGBT rights movement. "There is one thing that we will agree [on]. Civil rights are civil rights. There is no person that is not entitled to their civil rights" she said, adding that "it wasn't hard for us to know" that HRC and gay rights were "about civil rights."
HRC Deputy Director for Diversity Donna Payne adds: "Dr. Height taught us to reach out to others, and to get the conversations going. That’s how you win people’s hearts, which is what it takes to make justice happen."
This was the second death of a major civil rights figure in less than one week. Benjamin L. Hooks, the former longtime head of the NAACP, passed Thursday in Memphis at 85.
Watch the HRC video, as well as a news report and Michelle Obama on this amazing woman AFTER THE JUMP ...
Photos: Washington Post's Dorothy height slideshow.