Obama hails Dorothy Height as force for equality

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama eulogized fallen U.S.civil rights leader Dorothy Height Thursday as a humble but tireless force for equality and justice.

Speaking to hundreds of mourners gathered in the stately Washington National Cathedral, Obama recounted Height’s quiet perseverance during decades of work, mostly behind the scenes while the men of the movement got more attention and fame.

“She never cared about who got the credit,” the president said. “What she cared about was the cause. The cause of justice, the cause of equality, the cause of opportunity, freedom’s cause.”

His 13-minute tribute often drew gentle laughter as Obama remembered the doggedness and energy of Height, who led the National Council of Negro Women for decades and marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the head of the civil rights movement. She died last week at the age of 98.

Height visited the Obama White House 21 times, the president said. He noted that she was determined to attend a meeting of African American leaders on unemployment last winter despite an approaching blizzard and being confined to a wheelchair.

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She would not allow “just a bunch of men” to control the meeting, Obama said. When Height’s attendance became impossible because cars could not reach her snow-choked driveway, he said, she still sent a message with her ideas.

Noting Height’s trademark attire, Obama said, “we loved those hats she wore like a crown. Regal.”

He cited her role in desegregating the Young Womens’Christian Association YWCA and in leading the National Council of Negro Women with “vision and energy, vision and class.” He said her name should be associated with great leaders such as King and W.E.B. DuBois, an early 20th century black nationalist.

“She too deserves a place in our history books,” Obama said. “She too deserves a place of honor in America’s memory.”

He urged Americans to honor Height’s memory by serving their country and making it better.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.