The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Civil Rights Legend Dr. Dorothy I. Height Dies at 98

April 20, 2010 - Posted by Tyler Lewis

Dr. Dorothy I. Height

Dr. Dorothy I. Height, a civil rights legend whose pioneering fight for civil and human rights spanned more than seven decades, passed away this morning from natural causes.  She had recently turned 98 on March 24.

Dr. Height was one of the most prominent women among the civil and human rights leadership in the 1960s, and she was a trusted advisor to many leaders, including Eleanor Roosevelt, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, President Lyndon B. Johnson, and President Barack Obama.

Since 1994, she served as chair of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the nation's premier civil and human rights coalition, overseeing many of its successful legislative campaigns, most notably, the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act in 2006.

"I have had the pleasure of working with Dr. Height for more than 20 years," said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference.  "Her wise counsel, political acumen, and pragmatic idealism were, quite simply, invaluable.  She was active in the work of The Leadership Conference right up until it was just physically impossible for her to do so, most recently, serving as honorary co-chair of our campaign to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Dr. Height was born on March 24, 1912, in Richmond, Va.  She earned her bachelors and masters degrees from New York University in four years, graduating in 1933.  She went on to do further postgraduate work at Columbia University and the New York School of Social Work.

Her civil and human rights career began in 1933 when she became an organizer with the United Christian Youth Movement of North America, which led to her being chosen as one of 10 American youth delegates to the World Conference on Life and Work of the Churches in Oxford England.

In 1938, Dr. Height began working for the YWCA, where she coordinated several leadership development and training projects. There she gained the attention of Mary McLeod Bethune, who invited her to volunteer with National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), where she led initiatives such as "Wednesdays in Mississippi," a program that brought together Black and White women from the North and South for intercultural and interracial dialogue.

Dr. Height served on the national board for the YWCA from 1944 to 1977 and led the NCNW as president from 1957 to 1998. She also served as the president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. from 1947-1956.

"If, as the saying goes, service is the rent we pay for living, then Dr. Height is paid in full, many times over – and she has paid the tab for many of us as well," said Henderson.  "It is an honor and a blessing to have known her." 

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