A leader is lost: Matriarch of black community dies at 95
By By Sherry Digmon
Advance Staff Writer
Willie Mae McGlasker parked her Cadillac on Main Street.
She helped found the local NAACP chapter.
She sat at the drugstore counter and asked to be served.
She marched with Dr. Martin Luther King.
She built the Paris Motel when she decided blacks needed a motel too.
She visited Russia in the 1970s, by herself, when she was in her 70s.
She was the matriarch of the black community in Atmore.
Saturday, at the age of 95, Mrs. McGlasker passed away. Her "daughter" Fannie Marvin said she died unexpectedly from complications following surgery.
The stories about her show her determination and strength, her concern and fairness. For Mrs. McGlasker, life was a series of plates to step up to. There was much to be done.
She was a teacher, then a beautician. She once said she joined numerous national organizations because she wanted the opportunity to travel and meet people.
When she was growing up and working on her daddy's farm, she made her mind up to have a better life. She told her siblings she would have a Cadillac one day. And so she did – several in fact.
When her friends told her she couldn't park her Cadillac on Main Street, she did – not out of defiance, not as a troublemaker, simply because there was no reason she shouldn't.
When she visited larger cities, she had to give up her seat on the bus and move to the back. She said once things weren't so bad in Atmore.
When she visited other regions and anticipated problems due to her race, she sometimes acted like a foreigner and pretended she couldn't speak the local language.
When other blacks around the country were staging sit-ins to be served soft drinks in drugstores, Mrs. McGlasker got her friend Amanda Dailey and did the same in Atmore. However, there was not much of a sit-in. The first time, they were given their drinks to go. The second time, Mrs. McGlasker said she would have her drink at the counter. And so she did. Things weren't so bad in Atmore.
When she decided to pass the NAACP baton to the next leader, she contacted Lillie Johnson and asked her if she was interested.
Johnson asked Mayor Rodney Owens to fly the flag at City Hall at half-mast Wednesday in Mrs. McGlasker's memory.
When people in the community had problems that were city-related, she picked up the phone and called city hall. It didn't matter who was sitting in the mayor's seat, they were all the same to her.
Since Mrs. McGlasker's death, Marvin is hearing of kindnesses she did that no one knew about.
Mrs. McGlasker's mind was sharp until the end. However, a momentary lapse or hesitation would prompt her to say, "Sometimes I go off, but I don't stay."
Mrs. McGlasker was a devout member of Gaines Chapel A.M.E. Church.
Her church work is one of the ways she made Atmore a better place.
Things weren't so bad in Atmore. Willie Mae McGlasker was one of the reasons why.
McGlasker's funeral will be held today, Wednesday, at Greater Mt. Triumph Baptist Church, which is larger than Gaines Chapel A.M.E. Church. The family will be served at Gaines Chapel.
The service will be at 1 p.m., with visitation one hour prior to the funeral.
Burial will follow in Stallworth Cemetery.
Robinson Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements.
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