C. DeLores Tucker, 78, political activist

October 14, 2005|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Political activist C. DeLores Tucker, who marched arm in arm with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., was the first African-American secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and in later years protested against obscenities in rap music, died Wednesday of undisclosed causes at a nursing facility in Norristown, Pa. She was 78.

The West Mount Airy, Pa., resident was a lifelong civil rights advocate. She was known for wearing turbans with her matching ensembles, even when taking to the streets or being arrested.

"The cause of civil rights was a lifelong crusade for C. DeLores Tucker," Philadelphia Mayor John Street said. "Her continued work promoting and protecting the legacy of Dr. King and the nonviolent movement for change will never be forgotten."

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell said, "America has lost one of the great civil rights activists of our time. ... She did it with dedication, class, grace and dignity."

Known for thunderous speeches mindful of her father, the Rev. Whitfield Nottage of the old Ebenezer Community Tabernacle in North Philadelphia, she took to the stump at age 16 to protest from the back of a flatbed truck outside the city's old Bellevue Stratford hotel because it refused entrance to black athletes.

Cynthia DeLores Nottage, the second-youngest of 11 children, married William Tucker in 1946, shortly after graduating from Girls High School, where she organized students for elections.

After attending classes at Temple University, she earned a real estate license and, with her husband, founded an insurance company in the Olney section of Philadelphia.

Mrs. Tucker marched with Dr. King during a civil rights protest in Selma, Ala., in 1965.

In 1970, she became the first black woman to be named vice chair of the state Democratic Party and the first female vice president of the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

One year later, Pennsylvania Gov. Milton J. Shapp chose her as the first black and first woman to be secretary of the commonwealth. Tucker relished her high political profile. The license plate on her state limousine read "3" to signify that she was the third-most-powerful person in Pennsylvania government.

During her tenure, Tucker helped streamline voter registration and lower the voting age to 18. She also started the first State Commission on the Status of Women. She fell from political grace in 1977, when Shapp fired her for using state employees to write political speeches that earned her $65,000.

She returned to selling real estate and insurance but remained politically active. She was head of the minority caucus of the Democratic National Committee and a founding member of the National Women's Political Caucus.

In 1984, Tucker founded the National Political Congress of Black Women, now the National Congress of Black Women.

She is survived by her husband.

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