The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation

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Dorothy Height hailed as strong leader, mentor

Denise Stewart
Apr 22, 2010

When she was 19, Julianne Malveaux met Dorothy Height in an airport while both waited for delayed planes.

At the time, Malveaux was a student on a mission to recruit for Boston College. Today, she’s president of Bennett College for Women, a prestigious institution in Greensboro, North South Carolina.

“She had a presence. I left there thinking she was all the things a black woman should be,” Malveaux told “She was kind. She was encouraging.”

And from that moment on, she was a mentor.

Height, longtime leader of the National Council of Negro Women’s Clubs, died early Tuesday at Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C. She was 98.

While she is regarded throughout the world as a civil rights icon, black women in leadership roles across the country said her commitment to mentoring and supporting African American women made her very special.

For Malveaux, she helped direct her path toward Bennett. For Melanie Campbell, she helped her move from deputy director to executive director of the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation. For U.S. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, D.C., Height was a guiding force in her civic involvement, and the list could continue.

“Every moment you were with her, you knew it was a blessed moment. You knew you were privileged,” said Campbell, who in 1995 met Height, a member of the board of the NCBCP.

“When she was around, there was always something to learn,” Campbell told “She was always on time. She was the first to arrive and the last to leave.”

“Whether it was a march or meeting on Capitol Hill or traveling to Biloxi, Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, she showed us what it meant to stay the course,” Campbell said. “She believed in servant leadership: those who lead must serve. She lived her life that way.”

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