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‘Little Warrior’ Rev. Willie T. Barrow to receive award

08-06-10 Chicago Public Library 400 S. State St. Chicago -   Rev. Willie Barrow talks about her friend Rev.

08-06-10 Chicago Public Library, 400 S. State St., Chicago - Rev. Willie Barrow talks about her friend, Rev. Addie Wyatt, during a ceremony to announce the donation of the Reverend Addie Wyatt and Reverend Claude Wyatt Papers to the Chicago Public Library Friday in Chicago. The documents chronicle and reflect the couple's 65 years of activism in women's rights, civil rights and labor issues. - JOHN J. KIM ~ SUN-TIMES

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Updated: December 11, 2012 6:12AM

Just shy of 88, there was a time the Rev. Willie T. Barrow couldn’t imagine she’d live to see the first African-American president elected.

But there she was Tuesday night, in the inner sanctum of President Barack Obama’s McCormick Place headquarters, watching returns with other VIPs as the man she has called her godson since he was a U.S. senator won his second term.

“He told me he wanted me there, and I was right there with him until 3 in the morning,” says Barrow, known fondly by many as the “Little Warrior.”

“We were in one room together, all the politicians and the ministers, with the food and the big old wide television so we could see the numbers. Barack was going from room to room,” Barrow continued of the Election Day excitement.

“I was so happy when he won. It was the most wonderful experience I have ever had. But I knew he was going to win. God had already told me.”

Barrow is being honored with the prestigious Edwin C. “Bill” Berry Civil Rights Award from the Chicago Urban League at its 51st Annual Golden Fellowship Dinner on Saturday at the Hilton Chicago.

Named for Edwin Berry, the Chicago civil rights leader and Martin Luther King Jr. colleague who led the League from 1956-1969, the award will also be presented to actress/activist Phylicia Rashad (“The Cosby Show”).

Barrow has been in the trenches of America’s civil rights battle since the 1940s, a one-time field organizer and confidante of King’s.

For Barrow, life on the front lines began as a student leading demonstrations by rural African Americans against a segregated school system in the 1940s. An ordained minister, she worked closely with King during major marches, sit-ins and demonstrations of the 1950s and 1960s. She helped found Operation Breadbasket here — which later became Operation PUSH, where she served a stint as national executive director in the 1980s. She led a three-person delegation to North Vietnam in 1968 to participate in negotiation of the Vietnamese Peace Treaty.

An author and staunch advocate for troubled youth, indigent health care, and a strong and whole African-American family unit, Barrow is the adopted and revered godmother of many prominent elected leaders in the African-American community.

Still active, though less mobile, she has said goodbye to many of her peers.

“I opened my house up to all of the powerful women in the movement — Coretta Scott King, Dorothy Height, Addie Wyatt. I hung around with the people that had the power. That’s how I learned,” she said.

“We have to teach this generation, train more Corettas, more Addies, more Dorothys. If these youth don’t know whose shoulders they stand on, they’ll take us back to slavery. And I believe that’s why the Lord is still keeping me here.”

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