ST. LOUIS – An icon, civil rights activist and ground-breaking lawyer – that’s who Frankie Muse Freeman was and will always be remembered by.
Freeman lived for 101-years, but it’s the fortitude she showed through those years that will forever live on.
“From the beginning, I believed in the value of all people and I’ve tried to work for that for all of my life,” Freeman said.
Freeman, throughout her life, became ever vigilante in breaking the status quo.
As a graduate of Howard University Law school, her most notable case is when she served as lead counsel in the landmark 1954 Davis versus the St. Louis Housing Authority.
That case alone ultimately ended legal racial discrimination in public housing.
Former president of the St. Louis Urban League James Buford worked hand in hand with Freeman during most of her time in St. Louis.
“She was the greatest woman I ever met,” Buford said. “I’ve been involved with Frankie Freeman for 58 years. She served as chair of my board. First African-American woman to serve as board of the Nation Urban League and first woman to be chair of the Urban League Board.”
Being first was not an anomaly to Freeman, she was also the first woman appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
And in 2015, President Barack Obama appointed her to serve as a member of the Commission on Presidential Scholars, an honor Freeman said in 2016 she adored.
“I’m blessed because all of all the president I wanted to be at least appointed by him,” Freeman said.
In 2017, hundreds gathered to induct Freeman into the St. Louis Walk of Fame and dedicate a bronze statue for her contributions to the civil rights movement.
“She didn’t want to be a statue,” Buford said. “She just wanted to make a difference. She said it in many interviews. I just want do away with desegregation and make everybody equal.”
“There has been progress and there continues to be progress, but there’s work to do,” she said. “We’ve all got work to do!”
Freeman also served as a past president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and her passing comes as they celebrate their 105th Founder’s Day.
Attorney Frankie Muse Freeman, civil rights icon and St. Louis City NAACP Executive Board member,
died on Friday, January 12, 2018.
“St. Louis and the nation have lost one of its most cherished civil rights leaders,” said Adolphus M. Pruitt
II, president of the St. Louis City NAACP. “Freeman’s legal career in St. Louis spanned more than 60
Attorney Freeman was the lead attorney for the 1954 landmark NAACP case Davis et al. v. the St. Louis
Housing authority which ended legal segregation in public housing within St. Louis. In 1964, she became
the first woman to serve on the United State Commission on Civil Rights. Appointed by President
Lyndon B. Johnson, she was reappointed by Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter.
In October of 2016, the St. Louis City NAACP hosted a 100th Birthday Bash in honor of Freeman to
celebrate her life and legacy. Also, the St. Louis City NAACP commissioned a bronze statue of Attorney
Freeman that was installed in Kiener Plaza on November 21, 2017 and gifted to the City of St. Louis.
“If I were to tell a tale about Frankie’s lifework, I would say she tackled civil rights issues like the work
of a blacksmith, forging a brighter future for society and bending the iron will of those who would oppose
such,” said Adolphus Pruitt during the Birthday Bash.
In 1964, Freeman was elected 14th National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., a national
membership organization of over 200,000 college educated woman. In 2010, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
named Freeman Citizen of the Year. In 2011, she received the prestigious NAACP Spingarn Medal, the
National NAACP’s highest honor. Freeman was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame, the
International Civil Rights Walk of Fame at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in
Atlanta, Georgia, and the National Bar Association’s Hall of Fame. She was presented the Right Arm of
St. Louis Award from the St. Louis Regional Chamber of Commerce and the inaugural Sister Mary Byles
Peace and Justice Award from Maryville University.
A graduate of Hampton University and the Howard University Law School, Freeman published her
memoir in 2003, “A Song of Faith and Hope: The Life of Frankie Muse Freeman. In 2015, President
Obama appointed Freeman to the Commission on Presidential Scholars.
Statement from former U.S. Congressman William Clay:
Washington, D.C. – Retired Congressman Bill Clay, Sr. “In the death of Frankie Freeman, the nation has lost one of its greatest crusaders for racial and sexual justice. She was a trailblazer for equality in the same mode as W.E.B. Dubois, Thurgood Marshall, and Dorothy Height—among others.”
“In her 8 decades of challenging bigotry and overcoming much of it, she leaves a legacy for future generations of freedom fighters to emulate. Imagine to what degree and number of the oppressed would be if Frankie had not so persistently fought to right the wrongs of this nation.”