Tribute honors leaders

In the wake of the deaths of two leaders of the civil rights movement, members of the NIU community gathered to celebrate their achievements Monday night.

The tribute, held in the Capitol Room of the Holmes Student Center, was aimed at the recent deaths of Thurgood Marshall and Arthur Ashe.

The NAACP sponsored the tribute in which some members of the NIU community offered their opinions of these two men and their achievements.

NAACP President Richard Baker began the night by sharing some background on Marshall and Ashe.

He said Marshall was the first African-American appointed to the Supreme Court and as a lawyer won 32 of his 35 cases.

“In his day he was named Mr. Civil Rights,” Baker said.

Maurice Thomas, a representative of Alpha Phi Alpha, said Marshall dedicated his life to better the lives of all people of color during the peak of segregation.

He asked the crowd to do what they could to educate themselves and “not ask what will make you look good, but what you can do to better the life of a brother or sister of humanity.”

James Alfini, dean of the College of Law, said, “Thurgood (Marshall) was probably the most prominent civil rights lawyer in our history.”

For over 20 years, Marshall insisted on simple justice, he said.

Alfini closed with a quote from Marshall in reference to his replacement after retiring. “‘There’s no difference between a black snake and a white snake—it still bites.'”

Baker commented on the courage Ashe showed in dealing with AIDS. Ashe never gave up and always fought for the justice of people and liberty, he said. Even after Ashe found out he had AIDS he tried to continue life as usual.

“He blended the best of the best into himself,” Baker said. “He had a mission to prove to everyone that he was stronger than the disease that plagued him.”

NIU Athletic Director Gerald O’Dell also spoke to the audience emphasizing the consistency of Ashe’s life.

“The things he said and did exemplified what a great person he was,” O’Dell said. “He was a friend to all of us.”

O’Dell referred to an article in Sports Illustrated which stated, “Ashe played every stroke as if it was for life and


The article described Ashe as very disciplined by logic. “He would deal with a problem by sorting it out, dealing with it and going on his way,” the article stated.

Sometimes the greatest people are remembered last, O’Dell said.

Terrence Glover, president of Kappa Alpha Psi, remarked on Ashe’s strong endurance. “Ashe never let AIDS stop him and continued the fight for civil rights,” he said.

Baker closed the tribute with a challenge to the members of the audience.

“I challenge you in every bit of your life to not stop caring or loving and don’t give up on yourself,” he said.