When we talk of heroic figures, especially in this country, too many times athletes or entertainers or politicians who least deserve it are mentioned most frequently. Heroism is not bravado, but the courage to stand in the face of injustice and danger, quelling the natural fear and deciding to forge ahead anyway. There are, almost by definition, very few who possess the qualities that make one heroic.
Constance Baker Motley was such a person. A daughter of immigrants from Nevis, Motley's fire for justice was ignited when, at 15, she was turned away from a public beach because she was black. between then and now, Motley worked for racial justice, working on the most important cases in the country's civil rights movement and with leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. Robert F. Kennedy, Thurgood Marshall and Medgar Evers. She died yesterday in Manhattan.
From civil rights leader, she became Manhattan borough and finally a federal judge in 1966, the first black female federal judge.
Constance Motley is not a household name like Marshall of King, but without her, the civil rights movement would not have been as successful. She was the rock upon which the lives of millions of children have since been built.
Constance Baker Motley was 84.