West High School Class of 59 News
(February 25, 2009)

Classmates,

Do you remember Henrietta Parteete?  Her married name is Henrietta Dotson-Williams and she is doing great things. Here is a recent article from the Rockford Register Star that tells us of some of her accomplishments.

Rockford Register Star (IL)
November 16, 2008

Author: Chris Green


Carving out a path to history

Victory Bell graduated from West High School in 1963 during the height of the Civil Rights movement. He was one of several graduates who found a job working at Illinois Bell Telephone Co. The young men were hired and trained to be home installers, and the young women were trained to be operators.

Bell, who is black, was hired as a janitor. "That's just the way it was back then," Bell said. "All companies in the city were segregated. You didn't see African-Americans in professional-type jobs. "After U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, the first black to be elected president of the United States, Bell spoke reflectively of his trailblazing path to a future management position within what is now Ameritech, the distinction of being the first African-American to be elected to Rockford City Council in 1971 and the progress the country has made as a whole toward racial equality.

Henrietta Dotson-Williams also made headlines in 1971 in the Register Republic, a Rockford Register Star forerunner, when she became the first black to work in the Winnebago County treasurer's office. The public at large saw a momentous occasion being heralded by the paper.

Dotson-Williams, then a single mother of four children living in the Jane Addams housing development, said what the public didn't see was profanity-laced hate mail that occasionally found its way into her home's mailbox as she rose onto the political scene and fought for such things as recognizing Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday as a holiday. "I guess I never thought about people having that level of hate," she said. "(Husband) Mike got some, too, when he got onto the School Board. Letters with no names, no addresses."

 

Like many African-Americans, especially those who experienced the Jim Crow laws or the separate-but-equal doctrine predominant in the South, the nomination of a black president was not something Bell, a native Mississippian, or Dotson-Williams, a lifelong Rockford resident, thought they would live to see.

At 74, Bell is the city's longest-serving alderman with 37 years of public service and counting. Bell's tenure helped opened the doors for many African-Americans who ventured into local politics after him: Dotson-Williams, the first African-American female to serve on the Winnebago County Board in 1973; Charles Box, the city's first African-American mayor elected in 1989; Mike Williams, a School Board member elected in 1985 and later voted among his peers in 2001 to be board president; and Chuck Jefferson, the area's first African-American state representative, serving since 2001.

 

Bell, the longtime Ward 5 servant, is humbled and proud because he knows it is on his shoulders and the shoulders of Victory Bells and Dotson-Williamses in communities big and small throughout the nation that Obama stands on. A student of American history, Bell said the nomination of an African-American is something all can rejoice in. "There has never been a movement for equality where there has not been white blood shed for that equality," Bell said. "Everybody can take credit for where we are today. Hopefully, we have an opportunity now to move forward in unity."

 

Still much to be done

While the nation awaits the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, local African-Americans said Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of equality is in reach but has yet to be fulfilled. "I think there is still more work to be done," said Maurice Redd, 33, of Rockford. "His dream wasn't just about equality for African-Americans, but all minorities, women and people of different backgrounds, who want to achieve."

Redd and Dawn Kelly of Rockford watched the election returns come in at the UAW Hall in Rockford and the announcement of Obama as the nation's next president. Kelly wiped away tears of joy. "It's something that most black people thought they would never see," said Kelly, 33. "My dad just passed away. I wish he could have been here to see it. In his lifetime we went from not being able to drink at certain water fountains to the nation's first black president. We've come a long way."

 

Sad news

The West High School Class of 59 has lost 3 members:

Treasure Johnson, April 16, 1941 - January 28, 2009

Joe D. Smith, May 28, 1940 - August 8, 2003

Donald Mitchell, March 3, 2001 of Pulmonary Fibrosis

SIMPKINS, Treasure Lea
Born April 16, 1941 in Rockford, Illinois and entered the Kingdom of her Heavenly Father on January 28, 2009. She is survived by her husband, Bill; sister, Janice (Terry); sons, Jeffrey (Jean), Ande (Marian), Jason (Connie) and daughter, Darci. She was beloved ''Grama T'' to Tristan, Callah, Cameron, Travis, Rebekah, Chase, Jacob, Cassidy, Sarah, Quinn and great-grandmother to Aiden. She was preceded in death by oldest grandson Dustin. A Celebration of Treasure's life will be held on Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 1:30 in the chapel at Evergreen Memorial, 3030 Fruitridge Rd., Sacto, CA. Donations may be made to the Plata Humane Society in Durango, Colorado in her name.

 

Joe D. Smith, May 28, 1940 - August 8, 2003

 

 

Donald Mitchell, March 3, 2001

 

This newsletter was contributed by Marilyn (Triebel) and Dennis Johnson.