C. DeLores Tucker - We Called Her CDT
"When free elections end, slavery begins." Andrew Jackson
"A public servant who serves the public in the purest sense is the most valuable asset any government can have." C. DeLores Tucker
I used the Andrew Jackson quote in a speech I wrote for C. DeLores Tucker when she was PA Secretary of the Commonwealth and chair of the DNC Black Caucus. She delivered the speech at the 1976 Democratic National Convention.
DeLores Tucker wrote those words about public service in a letter to me in 1977. I'm proud of that letter. I'll share more of it. But first I want to share some thoughts about the woman the inner circle called “CDT”.
I served with C. DeLores Tucker and for her over a period of seven years when I was first the PA Governor's CJ Cregg, then hers. Through DeLores Tucker I was privileged to play a small role in major events that changed history. No, I didn't march with CDT and Dr. King -- I was a pup then. But in the 70s I worked with CDT and Mrs. King, Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, Dick Hatcher, Julian Bond, Shirley Chisolm, Barbara Jordan, Bella Abzug, Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter, Fritz Mondale, Gloria Steinem, Maya Angelou ... the list goes on and on.
All were courageous trail blazers in the civil rights crusade, the women's movement, in creating a voice for the disenfranchised in politics and government service. They welcomed me into their world, accepted and trusted me with their goals and their real selves, because CDT trusted me with hers. It was the ride of a lifetime, especially for a young white Jewish girl.
I learned one of life's most important lessons from DeLores and her celebrated friends and colleagues: it's not the color of your skin that counts -- it's the brightness of your spirit. I traveled all over the country with them, to rallies and marches, meetings and soup kitchens, church suppers and coffee klatches, legislative caucuses and political campaigns. And CDT always stood out, with a radiant glow.
C. DeLores Tucker was an original. The ageless, glamorous Turban Queen. Statuesque and striking, a peerless fashion plate with nary a wrinkle in clothes or brow -- but with a work ethic that had us jumping, often from dawn to dark. All who worked for CDT were fiercely loyal. She could be exasperating in her demands for excellence and perfection – but because she set those same standards for herself, we could do no less. And we respected her more for it.
She was dignified and imposing, yet warm and charming. Smart, ambitious, dedicated and energetic, a tough cookie with a soft core. She’d enter a room and command immediate attention. Backs would straighten. Eyes would brighten. Smiles--or sparks of determination--would appear in anticipation of a battle of wits with a superb negotiator.
CDT’s greatest strength--as all who knew her would testify--was as an orator par excellance. If you ever saw her speak, you know. If you never had the rare experience of hearing her raise the roof, you missed one of the all-time greats. Think female Dr. King. I kid you not.
The daughter of a preacher, C. DeLores Tucker more than did her Daddy proud. The Voice. The Presence. The Zeal. The Passion. And the Power. She could make rafters ring and goose bumps rise and people leap to their feet as if drawn by golden strings. CDT plucked those strings with unique mastery. She spoke to people for people, from her heart and soul, with the authority of Right and Might on her side. The C in her name was for Cynthia, but it also stood for Charisma. And Conscience.
Yes, every human being has flaws, and CDT had hers too. Maybe down the line I'll reveal some of the more interesting ones. The lady wasn't a saint. But she wasn't a sinner either. She was a woman from humble beginnings who rose to positions of power and influence through her own hard work and determination. She never forgot where she came from. And she never lost sight of where she was going.
She's gone to Glory now. Which should be a great comfort to her husband and family. It's where she always wanted to be in the end. Here's more of her letter to me when I left state government to pursue the next steps of my own future:
It is with a great sense of personal loss not only for myself but for the Commonwealth that I accept your resignation. Thank you for your dedication, loyalty, high quality of work and the great measure of personal kindness and friendship which you brought to Bill and me. Your tenure here has been of the highest level of public service, and our close personal relationship makes it harder to see a friend depart.I'm honored by those words. It is with an equally great sense of personal loss that I see my friend DeLores Tucker depart. Good-bye, T. You will be sorely missed.
"America has lost one of the great civil rights activists of our time. ... She did it with dedication, class, grace and dignity." Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell
Philadelphia Inquirer 10/22/2005 Swells of admiration for Tucker
Philadelphia Inquirer 10/13/2005 C. DeLores Tucker dies at 78