Scroll down to view Official White House video from the event.
Six senior African Americans received a singular honor recently, when the White House honored them for their social and civic contributions as part of its Black History Month observance.
“We reached out to folks around the country and asked them if they knew African-American senior citizens, who were still serving their communities…still active. They range in ages from 80 years old to 106 years old, and they’ve been working on behalf of their families and communities that entire time,” said Joshua DuBois, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which spearheaded the event.
In tribute to these unsung heroes, President Obama invited the honorees to the White House, where they spent time with the president and executive staff.
“I was overwhelmed when I got this invitation to come down to Washington,” said honoree Theodore Peters, who at 88 remains an avid volunteer.
Honoree Velma Lois Jones, who’s been involved in NAACP voter registration campaigns since college, said she believed that a small contribution can have a huge impact. “Good has a rippling effect. If I do good, it’s going to affect somebody. And even if it’s just one person that one person is going to affect somebody else,” she said.
According to President Obama, highlighting the contributions of people like Peters and Jones, who do what they do without thought of fame or glory, was important.
“Not everyone who has helped to change this country has gotten the credit that they deserve,” the president said about the importance of the event. “But it takes all those actions in communities all across the country, day in day out to have the kind of impact to change things for the better.”
The honorees were:
Theodore Peters, one of the first African Americans to enlist in the U.S. Marines Corps and train at Montford Point, N.C., after the corps desegregation and a community leader in his South Side Chicago neighborhood.
Gladys Reid, a Cleveland, Ohio, volunteer who feeds the hungry twice a week and volunteers at local hospitals, often caring for patients who are 20 years her junior.
Velma Lois Jones, the first Black classroom teacher elected to serve as president of the Tennessee Education Association and a local leader in the areas of civil rights, politics, community service, and education.
Columbus Preston Holmes, a former class valedictorian, World War II veteran, postmaster, sports commissioner, Selective Service board member, community leader, and active member of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Mound Bayou, Miss., since joining the church 84 years ago.
James “Alley Pat” Patrick, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, radio and television broadcaster, and Atlanta bail bondsman who came to the aid of many jailed activists during the Civil Rights movement, including Martin Luther King Jr.
Marguirette Levere, a church missionary, volunteer, adviser, and role model to her rural Maryland community, roles she filled while tending to daughter Barbara, who has cerebral palsy and has been severely disabled since her birth 77 years ago. Remarkably, Marguirette doesn’t wear glasses or take any medication at the age of 106.