The City of Wilmington’s Commission on African American History held the fourth annual Living Legends awards banquet on Saturday, Dec. 3.
The purpose of the event is to honor individuals for their contribution toward improving Wilmington.
This year’s recipients were:
- Jacqueline Morris-Goodson: Morris-Goodson presided over the Fifth Judicial District and served as judge from 1983 to 1996. Morris-Goodson was the first African American woman to be appointed Chief District Court Judge and is honored for her long career of advocacy for women.
- Luther H. Jordan, Jr.: Jordan served on the Wilmington City Council for 16 years and served as the city’s first African American mayor pro-tempore. In 1993, he was elected to the State Senate where he served five terms. Jordan was highly active in the community and described as a man of quick wit and integrity who was interested in helping people.
- Mae Rachel Freeman: Freeman was born in Elizabethtown and attended public schools in Bladen and New Hanover counties, and took classes at UNCW. As a wife and mother of five, Freeman knew the value of a good education. This led her to be active in the PTA at the schools her children attended. She also volunteered at the YWCA, eventually serving as chair of the board. She worked to eliminate racism and empower women in the community. Her dedication to public education led to her filling an unexpired termon on the NHC School Board. She was later elected, and re-elected where she continued to fight for equal access to quality education for all children.
Morris-Goodson was presented with the Living Legend Award, she joked that it “meant she was old.” She spoke on the “ups and downs” of the difficult experiences she had being a judge who was also the first woman and first African American to hold that position. She remarked that she was “overjoyed to see each and every one and to have every part of her life represented in the room.” She also thanked the committee and city council for “acknowledging what my people have gone through.”
Different from past years, this year’s event honored one living legend and two legends who have passed away.
Jordan and Freeman were honored with the Triumph award. The late Luther Jordan’s award was presented to his daughter Keisha Jordan, and the late Rachel Freeman’s award was presented to her husband Bill Freeman and grandson Dorian Cromartie. Cromartie stated he was honored to receive this award on behalf of his grandmother’s efforts and encouraged everyone in the room to continue to make sure “all children received an equal share of what they deserve when it comes to education.”
Additionally, a special recognition award was given to the Juneteenth Committee, and was presented to Abdul Rahman Shareef, chairman of the Juneteenth Committee. They have been working on Juneteenth celebrations for 25 years in Wilmington, and they mentioned their excitement in seeing the increased growth and excitement for current Juneteenth celebrations.
The Living Legends event is held in the spirit of the commission’s mission, which is to plan, develop and implement community projects that recognize and increase the awareness of the contributions of African Americans to Wilmington’s history; to encourage and assist African American history; and to recognize sites in the community that are significant to African American History.