Irene Morgan died on Friday at the age of 90. She died with little fanfare, just as she lived. There’s a pretty strong argument that without her strength though, we may not have heard the name Rosa Parks. A little more than ten years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, Irene Morgan was kicking her way to a resisting arrest charge for refusing to give up her seat on a Greyhound bus to a white couple in 1944.
She was fined $100 for resisting arrest and $10 for refusing to give up her seat. She paid the $100 because she agreed that she resisted arrest, but refused to pay the $10 fine, taking it all the way to the Supreme Court, aided by Thurgood Marshall, who would later become the first black Supreme Court justice.
I’ve read a lot about this heroic woman today, but these two paragraphs really hit me and I was so pleased to read them. They’re really what I think heroes are about. They’re from an article in the Washington Post in 2000.
As Morgan gets the recognition that so long eluded her, it may be tempting to consider her a remarkable woman for one long-ago heroic act. But friends and family say her whole life has been about doing right and good.
“She takes on otherwise Herculean efforts, but only when conflict touches her and her family,” said her granddaughter Aleah Bacquie. “She doesn’t seek it out.”
“She always taught us that if you know you’re right, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks,” said her daughter, Brenda Bacquie. “It’s a moral thing. It’s something you have to do. She doesn’t see herself as a hero. She saw something that had to be done, and she rushed in, like all heroes.”
There’s humility there. There’s doing the right thing when it needs to be done. And there’s knowing what the right thing is in the first place.