By Latrina Franklin
Ethel Wilhite, who over the years has served as secretary of the NAACP and the Richmond Civic Citizens Club and worked on many local political campaigns, turns 100 on June 13.
“I didn’t believe the Lord wanted us just to sit in a pew. I was one of the lead singers for the Senior Choir and the Mass Choir,” said Wilhite, who has been a member of the North Richmond Missionary Baptist Church since 1944, which she joined one year after she moved to Richmond from Houma, Louisiana.
“For many years I was corresponding secretary of the church’s Women’s Missionary Union and worked passionately with my circle. Under the leadership of Rev. Watkins, NRMBC was active in our local community. I made sure our church members were voters by registering them on Sundays.
“I represented our church in city council meetings, in the NAACP and at many other political and civic affairs. I was honored to be on the Mortgage Burning Planning Committee.”
Wilhite worked as a Rosie Riveter during World War II and was a member of the Richmond Democratic Club. She was very involved in political campaigns including for the late Mayor George Livingston, retired Judge George Carroll, the late Council Member Richard Griffin and former mayor and current City Councilman Nate Bates, as well as for other African–American elected officials.
She organized the voter registration drives at NRMBC and was one of the lead singers of the Senior Choir, known all over the East Bay as a traditional gospel-hymn singing group.
Wilhite earned a reputation for being extremely organized, efficient and no non-sense when it came to doing business. She was a strict disciplinarian when it came to singing. She encouraged young people to attend school, take leadership roles and to give back to their community.
She had no patience for disrespectful children. She expected them to exhibit good manners, and she assisted them with a loving and warm heart.
Born on June 13, 1913, she will celebrate her special day with a host of family, great-great-great-great nieces and nephews and friends.