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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Statement by the President on the Passing of Reverend Willie T. Barrow

Reverend Willie T. Barrow was a Civil Rights icon and a Chicago institution, a “Little Warrior” in pursuit of justice for all God’s children.  In 1936, when she was just 12 years old, Reverend Barrow demanded to be let on to her all-white school bus in Texas, and the fight for equality she joined that day would become the cause of her life.  She marched with Dr. King on Washington and in Selma.   She stood up for labor rights and women’s rights.  She made one of the first pieces of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, and proudly welcomed LGBT brothers and sisters to the movement she helped lead. 

Nowhere was Reverend Barrow’s impact felt more than in our hometown of Chicago.  Through Operation Breadbasket, the Rainbow/PUSH coalition, and her beloved Vernon Park Church, she never stopped doing all she could to make her community a better place.  To Michelle and me, she was a constant inspiration, a lifelong mentor, and a very dear friend.  I was proud to count myself among the more than 100 men and women she called her “Godchildren,” and worked hard to live up to her example.  I still do.    

Michelle and I are deeply saddened by Reverend Barrow’s passing, but we take comfort in the knowledge that our world is a far better place because she was a part of it.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Reverend Barrow’s family, and with all those who loved her as we did.