Celebration of Life and Service for Civil Rights Activist: Alice Tregay

Mrs. Alice Tregay Speaking at an Oak Park public forum.
Mrs. Alice Tregay speaking at Oak Park public library

Civil Rights leader and Chicago native, Mrs. Alice Tregay passed away last weekend. She was awarded throughout her lifetime as a pioneer for civil and human rights by numerous organizations. Her life inspired filmmaker, Craig Dudnick to produce a documentary on her life, Alice’s Ordinary People.

State Senator, Mattie Hunter released a formal statement on Tregay’s passing,“I was saddened to hear of the passing of civil rights activist and champion of voter education, Alice Tregay. Alice marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and fought Chicago school segregation throughout her career. During the 1990s, Alice and I joined marchers in Washington D.C. to demand Congress and the White House create jobs. Alice always stood up in the face of adversity for equality, for uplifting the common person and fighting against racism.” said Hunter.

Alice Lucille Hicks was born November 14, 1929 in Evanston, Illinois to the late Roy and Fannie (Fuller) Hicks. She was the youngest of their six children, three of whom died before she was born. She lived in Evanston for most of her youth attending Foster School and Evanston Township High School. Alice accepted Christ at an early age and was baptized at Ebenezer AME Church in Evanston where she served as an usher. She stayed committed to her faith by serving in churches in Chicago where she later lived. In 1947 she married the late Vincent Lindsey and they had one daughter.  In 1964 she married James Tregay and became the loving mother of a son and another daughter. As an adult she went back to school and attended Southeast (now Olive-Harvey) Jr. College and Roosevelt University.

Her life was a motivating factor for social change and community service. Her maternal instincts pushed her to be a dedicated woman whose life was spent being concerned about the welfare of her family, the community they lived in and the world at large. She and her husband James as partners supported people and organizations that shared their mutual concerns of social change. They did this both materially and with hands on ground work. She became not just a follower of these changes, but became a leader. Her determination and concern for all things right are what made her a remarkable woman.

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Alice Tregay working together.
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Alice Tregay

Under the leadership of Al Raby and Dick Gregory she was an integral part of the group that from 1962 to 1966 was protesting school overcrowding and segregation in black neighborhoods. These protests were leveled against the Chicago school board and its use of portable school classrooms put in predominately African- American schools. These classrooms were nicknamed Willis Wagons by critics of Superintendent of Schools Benjamin C. Willis (1953–1966) who implemented them. It was Al Raby who brought Dr. Martin Luther King¸ Jr. to Chicago in 1966 to help with this fight. They were not only successful in getting rid of the portable classrooms, but also Superintendent Willis himself. They were also working with the American Friends Society (Quakers) to help put an end to housing discrimination in Chicago and its suburbs.  They participated in testing realtors who would not show people of color the same housing that they would show white families who had the same income and household structure. When Dr. King came to Chicago with other ministers from the Southern Christian Leadership Council, he not only helped with the school crisis, but lead peaceful marches in favor of open housing in which Alice, James and their children participated.

After Dr. King left Chicago, some of his fellow members of SCLC stayed behind to continue the work he started. One of them was the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who started Operation Breadbasket, now called Rainbow PUSH. Alice worked hand in hand with this organization in its struggle against discrimination against people of color in the hiring practices of large companies, such as the grocery store chain A&P and Coca-Cola.

During this time Alice became more active in politics. She had done work for black candidates when she was younger and now began running campaigns for people who were committed to the same sense of equality for all, that she was. She ran the campaigns for Aldermen William Cousins and Abner Mikva, who both later became Judges. She also helped Congressman Ralph Metcalfe retain his office after Mayor Richard J Daley put another candidate against him because of his support of civil rights. The federal building at 77 W. Jackson in Chicago is now named for Congressman Metcalfe. She worked in the campaign of President Jimmy Carter and ran the Illinois office for Vice President Walter Mondale when he ran for president.  She also was heavily involved in the campaigns of Harold Washington, the first black Mayor of Chicago, Rev. Jesse Jackson’s campaign for president, and Carol Mosley Braun who became the first African- American to represent Illinois in the US Senate. She also worked at one point as the chief lobbyist for the Black Illinois Legislative Lobby as part of her work with The Woodlawn Organization. It was while doing these campaigns that she discovered that voter registration was the key to a successful election and started the Political Education Division of Rainbow PUSH, becoming the director until her retirement. Retirement didn’t stop her involvement in this project. She reinstituted the Political Classes with C. Betty Magness in 2011.  Until the time of her death she continued to teach upcoming generations to get out the vote.

Pictured, from left to right: YWomen Co-Chair Niki Moe Horrell, Kaethe Morris Hoffer, Alice Tregay, Elizabeth Stanton, Amy Skalinder, YWomen Co-Chair Susan Hope Engel, YWCA President/CEO Karen Singer Photo credit: Genie Lemieux, Evanston Photographic Studios
Pictured, from left to right: YWomen Co-Chair Niki Moe Horrell, Kaethe Morris Hoffer, Alice Tregay, Elizabeth Stanton, Amy Skalinder, YWomen Co-Chair Susan Hope Engel, YWCA President/CEO Karen Singer
Photo credit: Genie Lemieux, Evanston Photographic Studios

She was always a hard worker and had worked all her life at various jobs. She worked for the Illinois Department of Human Rights for 8 years under the leadership of the director Joyce Tucker.

She has been recognized for her outstanding work in civil rights and community service by numerous organization and has received many prestigious awards, most notably one presented to her in March of 2004 by a young Illinois State Senator, who in four short years would become the 44th President of the United States and the first African- American to hold that office.

She was absolutely devoted to her family and friends for whom she would have done anything. She leaves behind to mourn her passing and celebrate her life her husband James Tregay, three children, Alice (Robert) Fluegge, David (Clare) Tregay, Dawne Emmett, six grandchildren, Derrick (Rachel) Fluegge, Adam (Janette) Hickman, Jason Hickman, Robert (Heather) Fluegge, Rachel and Erika Emmett, ten great grandchildren, brother Sanders (Karen) Hicks and numerous cousins and friends who were also her family.

(Above obituary:  Courtesy of Rainbow PUSH Coalition)

Service Arrangements for  Mrs. Alice  Tregay

Friday, April 24, 2015

Rainbow/PUSH Headquarters, 930 E. 50th St

Pre- Past: 10:30 A.M. –  12:00  Noon

Homegoing Celebration 12 Noon

alicetregay services


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