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Civil Rights Activist Still Active At Age 97

Ruth Loving in an undated photo
Ruth Loving

By Paul Tuthill


Springfield, MA – The theme for this year's observance of Black History Month is women in the civil rights movement. The woman known as Springfield's mother of civil rights is still going strong at age 97.. WAMC's Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.

Growing up as a child in Connecticut, Ruth Loving first became aware of the segregation of the races in the South when blacks migrated north after World War I in search of work.
Loving joined the NAACP after moving to Springfield in the 1940s. Her first foray into social activism came when she petitioned city leaders to form a parent-teacher association at her sons school. Loving served as president of the Springfield Chapter of the NAACP during the 1960s..
She met both Martin Luther King Jr and Rosa Parks on separate occasions. When Martin Luther King was assassinated, Loving , drawing on a background as an accomplished singer, worked with churches to organize a city-wide choir that performed at a memorial service.. Now called " The Freedom Choir" it remains active still.
Loving was a delegate to the White House Council on aging during the Clinton Administration. She said the highlight of her life as civil rights activist came just four years ago, with the election of Barack Obama, the first black President of the United States
For 26 years Loving has organized the annual raising of the Black American Heritage Flag at Springfield City Hall. It took place earlier this month during a well attended ceremony , where Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said the annual event celebrates the city's diversity.
After 26 years, Loving says she is going to hand off to a younger generation the responsibility for organizing the flag raising ceremony .
Loving's friend, and also a former president of the local NAACP chapter, Ida Flynn, says the tradition must go.
The Black American Heritage Flag flies at Springfield City Hall and other prominent places in the city throughout the month of February.