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Obama Eulogizes Civil Rights Leader Dorothy Height

Listen to Kent Klein's report

President Barack Obama eulogized U.S. civil rights leader Dorothy Height on Thursday as a history-making figure in "a righteous cause." The president spoke at the funeral for Height, who died last week at the age of 98.

He told hundreds of moruners who filled the the massive Washington National Cathedral that Height should be associated with other American civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and W.E.B. DuBois. "There are giants who fill our history books. Well, Dr. Dorothy Height deserves a place in this pantheon. She, too, deserves a place in our history books. She, too, deserves a place of honor in America's memory," he said.

As a young social worker, Dorothy Height helped New York City resolve the 1935 Harlem Riots, and she helped organize protests against lynching, the killing of African Americans, usually by white mobs.

Later, she worked alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. and other leaders at the forefront of the civil rights movement, seeking equality for women as well as for African Americans.

Height led the National Council of Negro Women for more than 40 years, working on issues affecting African American women and families, such as health, education and economic matters, as well as basic civil rights.

She also campaigned for international human rights and humanitarian issues in Africa, India, the Caribbean and other areas.

At the memorial service, President Obama said Dorothy Height visited the White House 21 times since he took office in January 2009.

He said she was determined to attend a meeting of African American leaders on unemployment in February, even though she was in a wheelchair and a blizzard was approaching.

The president said Height told him she would not allow "just a bunch of men" to control the meeting. When she could not attend because cars could not reach her snowed-in home, Mr. Obama says she sent a message with her ideas.

"I tell that story, partly because it brings a smile to my face, and also because it captures the quiet, dogged, dignified persistence that all of us who loved Dr. Height came to know so well," he said.

The president said Height's perseverance advanced the cause of justice, and eventually made it possible for him and his wife, Michelle, to live in the White House.

Mrs. Obama was in the audience, as were Vice President Joe Biden and many top U.S. officials.

Some of the nation's most prominent African Americans took part in the memorial, including poet Maya Angelou, opera singer Denyce Graves, Labor Secretary Alexis Herman, and gospel singer BeBe Winans.