Washington civic leaders last week memorialized Ofield Dukes, an unsung, or at least undersung, they said, civil rights activist.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) was the lone Member of Congress in attendance Friday at the service at the Shiloh Baptist Church. D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown and Councilmember Marion Barry also paid their respects.
Dukes, 79, died Dec. 7. The Alabama native made his way to Washington in 1964 and quickly wove himself into the fabric of local and national politics, joining President Lyndon Johnson’s media affairs staff. By 1969, Ofield was ready to branch out, establishing an eponymous public relations firm that did the talking for entities ranging from Motown Records to the Treasury Department and also counseled black leaders such as Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), Coretta Scott King and Alex Haley.
Norton read from a letter submitted by Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) thanking Dukes for helping organize the first CBC dinner and remaining faithful to the group throughout.
“Ofield was the soil from which the CBC grew,” Rangel said in a prepared statement read by his chief of staff, George Henry.
Rangel and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) were listed in the program as anticipated speakers, but both bowed out for unspecified reasons.
Conyers and President Barack Obama sent letters expressing their condolences to Dukes’ friends and family, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) contributed a flower arrangement.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.