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Legendary St. Louis civil rights pioneer, the Honorable Frankie Muse Freeman, is the inaugural recipient of the Sister Mary Byles Peace and Justice Prize, Maryville University has announced.
Freeman will be honored during the first annual Sister Mary Byles Peace and Justice Prize Lecture and Reception, to be held at Maryville University at 7 p.m., April 19. In conversation with Don Marsh of St. Louis Public Radio, Freeman will reflect on her long career of legal and advocacy work in social justice.
“We are honored to award the Sister Mary Byles Peace and Justice Prize to Frankie Muse Freeman,” said Maryville University President Mark Lombardi, PhD. “Her life’s work exemplifies the values and ideals that Sister Byles championed throughout the University and the greater community. Mrs. Freeman’s extraordinary record of service and achievement sets the standard for generations to come.”
The Sister Mary Byles Peace and Justice Prize and Lecture, which carries a monetary award provided through the Byles Lecture Fund, has been established by Maryville University to honor the legacy of Sister Mary Byles, an esteemed professor of humanities and theology. Throughout her long career at Maryville, she was well-known among religious leaders in the St. Louis area for her significant efforts to further ecumenical and interfaith relations. The prize and lecture in her name will draw attention to the moral and ethical issues still existing in modern society, and further the University’s mission to instill a sense of social consciousness within its graduates.
“Mrs. Freeman’s extraordinary record of service and achievement sets the standard for generations to come.”
The Byles Prize will foster that goal by recognizing and honoring remarkable women and men whose lives and work focus on issues of peace and justice. The lecture will elucidate the honoree’s mission and vocation.
Frankie Muse Freeman
Freeman began her career serving St. Louis and the state of Missouri more than 60 years ago, after graduating from Hampton Institute and Howard University Law School. She assisted the NAACP in the case of Brewton v. Board of Education of St. Louis, and also represented the NAACP in Davis et al v. the St. Louis Housing Authority, a landmark case which ended legal racial discrimination in public housing.
Nominated by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 as the first woman Commissioner of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Freeman was reappointed by Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter; remaining in this capacity for a total of 16 years. Freeman also served under President Carter as inspector general of the Community Services Administration. She is past chair of the Board of Directors of the National Council on the Aging, Inc., and serves on the executive committee of the St. Louis City NAACP. In 2015, she was appointed by President Obama to the Commission on Presidential Scholars. Her 2003 memoir is entitled, A Song of Faith and Hope: The Life of Frankie Muse Freeman.
Freeman, who will celebrate her 100th birthday this year, has been recognized with numerous honorary degrees and other accolades throughout her lifetime. Among them are her induction into both the National Bar Association’s Hall of Fame and the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame. In 2011, she was recognized by the NAACP with its highest award, the Spingarn Medal, for outstanding and noble achievement by an American of African descent. Freeman also received the 2014 Right Arm of St. Louis Award from the St. Louis Regional Chamber.
(Photo courtesy of Ladue News)