Mrs. “Tony” Moreland Stewart
By Jalal Sudan
A Memorial Tribute to the life of Mrs. Anthony Tony Moreland Stewart will be hosted by Metropolitan Baptist Church, Rev. Tyrone Skinner, Pastor, in association with the Altadena Branch NAACP on Sunday, February 13, 2011, 10:00 A.M., 2283 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Altadena, CA. Mrs. Stewart transitioned from this life on Dec. 24, 2010 at the age of 92.
There could be no better time to celebrate Tony’s lifetime of service to her community than during African American History month. Tony was a civil rights pioneer who believed that civil rights activism is a process to make America live up to its promise of justice and equality.
Tony was born September 9, 1918 in Little Rock, Arkansas. Both parents were educators and taught their children to stand up for justice, but that they could never be truly free unless they got a good education. Tony’s parents purchased a life membership for her in the NAACP at age six. Tony displayed remarkable courage fighting for justice at the early age of nine. She needed a book for a class assignment which was not available at the “Colored” library. The “White” library refused to let her check out the book telling her that they didn’t lend to “Coloreds.” She made a picket sign with her crayons and cardboard and marched in front of the library.
The police were called, but someone recognized her and contacted her parents who came to get her. The “White” library suspended its discriminatory policy and let her check the book out. This passion for justice characterized Tony’s activism for her entire life.
Tony’s family moved to Pasadena, CA in 1930. After graduating high school in 1936, she enrolled in Clark University, Atlanta, GA majoring in Business Administration and Education. While home from school, Tony applied for a Clerk Typist position with the City of Pasadena. She was told that the City did not hire “Colored” in that position. They let her take the test as a joke, thinking that she could not pass. They were surprised when she typed 120 words per minute with no errors, but they did not hire her. This was undoubtedly a precursor to the dismantling of hiring discrimination in the City government.
Tony fulfilled her passion for education as a school teacher and administrator from 1944 to 1963. She was later selected to help develop a prototype Head Start Program for Los Angeles County which became the national model. She continued as the Assistant Director of the county-wide programs until 1979.
Tony continued her dedication to the struggle for civil rights as a member in the Pasadena Branch NAACP (1934-36), the Atlanta NAACP Youth and College Chapter (1936-41), the Los Angeles Branch until1966, and again the Pasadena Branch until 1983.
In 1983 she headed a group of Altadena residents to petition the National Office of the NAACP to charter a Branch in Altadena to address injustices in law enforcement, housing and employment in Altadena. The Charter was granted on April 9, 1984. Tony was elected President, serving until 1992, and Education Committee Chair and Religious Affairs Committee Chair serving until 2009 at age 91.
Following are a few of Tony’s endeavors: Tony developed a community relations project with the Los Angeles County Sheriff command staff to reduce citizens’ abuse. She effectively negotiated with the Pasadena Unified School District to elevate qualified African American Assistant Principals who had been passed over. She assisted in revising the School District’s desegregation Plan. She negotiated with small businesses in Altadena to end discriminatory hiring. She effectively promoted the annual NAACP Black Dollar Days Program, encouraging people to increase their support of African American businesses. She negotiated with the L.A. County Regional Planning Department and the County Board Supervisor to include in the Specific Plan for housing developers, a requirement to hire local minority contractors, skilled and unskilled laborers. She organized four busloads of protestors for the initial march at Parker Center demanding removal of the police chief for policies that led to the police excessive use of force against Altadena resident Rodney King.
Tony’s acts of courage in the face of entrenched resistance from nine to 91 and her many years of dedicated service illustrate the meaning of the NAACP Branch slogan: “Making the Difference in Our Community.”