Lincoln * Institute

 

Great American Patriot Dies

LeGree S. Daniels 1920-2005


November 22, 2005:

America has lost a true patriot, and we have lost a good friend. LeGree S. Daniels, a long-time member of the Lincoln Institute Board of Directors, has passed away at the age of 85.

LeGree's list of accomplishments in life are many, but none more significant than the love she shared with her husband Oscar, and the 13 foster sons they raised. A deeply religious woman, LeGree went through life always doing what was right - regardless of how popular or how difficult it might have been for her to do so.

The granddaughter of slaves, LeGree Daniels rose to become a member of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors - a position she was appointed to by President George H.W. Bush and then reappointed to by President Bill Clinton. Her reappointment by President Clinton was testimony to the fact that, although a loyal and dedicated Republican activist, LeGree rose above partisan politics to that lofty position few achieve - a true stateswoman.

Governor Daniels was one of the first people I met in politics. It was 1980 and I was attending my very first meeting of the Republican State Committee having just been elected Chairman of the Westmoreland County Republican Committee. LeGree served as Secretary of the state committee at the time and was tasked with calling the roll at the beginning of each meeting. When she called my name, she got it backward, something many people do. Wanting to correct the error I approached LeGree after the meeting. Being a 23-year-old first timer I expected to get the brush-off from someone in LeGree's position. Instead, she put her arm around me, instructed me to sit down, and spent the better part of an hour getting to know me and sharing her enthusiasm for the Republican Party. I am proud to say she has been one of my best friends ever since, someone always there with an encouraging word and just the right advice on what to do next.

In politics you make a lot of false friends. LeGree was one of the rare breed that once she became your friend you never had to doubt her loyalty. She never talked about anyone behind their back, preferring instead to pick up the phone and voice her opinion. And it didn't matter who you were, she called everyone from presidents and governors to volunteers at the campaign headquarters. And everyone - everyone - was treated with the same respect.

And LeGree didn't stop there - she dedicated her life to the cause of equal rights for all. Her diligence and determination were recognized by the late great President Ronald Wilson Reagan who appointed her assistant secretary for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education where she worked with Education Secretary Bill Bennett.

It is breath-taking to look back at all LeGree Daniels accomplished in her lifetime. Especially when you consider that, born in 1920, she did all that she did during a time in American life that was anything but hospitable to a woman, let alone a black woman. Where others might have seen gender, racial and political barriers too big to surmount, LeGree bounded over them with seeming ease. You knew when LeGree said it was going to be done - however implausible or difficult the task - it would, in fact, be done.

The source of LeGree Daniel's strength was her abiding faith, a faith in which she clearly understood that God's will was what really mattered. Cloaked in the armor of her Christian beliefs, she was able to turn aside all earthly authority and challenges. Second to that, she clung to the American Dream that no matter who you are, or where you come from, America is a land of opportunity and it is your individual responsibility to go out and achieve that dream.

The word patriot is often overused. In the case of LeGree Sylvia Daniels though it is a fitting epitaph. LeGree showed us all what it is to be an American. Because she was here, our City on a Hill shines a lot brighter this day.

God speed LeGree, and thank you for the honor of sharing part of your life with us.