And really, that’s just the beginning of the long list of accolades for the 2011 Citizen of the Year.
Hundreds came out Tuesday to honor Freeman at the dedication of her new statue in the northeast corner of Kiener Plaza.
The bronze figure depicts Freeman walking away from the Old Courthouse. It’s symbolic of her leaving after the 1954 landmark case “Davis et. al. v. the St. Louis Housing Authority,” which resulted in the end of legal racial discrimination in St. Louis public housing. Freeman was the lead attorney for the case.
A few days before her 101st birthday, Freeman sat next to the statue on Tuesday and greeted visitors who came to celebrate her, from U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill to former Washington University Chancellor Dr. William Danforth.
Danforth and Freeman arrived together. The two were central to a work group that recommended a path to turn around St. Louis Public Schools more than 10 years ago.
Before the event began, Freeman leaned over to thank him for coming. The former university leader said, “I wouldn’t miss it.”
The Rev. Robert McClish, pastor at Washington Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church which Freeman attends, said it was fitting that the statue looks like she’s marching, similar to other civil rights leaders through history.
“God bless St. Louis,” Freeman said to the crowd. “Thank you, thank you, thank you. I love you, I love you. You’ve done so much for me.”
The statue was sculpted by Brian Owens. Freeman’s daughter, Shelbe Freeman Bullock, said Owens let her help with part of her mother’s hair and face.
“It brought me such joy,” she said. “I couldn’t afford to have my name on it, but I can say that I had my hands on it.”
The total value of the statue isn’t clear, but at least 14 contributors gave toward the effort, including several St. Louis businesses, and donors such as Maxine Clark and Bob Fox, Sam and Marilyn Fox, and McCaskill.
The statue was officially given to the city from the NAACP during Tuesday’s ceremony.
In brief remarks honoring Freeman’s legacy, former St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay called the statue and ceremony “imperfect” because “we can’t do enough” to honor her.
A self-described “troublemaker,” Freeman lives in the Central West End and continues to attend meetings for organizations she works with, including the NAACP and the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis.