When Martin Luther King Jr. traveled to Columbus in 1958, defying bomb threats from white segregationists, Minnie Wimbish sat as the lone woman on the platform.
As the years rolled by, she outlived all of the men who shared the stage on that historic occasion, eventually becoming a centenarian.
Wimbish, a renowned public speaker, author and civil rights advocate for most of her life, died Jan. 27 at Columbus Hospice just three months shy of her next birthday. She was 102.
Wimbish’s daughter, Ethalyn Kirby, said she was courageous to the very end, never forgetting from where she drew her strength.
“She went out of here like a champ,” Kirby said in an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer. “Even morphine could not stop her from testifying about her God.”
Wimbish was born April 27, 1915, the daughter of Mary Williams and McDaniel Grier whose name was later changed to John Henry Story. As a child, she attended Claflin School on Fifth Avenue, which was established by the Freedmen's Bureau as the first school for black children in Columbus.
As an adult, Wimbish was an active member of the Order of the Eastern Star, an organization under the jurisdiction of the Prince Hall Masons.
In 1958, Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke at the Prince Hall Masonic Temple at a time when even some local black churches refused to host him for fear of violence. Wimbish's husband was among those who stood on the rooftop guarding the building. Later that night, dynamite exploded at the home of a black woman in retaliation for King's speech.
“It was a beautiful and a sad day,” Wimbish said in a 2015 interview with the Ledger-Enquirer. “It was a sad day because we didn’t know what was going to happen."
A product of the segregated south, Wimbish was the first black woman to serve as chairwoman of the March of Dimes of Muscogee County and among the first black women to serve as registrars in the Muscogee County primary election. She was the first woman to serve as historian of the General Missionary Baptist Convention of Georgia, a position she held for 25 years.
She received the Goodwill Ambassador Award, the highest honor given a citizen by the state of Georgia. In 1991, she was recognized by the Secretary of State as an "outstanding citizen." She also served as president of the Harrison Avenue PTA and secretary of the PTA Council.
Wimbish co-authored a book titled "Through the Looking Glass," which she wrote with Kirby and Gracie Bonds Staples of Atlanta. She had a gift for memorization and recited many Biblical verses and poems at community events. She traveled widely, and cherished fond memories of being baptized in the Jordan River and sailing on the Sea of Galilee.
Wimbish had eight children, most of whom died at childbirth. She was preceded in death by all of her sisters and brothers, her husband, one daughter and three sons.
She had six grandchildren, 19 great grandchildren and 10 great great grandchildren upon her death.
A celebration of life will be held 10 a.m. Saturday at Revelation Missionary Baptist Church, 203 R C Allen Dr. Interment will follow at Evergreen Memorial Garden, at the Hill-Watson Memorial Chapel at Rosehill, 2919 Hamilton Road.
Visitation will be held Friday, 1 to 6 p.m., at the funeral home.