RIP: Corrine Mudd Brooks; Activist, volunteer made mark on city
by Frank Gay, Journal Gazette
The obituary in Friday’s paper was brief and to the point.
It said that Corrine Mudd Brooks, born in Louisville, Ky., had died at 93. It listed survivors, the name of her late husband and the time of funeral services at a local nursing home.
That’s what happens sometimes, when you live to 93. Many of the people who remember the activities that made you a person of note 40, 50, 60 years ago have died, and the paths you blazed decades before become well worn, worn enough that no one remembers who first broke those trails.
So this is about the trailblazing efforts of Brooks.
Oh, Brooks was far from an anonymous person.
As recently as 20 years ago, long after she had reached retirement age, she was the subject of newspaper tributes, marking half a century of activism, about tributes to women of accomplishment in the community.
She was unusual in many respects. She was black, but she was a Catholic, a member of the only black Catholic church in the city, some say. She served as administrative assistant for the Jewish Federation for 27 years. She was secretary of the Allen County Democratic Party and had run for the state legislature on the Democratic ticket three times, in 1956, 1958 and 1962.
What is most significant, though, is perhaps the longevity of her activities, going back to a time before most people in Allen County were even born.
It started in 1930, when Brooks became involved in something called the Wheatley Center, the predecessor of the Urban League. She was only 16 but found herself on something called the Girls Work Committee. Her job was to find work for young blacks or, for those who were interested, to help steer them toward college.
Later, as a member of the Ultra Arts Club, she helped raise money for scholarships for young people interested in studying the arts.
She helped organize the first black Girl Scout troops in Fort Wayne; served as vice president and secretary on the Urban League board; founded the Urban League Guild; founded the cotillion, a coming-out event for young black girls; and helped establish the Black and White Ball.
She served as vice president of the Fort Wayne chapter of the NAACP and was on the board of the Limberlost Girl Scout Council.
For all her activities, though, she wasn’t what you would call an aggressive activist, said Charles Redd, a longtime friend.
“She wasn’t outspoken,” Redd said. “She wasn’t aggressive, but she had a great sense of what was right,” a person who “labored in the vineyard until something was accomplished.”
Win Moses, the state representative and former Fort Wayne mayor, remembers her as “brave and daring in a Republican town that didn’t welcome those things.”
“She wasn’t a civil rights leader in the 1960s civil disobedience sense,” Moses said. She was thoughtfully aggressive and “recognized that politics was a good part of the solution to social injustices.”
Although she was never elected to public office, Brooks made a name for herself in the city, among the first black women to do so.