RICHMOND, Va.– In a rather unusual way today, those of us at my home church will be having a funeral on this day before Christmas celebrating the life of a woman I came to know as a dedicated voter registration worker here in my hometown.
Mrs. Alma White worked for years at Richmond’s City Hall on North 9th Street downtown.
I used to see her at the counter when I would attend meetings of Richmond’s Youth Services Commission, of which I was a member more than 20 years ago. Sometimes I’d wave to her as I was heading to a meeting or doing other city hall business there as an active high school student.
I didn’t have many long conversations with Mrs. White, but I knew her as the lady from my church who worked at City Hall. She was equally as dedicated at Richmond’s First African Baptist Church, serving many Sundays as a member of the Ladies Auxiliary Usher Board.
Mrs. White’s funeral probably won’t have all of the media attention that each of the funerals for the 26 young victims in this month’s Sandy Hook shooting will have. We should never compare one’s life to another.
But unlike those youngsters whose lives were cut short, Mrs. White lived a long life. According her obituary, she was 93 years old when she passed on last Tuesday.
Circumstances did not permit me to see her in the final years of her life. But, my parents did visit with her recently and remember her spirit as a senior saint who up until her death always had a special place in her heart for her church, First African Baptist.
Ironically, I was just in Richmond City Hall this past Friday for the first time in more than ten years. At the time, I did know of Mrs. White’s passing. Much has changed in that building. Among other things, the Voter Registration office has moved to a different side of the 1st floor. Few in that office today would probably remember Mrs. Alma White.
One person who would have been able to tell you about Alma White would be her former boss, Richmond City Registrar Alice Lynch.
Sadly, Ms. Lynch won’t be at today’s service. She proceeded Mrs. White in death just last year. The Virginia House of Delegates passed a resolution in her honor earlier this year.
They probably won’t be doing the same for Mrs. White. But, Mrs. White was one of those foot soldiers who worked alongside Ms. Lynch to increase access to the voting for African Americans and the handicapped.
Today as we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, we also celebrate the life of one of Alice Lynch’s lieutenants.
We praise God for the long life that Mrs. White lived, the thousands of Richmonders she helped register to vote and the thousands of worshippers she greeted as an usher at one of Central Virginia’s oldest African American congregations.