New Stamp to Honor NAACP, Civil Rights Leader Roy Wilkins Is 24th in Post Office's Black History Series

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Byline: Teresa Mask Daily Herald Staff Writer

The last great honor Roy Wilkins received was on the day of his death in 1981 when President Ronald Reagan ordered all government flags flown at half-staff.

Twenty years later, the civil rights leader is being recognized with his likeness on a U.S. postage stamp.

The stamp - the 24th in the post office's Black History series - was unveiled Wednesday during an entertainment-filled ceremony at the U.S. Postal Service's Palatine Processing and Distribution Center.

"This is a fitting tribute to a man who did much to bring forth freedom, justice and equality for all," said Bennet Johnson, president of the NAACP's Evanston chapter.

Wilkins, who led the NAACP for more than two decades, was born in St. Louis and lived in St. Paul, Minn. He had no real ties to Illinois, yet the Palatine site drew the lucky straw for the dedication.

Richard Griffin, a member of the Palatine post office's diversity committee, said he believes the diverse cultures of the 1,800 employees might have played a role in Palatine being selected as the site for the unveiling. The timing of the Wilkins stamp coming out during Black History month was even more significant for employees there, he said.

The dedication ceremony, which lasted more than an hour, included song and dance performances from students at Palatine High School and a keynote address from longtime journalist Vernon Jarrett.

Like Martin Luther King Jr., Wilkins' civil rights fight focused on gaining equality through non-violent measures. He served as executive secretary and executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from 1955 to 1977. His advocacy for rights, however, began long before then. Wilkins was first arrested in 1934 for protesting the government's lack of action against lynchings. He also served as editor of the organization's magazine, The Crisis, for 15 years. …