Elna B. Spaulding, who turned the pain, fear
and hatred spawned by the Rev. Mar¬tin Luther
King Jr.'s 1968 assassination into a living
legacy of fighting the root causes of violence
in the Durham community, died Sunday at Duke
University Hospital. She would have turned 98
on Jan. 23., 2007.
"Not another soul could have done it,"
Mary D.B.T. Semans of Durham, who was friends
with Mrs. Spaulding for 50 years, said Monday
of Mrs. Spaulding's work to create Women in-Action
for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes.
"She alone painted the vision and created
the situation in which Durham, with her leadership,
became a really mixed society," Semans
said. "She got on the phone with people
from every walk of life, from public housing
to the country club, among every racial group,
all kinds of associa¬tions. Because of her,
they got together. I've never seen anything
like it since. "Goodness, what a wonderful
MaryAnn Black, a friend for 37 years and associate
vice president of community affairs at Duke
University Health System, said she was with
Mrs. Spaulding and family members when she died.
"For me, she was such a role model and
mentor, and someone I truly grew to love, respect
and admire. She lived a life that spoke of love,
but she also worked very hard and allowed her
work to speak for her. It's certainly a great
loss for the community," Black said.
Mayor Bill Bell called Mrs. Spaulding's death
a "true loss of someone who epitomized
leadership and grandeur." "She was
well-spoken and knew how to conduct herself
in all kinds of situations," Bell said.
"She was very helpful to me when we served
on the Board of County Commissioners together.
She was very supportive and always gave sound
advice, which I needed at that time because
I was a bit youthful in some of my actions."
City Councilman Howard Clement said a "mighty
oak" has fallen. "She was a wonderful
woman, very sensitive to the needs of the community
and particularly with respect to her devotion
to. a nonviolent approach to resolving social
issues," Clement said.
Her late husband of 57 years, Asa T. Spaulding
Sr., was Clement's boss when Clement started
work at N.C. Mutual Life Insurance Co. in 1961.
Asa Spaulding Sr. died in September 1990. He
was a retired president of N.C. Mutual and Durham's
first black county commissioner.
Blue Greenberg of Durham said Mrs. Spaulding
called her and asked her to attend the .;first
Women-In-Action meeting. “It " was
filled with energy, not anger," said Greenberg,
an arts columnist for The Herald-Sun. "Women
never had been considered as people who could
start or stop some¬thing [but] were doing
some¬thing. She was a real force."
Mrs. Spaulding's survivors include her children,
Asa T. Spaulding Jr., Patri¬cia Spaulding
Moore, Aaron Lowery SpaUlding, Kenneth Bridgeforth
Spaulding, six grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Born in Tuskegee Institute, Ala., Mrs. Spaulding
received a bachelor's degree in music from Talladega
College. She taught in the Durham Public Schools
and was chairwoman of music for Winston-Salem
Teachers College for two years. She was elected
to the Durham County Commissioners in 1974 and
served until retiring in 1984. Mrs. Spaulding
was the founder and former president of Women-In-Action
for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes
Inc., an inter¬racial, independent, nonprofit
community service organization.
She launched it on Sept. 4, 1968, after attending
a national conference on "What Women Can
Do to End Violence in America." The new
organization brought together Durham blacks
and whites - many for the first time - to focus
on basic needs and root causes of poverty and
violence. The group played a critical role in
negotiating the conclusion of the black buying
boycott of 1968-69 and smoothing the way for
the 1970 court-ordered desegregation of Durham's
public schools. In 1991, Women-In-Action named
an annual award for Mrs. Spaulding.
Mrs. Spaulding was involved in numerous civic,
educational and church organizations, including
Lincoln Community Health Center, N.C. Central
Museum of Art and Board of Trustees, Durham
County Hospital Corp., National Council of Negro
Women, Governor's Citizens Committee on Schools,
North Carolina School of the Arts, North Carolina
Museum Of Art, Child Advocacy of Durham and
Durham Day Care Council.
Mrs. Spaulding also was a member of the Durham
Com¬mittee on the Affairs of Black People,
the National Council of Negro Women, the NAACP,
the Citizens Advisory Committee for Duke University
Council on Aging and Human Development, Durham
Democratic Women, Durham Day Care Council Board
of Directors, YWCA of Durham board of directors,
Urban Ministries of Durham Inc. board of directors,
and the Governor's Citizens Commit¬tee on
Mrs. Spaulding also received numerous honors
and awards. In 1988, she received the Durham
County Women's Commission's Women's Equality
Award and the McCall's Award for 20 years of
outstanding public service to Durham County.
In 1989, she received the N.C. Council on the
Status of Women Distinguished Women of N.C.
Award, and Durham's "Keeper of the Dream"
award. In 1992, Mrs. Spaulding was awarded an
honorary doctorate by Duke University. She was
presented the North Carolina Award in 1997 by
Gov. Jim Hunt, the highest award bestowed by
the State. In 2001, Mrs. Spaulding also received.
the William C. Friday Award for Moral Leadership
at Duke University.
Contributions can be made to the Triangle Community
Foundation for the Asa T. and Elna B. Spaulding
Endowment Fund, 4813 Emperor Blvd., Suite 130,
Durham, NC 27703. The fund provides support
to programs improving human and race relations