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Longtime civil rights advocate Frankie Freeman: ‘There’s still work to be done’

More than 140 names grace a section of Delmar Boulevard known as the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

One of three inductees this year is longtime civil rights advocate and attorney Frankie Muse Freeman.

Freeman made a local and national impact in the area of civil rights. She was lead counsel on the NAACP’s 1954 suit against the St. Louis Housing Authority, the result of which ended legal segregation in public housing. Freeman later became the first woman appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, a post she held from 1964-1979.

“I was taught from my family to always do the best I can and try to be of service,” Freeman, now 98 years old, told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh on Tuesday.

“You have to do your own work and at least recognize that everybody else cannot do what you should be doing,” she said.

Related to recent events in Ferguson, involving the shooting death of Michael Brown and ensuing protests, Freeman said although there’s some progress there’s still work to be done.

“I was pleased to see the response the community did and organizations like the Urban League, people who’ve been doing this but who are also much younger than I am,” Freeman said.

However, Freeman said she remains disappointed that more people have not signed up to vote. “One of the things that I have always worked for and said is, ‘you have to accept your individual responsibility.’”

As a commissioner on the U.S. Civil Rights Commission in the 1960s, Freeman wrote about the need for more diversity and recognition of others.

“I could take that official report of the Civil Rights Commission, and change the date and it would still be true,” Freeman said of the words she wrote nearly 50 years ago.

The St. Louis Walk of Fame honors its inductees by placing a brass star and bronze plaque in the sidewalk. The nonprofit organization seeks to showcase the cultural heritage of St. Louis. Inductees include actor John Goodman, poet Maya Angelou, broadcaster Bob Costas, baseball player Stan Musial and musician Miles Davis.

“I was honored by the star and I love St. Louis,” Freeman said.

St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.