Across the street from the original City Hall where Abraham Lincoln spoke in 1860, Mayor Bill Finch joined more than 150 friends, peers, supporters and family members of the granddaughter of a slave–the first African American woman to serve in the Connecticut General Assembly–renaming City Hall Annex the Margaret E. Morton Government Center. The dedication was selected to coincide with Margaret’s birthday. She passed away in March.
From Mayor Finch:
A woman who blazed a trail and opened the doors to government’s highest circles for other minorities and women will be forever remembered every time employees and visitors open the doors to the newly renamed Margaret E. Morton Government Center.
On the day when she would have marked her 88th birthday, nearly 150 of Margaret Morton’s family and friends, and members of the public gathered on the plaza of what was known as City Hall Annex to talk of her accomplishments and the work she did in the City she loved so much. At the end of the program, Mayor Bill Finch, who served as master of ceremonies, joined her family members in unveiling the gleaming black letters that spell out her name above the doors to the building at 999 Broad Street.
“She opened doors for so many in Bridgeport, fighting for the disenfranchised. It is only fitting that we should honor her at the doors of our City government, honoring her extraordinary life for generations. Margaret Morton was a pioneer who dedicated her life to serving her community with passion and zeal,” said Mayor Finch.
Margaret E. Morton was the first African American woman to serve as a State Representative in the General Assembly, and the first African American woman to be elected to the State Senate. She and her husband, James, founded and operated Morton’s Mortuary Inc. in the City’s East End.
Saturday’s celebration included remarks from Mayor Finch, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Shante Hanks, representing U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, City Councilwoman M. Evette Brantley and family friend Serena Reeves. Ms. Morton’s son, the Rev. James Morton offered the opening prayer, and Bishop T. Walter Plummer, of the Full Gospel Church of God in Christ. Renowned guitarist Jonathan DuBose Jr. played a stirring rendition of the National Anthem, and Simone Brown sang Whitney Houston’s “One Moment in Time.” Members of the Morton Family assisted in the planning and programming of the dedication ceremony.
Mayor Finch and City Council member Brantley proposed honoring Ms. Morton by changing the name of City Hall Annex, which is home to the Mayor’s Office, Vital Records, Registrar of Voters, and the City Attorney’s Office among other departments.
“The renaming of the building represents all that Margaret Morton stood for, everyone who stood with Margaret Morton, everyone who came before Margaret Morton and inspires those who will come after Margaret Morton,” said City Council member Brantley in her remarks. “Bridgeport is grateful for Margaret’s life and this gesture shows our pride in all that she has accomplished.”
Ms. Morton passed away at the age of 87 on March 10, 2012. The date of the dedication was selected to commemorate Ms. Morton’s birthday.
“We are elated that the City has decided to rename City Hall Annex in honor of my mother,” said Rev. Morton. “Not only is this awesome occasion a tribute to my mother, but it is also a great honor to my father who was by my mother’s side motivating her to go out there and do the things that she accomplished.”
In 1972, at the age of 48, Margaret became the first African American woman elected to sit in the Connecticut General Assembly, serving four terms as a State Representative. During her tenure in the House, she chaired the committee on Human Rights and Opportunities and rose to the rank of Assistant House Majority Leader.
In 1980, she won the State Senate primary by eight votes, and after a lengthy court battle Margaret went on to win the general election to become the first African American woman elected to the Connecticut State Senate. Margaret served six terms in the Senate and ascended to the position of Deputy President Pro Tempore, which is the second-highest-ranking legislator in the State Assembly. She sponsored numerous bills which have been signed into law and was responsible for two African American judges being appointed during her tenure.