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Margaret Morton, A Woman Of History And Grace, Celebrated At Dedication

June 23rd, 2012 · 5 Comments · Analysis and Comment, Best of Bridgeport, News and Events

Morton Center

Margaret E. Morton Government Center unveiling Saturday afternoon.

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.

Morton unveiling

James Morton, seated at center, husband of the late Margaret E. Morton helps unveil the new sign above the doors to the Margaret E. Morton Government Center during a renaming ceremony held Saturday, June 23, 2012 at 999 Broad St., the building formerly known as City Hall Annex. From left, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, and Ms. Morton’s sons, Bob Morton and the Rev. James Morton.

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.

Margaret Morton

Margaret Morton

“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.”

Margaret Morton

Morton transformed city politics with her eight-vote win over Democratic State Senator Salvatore DePiano in 1980.

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.

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5 Comments so far ↓

  • Mojo

    *** Let’s hope the name stays should they sell the building to a private firm, etc. no? I would have tried to name something like the new magnet high school after her instead of what seemed like a last-minute political gesture towards better relations with the Black community. However the thought alone in itself brings light and community awareness about one of our own local Bpt leaders who was about the people and their community! As a city we were lucky to have her as well as the State of CT. *** Blessings be upon Ms. Morton and her family. ***

  • John Marshall Lee

    As we read or hear history, we study the variety of people, events and forces that came together to form “the facts” of a time and/or event as well as the “stories” of the time (and we are reminded the victors or those in power, at least, are the ones who write the stories (until they are reviewed, revised and rewritten at a future moment).

    When I think of the word “government” as used in government center, I revisit the simple notions from elementary and secondary education. Government “of the people,” “by the people” and “for the people” are a major guide. Those who pay attention to a newly named City “government center” understand the full force of executive control and power are resident in the building, but that does not mean it is “of, by, or for the people of Bridgeport.” Through structural, Charter and Ordinance revisions as well as with Council rules, the people fail to participate fully in voting, grassroots citizen endeavors and as witness to the work of their elected Council representatives.

    So aspects of monarchy, dictatorship, or Roman rule come to mind at various moments when I think of what is ongoing at 999 Broad. Empty hallways! Empty suits! Empty of public participation …

    And when I stop to think of that vacant and soon to be sold (?) McLevy Hall across the street, I wonder how Mayor Jasper McLevy, known to me through the years as a very thrifty executive in spending the Bridgeport taxpayer dollar, would look at the fiscal doings of recent administrations:
    * Eliminating taxpayer owners from their property for future projects, with said properties producing no return for years on end
    * Operating a revenue producing, but money losing airport at a growing loss without directing alternatives
    * Eliminating fiscal paid positions and Board or committee structures that form necessary check and balance City activity towards good governance
    * Encouraging actual “conflict of issue” behavior on the part of City Council voting on City matters, while understanding such cavalier behavior is not permitted with Federal funds
    * Continuing to run deficit budgets that decrease genuine “unreserved, undesignated City Fund balance” so much below Charter called-for levels as to put the City in a continuing precarious position
    * By limiting the public time for face-to-face public speaking and City response to such a low level that rumors, distrust and general indifference fills the public square, that permits any “good governance” efforts to further de-escalate.

    Will the name of Margaret Morton on a building, a trailblazing Bridgeport woman as elected public official, change the behavior of even one person entering the building daily to overcome our current period of “one person rule?” Time will tell.

  • Mojo

    *** Take a deep breath OIB readers, now scratch your head and read JML’s blog again. Whether you read the whole thing or just the introduction and ending, you’re still left with the “one person rule” conclusion, no? *** HERE WE GO! ***

  • Ron Mackey

    Former Bridgeport Mayor Jasper McLevy, what do the students of the Bridgeport school system know about Jasper McLevy? Nothing. And what will they learn or know about Margaret Morton by naming this building after her, is there anything in place to inform anyone about Mrs. Morton? Jasper McLevy, what do the people know of him? Most people know nothing about him or anything he ever did even civil service workers of this City and they should know.

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