Thursday, May 27, 2010

Remembering Mary Pegue Pullins (1901-2010)

Alderman Lyle alerted us about one of our oldest residents passing away. She sent us a link to her obituary, appearing the Chicago Sun Times.

Mary Pegue Pullins came to Chicago to make her fortune, becoming a pioneering steelworker and union leader who didn't mince her words -- she once admonished her preacher nephew that if she wanted to gamble at the greyhound track, that was her right.

She was one of Chicago's most-senior citizens. Her family said she was 108 years old. In 1961, she registered her birthdate with the Chicago Board of Elections as July 3, 1901.

Mrs. Pullins died May 21 at her South Side home.

She sang with gospel great Thomas Dorsey and gave birth to a law enforcement officer, Richard Pegue, who was killed in the line of duty in 1946 at age 25, according to records. That officer begat a beloved Chicago disc jockey, "dusties" spinner Richard Pegue. He passed away last year.

Hard work and faith kept Mrs. Pullins going, as well as positive affirmations. Her family plans to decorate the lining of her casket with her motto: "Forward Forever, Backward Never."

Mrs. Pullins was born Mary Magdelene Sykes in Monroe County, Miss.

One of the many things her family will miss about her is her unofficial role as their genealogical librarian and witness to history.

She told her family that her father's grandfather was sold to the Sykes Plantation, where the family got its name, her niece Rhoda Hatch said.

Mrs. Pullins' uncle wound up buying the land where slave ancestors worked, a source of great pride for her.

"That was always meant to kind of engender drive in those of us who were descendants," said her nephew, the Rev. Marshall Hatch.

Mrs. Pullins' mother was her role model. "Her mom was a little wisp of a woman who was very firm," said her nephew. "When she felt this white man was trying to cheat her children and underweigh the cotton her children picked, she had to be restrained."

Mrs. Pullins came to Chicago because it was "a promised land" for Southern migrants, her nephew said.

She worked as a maid and played "policy" -- the numbers. When she won, she sent for her brother Elijah -- Hatch's father -- to join her. Two more siblings

When her nephew was a young, earnest preacher, he tried to talk her out of gambling. "I said, 'Aunt Mary, you don't have any business going to the dogtrack at your age,' and she said, 'Now, baby, I won the policy in 1939, and I sent for your daddy, and your daddy met your mama under the L tracks on 43rd Street. Now policy is the reason you're in the world, baby. The father's in everything.' "

In 1920, she married her first husband, Murray Pegues. (The family later dropped the "s" at the end of Pegues.) She gave birth to a son, Richard Earl, in 1921. He survived service in World War II but died on her 45th birthday when a rape suspect overpowered the Park District officer and shot him with his own gun.

His son -- her grandson --grew up to be a beloved icon of black radio, "dusties" DJ Richard Pegue.

After her first husband died, she married Samuel Pullins, a hotel valet and steelworker. She began working at U.S. Steel in World War II and became a union organizer. "She said she made the bullets that killed [Italian dictator Benito] Mussolini," her niece said.

A white foreman once called her 'sister,' and she replied with what her niece called a "Mary-ism," saying: "'My daddy never told me I had a brother who looked like you. If you want to talk to me, call me by my name or [employee] number."

Even into her 90s, she worked as a caregiver for some people who were a decade or more younger, her niece said.

She stopped driving at 96.

"She turned in her license," her niece said. "An elderly man ran into some
people on the street, and she said old people shouldn't have licenses."

Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th) brought her to City Hall to be recognized for her
achievements by the Department on Aging. "She told the mayor about his father,
and who the mayor was before that, and who the mayor was before that," said
Lyle. "She could recite all of this history."

When she arrived at her polling place to vote for Barack Obama for president in 2008, Lyle recalled she said: " 'I'm voting for that smart young man. God ordained this.'"

She was a longtime member of Christ Universal Temple and she always wore a hat, every day.

A public viewing is from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. today at Carter Funeral Chapel, 2100 E. 75th St. Visitation is at 10 a.m. Friday, with services at 11 a.m. at the chapel. Burial will be in Lincoln Cemetery, Blue Island.

She is also survived by a great-granddaughter and two great-grandsons.

No comments:

Post a Comment

PLEASE READ FIRST!!!! Comment Moderating and Anonymous Comment Policy

While anonymous comments are not prohibited we do encourage you to help readers identify you so that other commenters may respond to you. Either read the moderating policy for how or leave an identifier (which could be a nickname for example) at the end of the comment.

Also note that this blog is NOT associated with any public or political officials including Alderman Roderick T. Sawyer!