By Norma Adams-Wade
This is my homage to the final half of what was a double whammy of human force and ceaseless determination in the battle for justice and equality for all people.
In other words, I’m acknowledging that Ina Bell Daniels McGee has died. She and her late sister, Nina Nell Daniels Wheel- er, grabbed the spotlight as “the Daniels twins” as children then rapidly became the much-her-alded “Civil Rights Twins” as adults who never saw a worthy cause they would not join.
McGee’s service was at Black & Clark Funeral home in Oak Cliff. Double whammy describes fairly well the impact the twin powerhouse duo stamped on the hundreds of protests, demonstrations, and political and social causes they joined over their more than a half-century of being on call for the myriad wrongs they felt needed to be made right.
Ina – if I may call her by her first name [PLEASE DO NOT DELETE THIS REQUEST] – died August 21 at age 89. Ina had kept a vow she said she and her twin made with each other that if either died first, the other would carry on their civil rights commitment. Amateur fashion designer Nina died July 15, 1995 at age 64. Ina, a veteran Dallas school guidance counselor, forged on for nearly 26 more years.
“She would not want to be just singled out, even now, without mentioning her twin,” Dawn McGee, Ina’s daughter, said of her mother. “Activism in civil and human rights is what they lived for — together. She kept the vow they made.”
Daughter Dawn, who some- times uses the spelling Dauwnn[cq McGhee, is a film, music and entertainment producer…. and owns and operates the Archive Records label. She chose an entertainment career inspired by her late father and Ina’s husband of 40 years, local veteran actor and entrepreneur Bill McGhee. Dawn said her mother chose the more common spell of their last name “McGee.” Learn about Dawn at https://glow-music.com/bio.
Dawn produced, directed and edited a compelling 2015 You Tube documentary about her then 84-year-old mother that her mother personally narrated. Ina recalled her and her sister’s many involvements. Other prominent Dallas-area civil and human rights activists also shared their memories and interactions with the twins. Among about 10 commentators are Dallas activist John Fullinwider, SCLC activist Rev Peter Johnson, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Diane Ragsdale, Greenville Texas NAACP Branch president Rev. Philip Duke, and various grassroots people who marched and demonstrated with the twins. The You Tube documentary is Twincerely: Memoir of the “Civil Rights Twins.”
The twins were noted for their sharp, matching style of dress, with a variety of matching hats, and their signature American and Black Liberation flags they always carried at demonstrations.
“They brought a spark to anything we did,” activist Fullinwider said in the documentary. “They would be dressed to the nines …and each would have a flag. So instead of being alienated from the symbol of patriotism because of being oppressed…they reclaimed especially that symbol… So, we had the American flag at all of our demonstrations.”
SCLC’s Rev. Johnson recalled that “Dr., King and Rev. Abernathy spoke of them often,” referring to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rev. Ralph Abernathy.
And former Mayor Pro Tem Ragsdale said, “You probably cannot recover any old civil rights footage in Dallas and not see the Civil Rights Twins.”
The documentary recalls many of the hundreds of demonstrations and campaigns the twins joined. These included prominent cases surrounding Lenell Jeter, James Byrd Jr., a Dallas lead smelter plant, Atlanta child murders, Hands Across America brotherhood demonstration, Forsyth County, Georgia 1987 march against white supremacy, 1963 March on Washington, and Ina at the 50th anniversary of the march. The twins, born in Greenville, Texas, joined local Black leaders there in the 1960s urging removal of a well-known Greenville welcoming sign that stated: “Blackest Land and Whitest People,” and as “Yellow Dog Democrats,” in the 1990s, met with then Presidential candidate Bill Clinton during a 1990s Dallas campaign visit.
Of chose, the twins, who had seven other siblings, were more than their civil rights work. The documentary recalls them appearing as beauties in magazines and winning many twin and beauty contests – several prominently at the segregated State Fair of Texas in the 1950s — and being firsts in some national television appearances including games shows.
In the documentary, Dallas theater actress Vickie Washing- ton spoke of the twins’ legacy.
“Their lives teach us …that we can’t rest, because injustice never rests,” Washington said. “We have to keep fighting, … making our voices heard. It’s important for us to know the sacrifices that were made.”
Norma Adams-Wade, is a proud Dallas native, University of Texas at Austin journalism graduate and retired Dallas Morning News senior staff writer. She is a founder of the National Association of Black Journalists and was its first southwest regional director. She became The News’ first Black full-time reporter in 1974. email@example.com