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Dallas civil rights leader Eva Partee McMillan dies at 100

She became a street activist and community organizer some 80 years ago when, as a young mother, she could no longer ignore civil rights inequities all around her.

Eva Partee McMillan

Eva Partee McMillan was a fixture in civil rights work at the local, state and national levels for decades.(LAWRENCE JENKINS / 71723)

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Many younger Dallas activists stood on the shoulders of Eva Partee McMillan, who died Sept. 23. She had celebrated her 100th birthday in May.

The former preacher’s wife became a street activist and community organizer some 80 years ago when, as a young mother, she could no longer ignore civil rights inequities all around her.

“I was what was known as the ‘first lady’ of several churches,” said McMillan, whom many called “Mama Mac.”

Jacqueline McMillan Hill, one of McMillan’s four children, said people in the civil rights movement gave her mother the nickname. It’s a shortened version of “Mama McMilitant,” a nickname acquired for her aggressive stance on issues.

“She easily could have been a socialite,” McMillan Hill said.

McMillan had four children — Katherine, Marion Ernest Jr., Jacqueline and Karen. She also had 10 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

Before her birthday celebration this year, the McMillan children recalled how their mother was in a hurry to set things right in the world as they were growing up in the late 1940s and beyond. Instead of joining social groups, she worked on registering new Black voters and collecting poll taxes to prove that suppression tactics would not stop the Black vote.

Eva Partee McMillan

Eva Partee McMillan(MELANIE BURFORD / 140450)

After she and her preacher husband, Marion Ernest McMillan Sr., separated, she worked as a bank bookkeeper and joined groups that fought to end Jim Crow laws and various forms of discrimination. She served in various state and national civil rights groups, and she organized some groups on her own.

“I still see her from my childhood view, resting at her feet, gaining knowledge and strength. I still do,” her daughter Kathy said earlier this year.

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