Born Oct. 11, 1928, Wilfred T. Ussery has been smiling and singing along with friends “Happy Birthday to you” all this month!
Bethel AME Church members lauded him Oct. 7. Guests attending the African American Historical and Cultural Society ‘s Reception introducing the Hoskins Family African Art Collection serenaded him Oct. 11.
The biggest occasion, however, was Sunday, Oct. 14, when over 100 friends and well-wishes crowded into Geoffrey’s Inner Circle in Oakland for a 90th birthday event. Paul Cobb, longtime social activist and owner of the Oakland and San Francisco Post newspapers served as Master of Ceremonies, bringing humor and love to all as he invited guests to the stage to talk about Mr. Ussery. Among those bringing greetings, reminiscing and enjoying the soul food refreshments were old friends Geoffrey Pete, owner of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, Desie Woods Jones, President of Black Women Organized for Political Action, Charlie Walker, Norman Brown, Frankie Jacobs Gillette, and Gay Cobb.
All lauded Ussery for his civic involvement and dedication to the advancement of the disenfranchised. An Architectural Draftsman by training, Mr. Ussery transferred these professional precision skills from buildings to people, effecting community lifestyle changes. He was an active member of many national and local social change organizations. These include the San Francisco Chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality and his work as a national officer of CORE. He helped organize non-violent, civil disobedience sit-ins including the successful 1963 Mel’s Drive-in—demonstration and the 1964 Automobile Row demonstrations in San Francisco. The Cobbs presented Ussery with a copy of the original bylaws of the ACORN Resident Council in recognition of his successful work in providing housing in West Oakland.
He is well remembered for his 18 years of active leadership as an elected Director of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) District Board.
A long-time member of Bethel AME Church San Francisco, Ussery served as the Project Manager for the installation of an elevator and handicapped persons Lift in the church. Among the Bethel members singing Happy Birthday at his Oakland celebration were Mae Threadgill, Zoraina James, Sharon Bolton, William Casey,Renata Ellis,Odelle Ellis-Carter, Barbara Gainer, Maxwell and Frankie Gillette, Cory and Henry Keith and Marie Womack-McCollum.
In thanking assembled guests, Ussery thanked his wife Maxine for her many years of support, sympathy, and love.
Now a nonagenarian, he is not retiring, but coming up daily with new ideas to effect social change. We can only imagine what another year of excellence will bring Mr. Ussery.