THE ICON: Betty Wisdom
THE LEGACY: Betty Wisdom was warm-hearted — she was wild about animals, for instance — but she was tough when she had to be, a trait that served her well as a tireless local civic activist. Her trademark issue: civil rights, which she believed in so strongly that she quit her job as a reporter for the Orleans Parish School Board’s radio station in the 1960s rather than accept her employer’s mandate that she keep her desegregation beliefs to herself. Although out of a job, she didn’t sit idle. When legislators were considering shutting New Orleans’ public schools rather than integrate them, Wisdom, in testimony, urged them to reconsider. She was also part of a carpool that drove students to the first two schools that had been integrated. She was jeered at the schools, and friends shunned her, but nothing deterred her from her mission to do what she could to ensure all of the city’s children had equal access to opportunity.
THE ARTIST: Alexandra Kilburn
THE INSPIRATION: “All of us were brought up in a family to believe in service. It was a duty as well as a pleasure. It’s been a joyful thing, though there have been awful times, times when you go home and cry into your pillow because things have gone so wrong. But you survive them.” — Betty Wisdom, when she received The Times-Picayune Loving Cup