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C. Delores Tucker Dies at 78; Rights and Anti-Rap Activist

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By Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 13, 2005

C. Delores Tucker, 78, a political and social activist who waged a fiery national campaign against obscenities in rap music, died Oct. 12 at Suburban Woods Health and Rehabilitation Center in Norristown, Pa. She had a heart ailment and lung condition.

Mrs. Tucker, who once was the highest-ranking African American woman in Pennsylvania state government, focused a spotlight on rap music in 1993, calling it "pornographic fifth" and saying it was demeaning and offensive to black women. "You can't listen to all that language and filth without it affecting you," she said.

She passed out leaflets with lyrics from gangsta rap and urged people to read them aloud. She picketed stores that sold the music, handed out petitions and demanded congressional hearings. She also bought stock in Sony, Time Warner and other companies so she could protest at shareholders meetings.

Crossing political lines, Mrs. Tucker, a Democrat, joined forces with former secretary of education William Bennett, a Republican, as well as Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.). Bennett called her at the time a "daunting figure."

"Usually I'm the noisy one, but she's ferocious," he said.

In 1994, Mrs. Tucker protested when the NAACP, on whose board of trustees she sat, nominated rapper Tupac Shakur for one of its Image Awards.

Rappers called her "narrow-minded." Some ridiculed her in their lyrics. She was sued by two record companies.

The Silver Spring-based organization she co-founded in 1984, now called the National Congress of Black Women, became the vehicle through which she waged her battle. She succeeded the late congresswoman Shirley Chisholm as national chair in 1992.

Mrs. Tucker, an elegant woman who spoke with a stirring cadence, had a long history in the civil rights movement and politics. Early on, she raised funds for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and joined the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in marches and demonstrations calling for equality and justice.

"I realized we always started at the church and marched to the political kingdom, whether the local or state or national," she told The Washington Post in 1995. "And I realized that's where we needed to go to make a difference. That's where the decisions are being made that affected our lives, but we weren't in those seats."

Cynthia Delores Nottage was born in Philadelphia on Oct. 4, 1927, the 10th of 11 children of a minister and a "Christian feminist mother." She played the organ and saxophone and directed the choir in church. She attended Temple University, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1951, she married William Tucker, a construction company owner who grew prosperous in Philadelphia real estate. She later sold real estate and insurance in Philadelphia.

In the 1960s, after her experiences in the early civil rights movement, she delved deeper into the political arena, working on behalf of black candidates and serving on the Pennsylvania Democratic Committee. She came to be known as a master fundraiser.

In 1971, she was named secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by then-Gov. Milton Shapp (D), making her the highest-ranking African American woman in state government. However, in 1977, the governor fired her for using state employees to write political speeches for which she was paid.

Political office eluded her. In 1978, she ran for lieutenant governor; in 1980, for the U.S. Senate; and in 1992, for the U.S. House. However, her political involvement continued. She was head of the minority caucus of the Democratic National Committee and a founding member of the National Women's Political Caucus. She chaired the Black Caucus of the Democratic National Committee for 11 years and spoke at five Democratic conventions.

Mrs. Tucker, the recipient of numerous awards, also founded the District-based Bethune-DuBois Institute to provide educational and training programs for black youths.

Survivors include her husband, of Philadelphia.

He once said that she was "one of the most fearless individuals I have ever known. She will take on anyone, anything, if that is what she thinks is right. . . . I tell her there are times you have to compromise, but she is not one who will readily entertain the idea of compromise about anything."

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