Jordan Adams wasn't born the year C. Delores Tucker took on gangsta rap, calling it filthy and misogynistic, a move that earned her praise and ridicule in equally intense measure. Jordan wasn't around yet as Tucker loudly protested the industry, taking on even the NAACP -- though she was a longtime civil rights activist -- and buying stock in record companies so that she could enter their boardrooms and lob her complaints up close.
Tucker launched her campaign in 1993. Jordan met Tucker last year when he was 9, impressing her with his classical music talent, good manners and impeccable dress. He played piano for her again yesterday at her memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral, where U.S. senators, other elected officials and nearly 300 supporters had come to pay their respects. Tucker died last month at 78 of heart failure.
"She loved him," Jordan's father, Kenneth Adams, said yesterday. "Whenever she would see him, she'd whisper advice in his ear, adjust his collar, make sure he was standing up straight, before he performed."
Tucker's own performance in politics and social activism -- whether it was marching arm-in-arm with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., becoming the first black woman to serve as a secretary of state (for Pennsylvania), or campaigning against the music she deplored -- was insistent and flamboyant. She was known for her tenacity and the elegant turbans she wore.
She was the chairwoman of the National Congress of Black Women, a leader in the Democratic National Committee and a persistent advocate of children and women's rights. But it was her national campaign against gangsta rap that drew the wrath of fans and lawsuits from record companies.
Yesterday it drew the bipartisan praises of Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.). "Fearless and ferocious," Brownback called her.
Her opponents targeted her in their lyrics. Her champions praised her for igniting a national debate.
Elaine Steele, longtime caregiver for Tucker's friend, Rosa Parks, felt compelled to attend the service. "As much as she was inspired by Rosa Parks, Rosa Parks was inspired by her," she said.
William Tucker told several stories yesterday of his wife's commitment to social causes. Every morning, he said, she emerged from the shower with a solution to a social problem. He also shared that she had fallen ill, and eventually lost a lung, after she refused as a young girl to accept segregated accommodations on a boat trip with her father in the 1940s. She ended up contracting tuberculosis while sleeping on the boat's deck.
"I often said she did all this with one lung, I wonder what she would have done with two," William Tucker joked yesterday.
But the message was not one of sadness as much as it was a celebration of Tucker's drive. "She always said there were three things she would die for," her husband said after the service, "God, her family and her people."
Children were a particular focus of Tucker's work, and E. Faye Williams, the new national chairwoman of the National Congress of Black Women, says that will remain the same for the organization.
Jordan was just one of several children in yesterday's program. He was surrounded after his performance, showered with praise and folks wanting his photograph.
Tucker wouldn't have wanted it any other way.
Staff writer Hamil R. Harris contributed to this report.