There aren’t enough words or space to give honor to such a lady, Mrs. Eileen Walbert. She was one of a kind. We meet around 1965/66, when she was on a mission to turn the wheels of injustices and inequality, for the education of black students in Homewood, AL as well as Birmingham. She came to our homes to speak with our parents, (canvassing the neighborhood), about school integration in the Jefferson County School System, This meant that we would need to apply for a transfer from our black school, Rosedale High School, to enroll in Shades Valley High School. Rosedale was on a hill about a mile from Shades Valley. Thirteen of us, all black girls, (with the support of our parents), requested permission to transfer from Rosedale to Shades Valley for the upcoming school year September, 1966.
Our relationship with Mrs. Walbert was born and it blossomed into a life long relationship. She introduced us to many of her friends who were involved in the fight for equality with the white citizens of Birmingham. One night we were traveling with Eileen after a meeting, when a State Trooper stopped her and asked, “where are you going with these colored girls?” She responded to him very firmly, “we’re going for ice cream”. She scolded him for stopping her and asked for his badge number. Of course, we shaking in our boots in the backseat. But later we felt fearless too and very proud of how she was so steady & unafraid. She has always been our “Shero”.
I wish I could tell more about our 55 years with her, all the people she introduced to us and, all of the many, many times she wanted us over, so we could chat and catch up things. Through the years, she introduced so many books, magazines and papers about the issues facing people in our neighborhood, in our state & the country. We all loved her husband Mr. Jim Walbert as well. He entertained us with his amazing gifts at the piano. We had many sing-alongs. Brenda, Vivian, Linda & Susan were often the soloists. We loved him as much as we loved her; Pam and David as well. We have never had a dull moment in their company. In the most recent years, we were able to spend more time with Pam, David and David’s son Ian.
As the years past (so fast), our Shades Valley School Class Reunions were favorite discussions with her. We had an opportunity to share pictures of our Class Reunions, 2018. & 2019. Eileen always wanted to know how things were going with us and with our families, as well as our college days, our lives, our jobs and our children. How do we let her go? It’s not easy, but our hearts are filled with so many precious memories. She will be forever in our hearts. Even after 55 years, I can still see her sitting by the pool as we; as kids enjoyed swimming, water games and going with her to meetings. There was the art of passing books, newspapers & articles around her famous black round dinning room table. Her beautiful Christmas tree, was always decorated with handmade ornaments. She would tell us how old they were and who made each of them.
On one of our last visits, her eyesight was failing. That evening she shared much more about her parents, siblings and her childhood home in Jamestown Virginia, and how she played along the James River. So, I recalled my visit there as a tourist and agreed how truly beautiful it is there. She was sharing with us at least 96 year of her past...an incredible memory and precious. I felt a sadness inside as I listened and I think I knew why. But her face was filled with so much joy as she laughed gleefully about her historic Jamestown and her childhood.
Rest In Peace, our lovely, awesome, smart, beautiful, sweet Eileen. You touched all of our lives, for the rest of our lives and you’ll never be forgotten.
From your darlings, The Girls.❤❤❤
Angela Cunningham Griffin