PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Friends, family and colleagues were at Carnegie Music Hall Sunday to pay final tribute to Wendell Freeland.
He was known as a prominent Pittsburgh Attorney and a civil rights pioneer.
“How do you capture 88 unbelievable years, summarize them, and, with less than 90 minutes?” asked Freeland’s grandson Michael Freeland Jr.
Freeland got involved in civil rights while he was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen.
He and other members of the 477th bombardment group were arrested and charged with mutiny when they tried to integrate the white officers’ club in Freeman Field, Indiana, in 1946.
Eventually, he was exonerated.
“The righteousness of the cause won out, making Freeman Field a little freer, and sowing the seeds of the civil rights movement,” said former Urban League CEO Vernon Jordan.
“We are so proud of him, for having seen the Tuskegee Airmen monument in Sewickley Cemetery, with his name engraved on it,” said longtime friend Dr. Edmond Effort.
He graduated from Howard University and earned a law degree from the University of Maryland.
After moving to Pittsburgh, in the early ’50s, Freeland became one of the driving forces in the integration of public facilities.
“Because Wendell Freeland raised hell, children — black and white, and every other color — play together, at Highland Swimming Pool, just a few miles from here,” said Jordan.
Freeland would go on to become a well-known and respected attorney.
“He was a towering figure in the community and the legal profession, and a mentor for the generations of lawyers that followed him,” said Elsie Hillman.
Freeland was also active in the Pittsburgh Urban League, serving as chair of the board of directors, and as Vice-President of the national board. That’s when he met former National Urban League CEO and Clinton adviser, Vernon Jordan.
“Whatever success I may have had at the Urban League, Wendell Freeland had a huge hand in it,” Vernon said.
He also developed a more than 50-year friendship with and was the attorney for Pittsburgh Philanthropist Elsie Hillman.
“His integrity — and when he said he would do something, it was done,” Hillman said.