Mrs. Wilks was a staunch supporter of Mr. Obama beginning with his first presidential campaign. Politically, she reminded me in many ways of Fannie Lou Hamer, co-founder of the Freedom Democratic Party in Mississippi in 1964. Both were gifted in song, spirituality, determination, and evangelism.
Mrs. Wilks came to the public's attention in the southern part of San Mateo County when she realized that her son, Otis Jr., was not being properly educated in the public schools as she thought he should. The education and motivation of black youth, not just her own, became her mission in life.
Because of her genuineness and personal magnetism, she was able to gather together an ever-growing number of men and women of diverse backgrounds to share in this mission. She was instrumental in getting me appointed to the Sequoia Union High School District Board of Trustees in 1968, on which I served for a short period, the first African-American on this body.
Mrs. Wilks's autobiography is entitled "Gathering Together: Born to Lead." It is a moving testimony of joy and struggle of an African-American child that began on a sharecropper's farm in Louisiana. Hence, to become a wife, mother, inspirer, counselor, gentle provocateur and builder of young men and women in California.
Though not learned and bestowed with formal educational credentials, she was endowed invaluably with sincerity, perceptiveness and — most of all — wisdom.
Mrs. Wilks has left a legacy of dedicated grandchildren, and many whose lives she has touched with a commitment to the education of and community service by youth of color. Thank you, Mrs. Wilks. Many a voice has been and will be lifted to sing your praises.
Retired Stanford Development Officer Henry Organ has lived in Menlo Park for more than 40 years. He was a member of the San Mateo County 2010 Charter Committee.