As I drove down 12th Street in Campbell and approached the Archangel Community Center, I saw a sight I’ve rarely seen.
The center’s lot was full. Cars lined both sides of a side street near the facility. I took a chance going into the main lot, and fortunately, a car pulled out and provided a chance for me to get in.
When I entered the center late last month, hundreds of people were inside. They, like myself, were there to celebrate the 31-year police career of Detective/Sgt. Delphine Baldwin-Casey.
Delphine had retired from the Youngstown Police Department, and people from all walks of life — judges, school superintendents, business people, Mayor Jay Williams, current and former city councilmen, her colleagues, and longtime friends and classmates — made the time to come out and sing the praises of a compassionate, determined woman who had impacted so many lives over her decades of police work.
She at one time thought she wanted to be a nurse, so she took a job at St. Elizabeth Health Center. But in 1978 she became one of the few women ever to take the oath to protect and to serve the citizens of Youngstown as a police officer.
She was among the few women to have patrol duties.
The emcee for the event was my good friend and fellow journalist Ode Aduma, and he called forward an array of folks who gave testimony to Delphine’s virtues.
One woman spoke of how she stood by her side for four years to make sure her case was brought to justice.
Others spoke of her humor and her persistence in making sure justice was done.
She is a strong advocate for women who are victims of domestic violence. She provided sexual-assault training for the department, including the YPD’s Family Investigations Services Unit, which handles sexual assaults, sexual abuse, domestic violence and crimes committed by children.
Over her career, she had to overcome male chauvinism within the department and win over those male officers who didn’t want to work with a woman.
But Delphine has the kind of personality to overcome the barbs of her detractors.
She never hesitated to call me to compliment a good, balanced story in The Vindicator, or lambaste the paper if the story was, in her opinion, unfair and just plain wrong. She would also call me sometimes just to get an idea of how reporters put stories together.
In many ways, she is a trailblazer and a role model for other young women.
And I would be remiss in not mentioning that this month we also remember the assassination of one of the great trailblazers in civil-rights history — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was killed April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn. If not for his courage and vision, as well as the sacrifices and sufferings of thousands of others to ensure the rights of Americans of color, Delphine and I may not have been able to prosper and thrive in the vocations we chose.
So, congratulations, Delphine. I wish nothing but the best for you and your family. Thanks for sharing your life with all of us.
Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly column. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org