Adelaide Morgan, postal worker who came north for a better life, dead at 80
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Adelaide Morgan was the kind of friend people took with them when they were ready to buy a roomful of furniture, invest in a fur or buy a casket.
At 19, she’d moved to Chicago from Demopolis, Alabama, bringing common sense and prudence with her.
Ms. Morgan, who worked for the post office, was good at recognizing hard sells and potential ripoffs, according to her friend Pearlene Watts, a fellow supervisor at the old main Chicago post office that straddles Congress Parkway.
After the death of Watts’ postal-worker husband, Ms. Morgan saw a lawyer try to pressure her co-worker into hiring him to help her obtain death benefits. Ms. Morgan “excused herself to go to the bathroom,” Watts said, phoned the post office personnel department and determined that Watts could get the benefits herself without paying a lawyer.
“She came back from the bathroom and said, ‘We’re going to personnel,’ ” Watts said.
Ms. Morgan, 80, died Oct. 25 at her Austin home after a recurrence of breast cancer, said her granddaughter Tiffany Morgan.
She became a mentor to many other African-Americans who moved to Chicago from the South during the Great Migration, cradling dreams about good jobs that would enable them to get their own homes and better schooling and better lives for their children, according to Watts, a native of Dumas, Arkansas.
“She was a confidence-builder,” said her cousin Harriette Dawson.
“She got me my first job in Chicago,” said her brother Bertram Gage.
While working as a secretary at a metal-stamping company in the 1800 block of West Lake Street, she found him a job as a laborer and die-setter.
In Demopolis, her father Sam worked at a cement plant, and her mother Drucilla ran a soul food restaurant. She attended U.S. Jones High School and Alabama State University, a historically black college. When she arrived in Chicago in 1956, she stayed with Dawson’s parents at their Garfield Park home.
“My parents taught her how to use the CTA and subway,” Dawson said. “Adelaide had a vision for what she wanted in life, and it was more than Demopolis.”
“She was a single mom, divorced early,” her granddaughter said. “She pretty much built the life that she wanted to.”
At the post office, her duties included guiding workers to counseling and treatment for substance abuse. “She saved a lot of people’s jobs,” Watts said.
Ms. Morgan was also an outstanding cook, according to family and friends, known for her ribs, spaghetti, seafood dressing, potato salad and macaroni and cheese. And she loved German chocolate cake.
Always stylish, she bought her clothes at Marshall Field’s and also sewed them herself. “She was the black Martha Stewart,” said Tiffany Morgan.
Her son Darius died before her. Ms. Morgan is also survived by her son Houston, sister Marlene Rowser, brothers Bertram and James Gage, companion Edward Cooper and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Services have been held.