Named "The Little Warrior" for her tireless work as a social and spiritual activist, Reverend Willie T. Barrow has spent her entire life on the front lines of the civil rights struggle. She grew up in Burton, Texas, where as a student in the 1940s she led a demonstration of rural African-American schoolchildren against a segregated school system that refused them bus service because of their race. The success of that early campaign taught Willie Barrow that determination and organization can bring about positive social change. Willie Barrow attended Warner-Pacific Theological Seminary in Portland, Oregon, and as a student built a church in that city. After graduation, she was ordained as a minister and began her career as both a spiritual and social activist.
One of Reverend Willie Barrow's key roles has been a field organizer for Dr. Martin Luther King during the major Civil Rights marches and demonstrations of the 1950s and 1960s. As a field organizer, Reverend Barrow was responsible for the organization of transportation, shelter, meetings and rallies for the demonstrators who came to participate in the marches and sit-ins during that era. Beginning in 1953, she served in this capacity and continued her field organizer position through the legendary 1965 March on Selma, Alabama where she trained new recruits, organized boycotts and demonstrations on Dr. King's behalf, and participated in voter registration drives. During the 1960s, Reverend Barrow was among the founding members of Operation BREADBASKET, a program that provided spiritual guidance and practical assistance to communities in need. Later, in 1968, she led a three-person delegation to North Vietnam and participated in the negotiation of the Vietnam Peace Treaty.
Currently, Reverend Barrow serves as co-chair of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the organization that grew out of Operation BREADBASKET. At the Coalition, she coordinates the activities of the national organization and serves as an aide to Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr., with whom she has shared a partnership since the first days of BREADBASKET. Reverend Barrow also serves as associate minister of the Vernon Park Church of God in Chicago.
Reverend Willie Barrow has been honored with a Doctor of Divinity degree from Monrovia, Liberia and a Leadership Certificate from Harvard University. In September 1997, a street on Chicago's South Side was renamed in her honor. Earlier that same year, the Reverend Willie Barrow Wellness Center was opened. The Center is a clinic housed within Doctor's Hospital that treats those with limited health-care benefits. Together with the Barrow Health Mobile Clinic, these services bring affordable and accessible health care to needed areas in Chicago. Through these institutions, the legacy of Reverend Barrow continues to provide inspiration.