Margaret Dudley carried scars both seen and unseen from her days on the front lines of the civil rights movement.
A Macon native, she considered the marks on her legs as badges of honor from the marches and demonstrations she joined in over the years.
She was a mother figure to so many of us, said Elaine Lucas, a Macon City Council member. She always showed us the dog bites on her legs to let us know that we still had things we needed to fight for.
Dudley died of congestive heart failure Sunday at age 79, said her son, Gordon Perkins. Her funeral is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Beulahland Bible Church, 1010 Newberg Ave.
Though Dudley didnt have the fame of civil rights legends -- the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, Joseph Lowery and others -- she often marched in step with them wherever the movement took her, said longtime state Rep. Tyrone Brooks, D-Atlanta.
She was a stalwart of the civil rights movement, he said. She marched in Montgomery, Selma, Sandersville, Wrightsville, Atlanta. She was always there. You knew you were going to see her. ... She was a giant, one of the unsung heroes of the civil rights movement.
Perkins said his mother often told stories of the physical torment she and others endured during those marches. Besides dog attacks, marchers also faced firehoses, billy clubs, bullwhips -- and more.
Dudley was part of the 1965 voting rights march from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery that became known as Bloody Sunday because many of the estimated 600 participants were attacked with clubs and tear gas.
Interviewed by The Telegraph a few years ago, she recalled her participation -- and the mistake she made of wearing a light cotton dress.
Dogs tore off part of it and the water hose got the rest, she recalled.
During another interview, she said her faith helped her deal with the struggles, from physical violence to profane and abusive language.
I was riding on the bus, and that was my only means of transportation, she said. The bus driver pulled me off. He told me, n-----, get to the back. I walked and I prayed and I asked the Lord to take care of him and take care of me.
Brooks said Dudley stood near the speakers during the 1963 march on Washington, D.C., and got to hear all of the leaders of the civil rights movement speak. That included Kings famous I Have A Dream speech.
She often spoke to King before his assassination on April 4, 1968.
I wanted to fight back (at times) and hed say, no violence, she said. He was an intelligent person. I wanted to take it in my own hands, but he said, Let the Lord handle it.
Dudley was scheduled to be in Memphis, Tenn., on the day of Kings death, but she overslept and missed the bus from Macon.
Perkins said his mother got involved in the civil rights movement in her early teens after a group of white men raped a young black girl.
She was able to get away, but she wanted to fight for the rest of her life so that something like that would never happen again.
After President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, Dudley stayed active in Macon, trying to get as many people as possible to sign up to vote.
Shed always say, Get these young people to vote, Brooks recalled. She wanted them to understand the sacrifices that were made to get us where we are today.
For many years, Dudley also served as the Neighborhood Watch leader for south Macons Lynwood Estates, and she was active in trying to rid crime from her neighborhood.
In 2008, she recalled going from being denied the right to vote to seeing the election of Barack Obama as the countrys first black president.
Boy, I just dont know if I can even say, she said. Im grateful. To have marched and now have an African-American for president, I cant put into words.
Dudley was listed as one of 101 African-American women in a book by Catherine Meeks that grew out of a project at Wesleyan College. Its titled Standing on Their Shoulders: A Celebration of the Wisdom of African American Women.
Meeks noted in the book that Dudley was interested in all human rights, not just those for black men and women. Dudley participated in marches on hunger and aging. She was a charter member of the Bibb County Voters League.
Dudley received awards from the March of Dimes, Meals on Wheels, the Unionville Improvement Association, the Macon Police Department and Citizens on Patrol. In 2005, she was one of several people recognized by the James Wimberly Institute of Black Studies as a racial barrier breaker.
She was one of my role models, Lucas said. She told us to find the right paths and do what needed to be done in the community. ... She didnt want people to forget those that had paved the way. She forced us to remember what we were fighting for and to continue to keep working.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.