BY SAM MIGLARESE
Willie E. Patterson, the leader of Crest Street Community Council since 1975, has announced his retirement from his post next December. Duke’s Office of Durham and Community Affairs got the chance to honor Patterson on November 15, when the Crest Street community hosted staff members and other neighborhood presidents for a Thanksgiving dinner. Below is a tribute to Patterson by Sam Miglarese, an ally of Patterson’s and Duke’s Director of Community Engagement.
November 2010As president of Crest Street Community Council, Willie Patterson has served as a trendsetter for community commitment and dedication. Patterson – a graduate of Hillside High and N.C. Central University, a 22-year Air Force veteran, and a former manager of the Duke University Medical Center Labor Union – first began working to enhance quality of life in Crest Street in the 1970s. Patterson worked closely with the late Dr. L.W. Reid, pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church, to promote housing for neighborhood seniors, safety and security, and youth development.
When the very existence of Patterson’s community was threatened by the proposed extension of the Durham Freeway, he led the opposition. Patterson and Reid formed partnerships with Duke University, legal-aid attorneys, and the City of Durham to successfully negotiate with the North Carolina Department of Transportation. For their leadership and courageous advocacy, Reid and Patterson both were awarded the Z. Smith Reynolds Unsung Heroes Award in 1989.
In the years since, Patterson has continued to advocate for Crest Street. He has worked closely with the City of Durham, New Bethel Baptist and Duke University. For the youth of Crest Street, Patterson developed a summer jobs program and co-founded the Crest Street Tutorial Project. To preserve Crest Street’s sense of community, Patterson directs annual community days and lobbied for the recreation center that bears his name. Patterson also leads an annual neighborhood clean-up day and works with Duke Energy to keep the local power lines and underbrush in order.
Patterson’s list of accomplishments goes on. Duke University salutes Willie Patterson for his many years of service to the U.S. Armed Forces, to Duke University, and to the Crest Street community that is his home. He has advocated for his community for more than 30 years. He is a lion of a leader who has left his mark on Crest Street, Durham, and the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership.
Congratulations, Willie, and best of wishes!