Published in The Truth in the February 26, 2020 issue
Describing the honoree as “a personal friend of all of us,” former State Rep. Michael Ashford had the final say during a Lucas County Commissioners’ Black History Month celebration. On February 18, 2020, the Commissioners honored the 86-year-old Weldon Douthitt for his contributions to the community in a number of different areas – social services, politics, community organizing and a lifelong commitment to helping others.
Douthitt, who has spent decades with the Economic Opportunity Planning Association (EOPA), now Pathway, working with housing issues in underserved neighborhoods as project director for the agency’s Home Rehabilitation department, was just recently in a home that needed work done.
“Last week, imagine this 86-year-old man in a 70-year-old senior’s basement, dealing with frozen pipes,” said Ashford of Douthitt’s continuing involvement with improving housing problems.
Douthitt arrived in Toledo in 1954, noted Commissioner Pete Gerken as he kicked off the tributes to his long-time acquaintance. “He came here in 1954 and was a skilled-trades mentor with EOPA/Pathway since [that agency’s] inception. He left a mark on a community, on people and on housing stock. He is an iconic figure in the African-American community.”
For many Toledoans, especially those who follow local politics, Douthitt’s name will be forever entwined with that of his long-time best friend – former Mayor Jack Ford. For years, Ford was the very public face of local politics – elected, first, to City Council, then to the Ohio General Assembly, mayor, Toledo Board of Education and, again, to City Council. For just as many years, Douthitt provided the backing and support for the Ford campaigns – making the tactical decisions and doing the leg work to get the candidate elected.
Ashford spoke of the threesome he formed with the Ford-Douthitt duo after he entered politics. “In that threesome, Jack wasn’t in charge; and I wasn’t in charge. Weldon was in charge and told us each and every day what we needed to do.”
Jessica Ford, the Lucas County deputy administrator and Jack Ford’s daughter, has known Douthitt all of her life … as a member of the family, more than just her father’s advisor and friend.
“Weldon is the true definition of grass roots,” said Jessica Ford on Tuesday. “His community organizing during the Civil Rights movement – is a legacy no one will be able to replace. Without Weldon, you don’t have Jack. Weldon spent hours doing whatever was necessary and he understood how important it was to have folks at the table.”
“Weldon gives because it‘s the right thing to do,” said Ashford introducing his friend.
Douthitt spoke of the honor and pleasure he has had over the years connecting with such a large variety of people in the community – the friendships he has formed and the appreciation he has had for friends and family.
Politics, social action, community organizing, mentoring younger generations – Douthitt has accomplished a lot and given a lot and he has no plans to ease up yet.
“The good Lord willing, I will be 87 years old in March,” he noted as he described how much everyone close to him in his life – family and friends – have meant to him.