DMU trustee ‘almost in awe’ at White House celebration

DMU’s Willie Stevenson Glanton (hatless) sits directly across the table from President Obama. Official photo by Pete Souza,
DMU Trustee Willie Stevenson Glanton, J.D., was honored with an invitation to the White House in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The small group of invited guests viewed the Emancipation Proclamation and joined President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama for a discussion on past and present civil rights work.

“I almost felt in awe,” Glanton said afterward. “Everybody had a moment with President Obama. I told them I was so glad to be there and that I hope they’ll come back to Iowa soon.”

Glanton was the first black female assistant county attorney in Iowa, the first black person from Polk County to serve in the Iowa Legislature and the first black attorney for the U.S. Small Business Administration. Her husband, the late Honorable Luther T. Glanton Jr., was the first black judge in Iowa.

The couple has served DMU, too. Judge Glanton joined the DMU Board of Trustees in 1979; when he died in 1991, Willie took his place on the board, became its chair in 1999 and continues to serve. To honor the couple’s service and leadership, in 2004 the University established the Glanton Scholarship to assist minority health and medical students.

Glanton first met the Obamas during the 2008 presidential race. In 2007, she hosted a reception at her Des Moines home – attended by more than 200 people – for Michelle Obama, who was campaigning for her husband. That event was noted in author Liza Mundy’s 2009 book, Michelle: A Biography.

The Obamas aren’t Glanton’s first first couple. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy sent the Glantons to tour West, Central and East Africa, Cyprus and Korea through the U.S. State Department’s Cultural Exchange Program. In 1965, she was selected by President and Mrs. Lyndon Johnson as a “distinguished host” for his Washington inauguration.

This presidential interaction, however, held a special difference for her.

“To live to see a black person become president of the United States was almost too much to handle,” Glanton says. “I wish Luther could have lived to see this.”

Learn about the Glanton Scholarship at DMU, created to honor Louie and Willie Glanton.

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