Crème de la Crème Commemorate a Noteworthy Celebration
Family, friends, political leaders and celebrities from throughout the country gathered in Denver on Feb. 24 to celebrate longtime political activists and community leaders Wilma and Wellington Webb.
Guests gathered to recognize the couple’s diamond jubilee birthday, “75 Years and Then Some,” at the Exdo Events Center. Hosted by emcees Shed G and Becky Taylor, the 500 guests partied to music by Jakarta and DJ Al “Your Pal” until 1 a.m.,
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, and First Lady Mary Louise Lee lauded the couple for their dedication to public office and being role models for generations. Both served in the Colorado State Legislature before becoming Denver’s first African American Mayor and First Lady from 1991-2003.
“Wellington Webb is a big man and his shoulders are broad, which is good because so many people have stood on his shoulders,” Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. “Wilma Webb is one of the wisest people I know.”
Mayor Hancock presented the Webbs a special limited gold coin, given by the city to U.S. Presidents, other dignitaries, and outstanding residents. Only 100 have been minted and they received numbers 74 and 75.
Before the party, Sen. Bennet read a letter into the Congressional Record on the floor of the U. S. Senate chronicling all of the couple’s numerous accomplishments including, Wilma Webb sponsoring the law that created the Colorado Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday and Mayor Webb’s leadership in local and national social justice issues.
“When they were finished being elected, that didn’t stop them from being committed to their community and encouraging another generation of Americans to be involved,” Bennet said.
Gov. John Hickenlooper also recognized the couple with a state proclamation.
Many friends, including former mayors from other states, said attending the party was an important gesture to thank the couple for their support.
“Mayor Webb was a trailblazer for me,” said former Hempstead Village N.Y. Mayor James Garner; and the first Black mayor on Long Island. “He and Wilma have always supported me – and I’m a Republican!”
Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin said Mayor Webb gave her sage advice before she was elected the city’s first Black female mayor.
“Even though we are close in age, Wellington is my mentor,” Franklin said. “He told me to think long-term and what could impact people in 50 years, instead of how the government is usually only addressing the most recent crisis.”
Andrew Bonds, a retired Parsons engineer who worked on the redevelopment of Stapleton International Airport, said he was struck how Wellington and Wilma Webb made sure they kept connected with their community while in office.
“He’d invite me to go with him to a high school basketball game without any entourage or fanfare,” Bonds, of Washington, D.C., said. “My wife and I consider them family. We would have walked here if we had to.”
Other notable guests included Colorado Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran; gubernatorial candidate Michael Johnston; former NBA All-Star and Denver native Chauncey Billups and his wife, Piper; Denver developer Jim Sullivan; national political consultant Anita Ditto of Georgia; Emilio Pardo, Jackson National Life Insurance Vice President of Communications and Marketing; and Lou Vasta, President of Vasta & Associates, Inc., a special events company based in Chicago.
Denver native Philip Bailey of theGrammy winning Earth, Wind, and Fire sent a videotaped greeting of good wishes from his next concert stop.
The couple’s children, Anthony Webb and Stephanie O’Malley, led a toast for themselves and 50 other family members from Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, and California.
“Most of you know them as public servants, but for us, we couldn’t have asked for better parents, grandparents, a brother, sister, aunt or uncle,” O’Malley said, surrounded by the couple’s grandchildren.
“We love you,” added Anthony.
The couple promised few speeches, thanked everyone and gave gifts to everyone in attendance.
“This is not a political event,” Wilma said. “Let’s party, dance and enjoy family and friends we don’t get to see often enough. This is the first time we have joined our birthdays together.”