Never one to fall behind the times, poet Maya Angelou was an active Twitter user. On May 23, she tweeted, “Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.”
Five days later, around 8 a.m. Wednesday, Angelou died. She was 86.
In a statement, Angelou’s family said, “Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension.”
Rock Hill school board member Elizabeth “Ann” Reid said she has read and often referenced Angelou’s works and words.
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“She’s so wise,” said Reid, a former teacher whose students included those at the now-closed Emmett Scott High School in Rock Hill. “She has been such a blessing to know.”
In remembering Angelou, Rock Hill NAACP president Melvin Poole called her “brilliant.” He saw her speak every year at an annual United Negro College Fund luncheon in Charlotte.
“It’s a tragic loss,” Poole said. “It was always an honor to be in the same room as her.”
Watching Angelou speak was always remarkable, Poole said. Angelou would easily and quickly change topics, jumping from one issue to a recitation of her own or someone else’s poetry to an anecdote from her life, back to another issue.
Poole said he never once saw her speak from notes.
Angelou’s life story could serve as an inspiration for anyone, he said, because she overcame her humble and difficult childhood to become one of America’s leading writers.
Never was that prominence clearer than in January 1992, when Angelou recited a poem during the inauguration of President Bill Clinton.
Angelou was only the second poet in the country’s history to speak at a presidential inauguration. The first was Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961.
Former U.S. Rep. John Spratt of York sat just a short distance from Angelou that morning as she recited, “On the Pulse of Morning,” and recalled how ripples went through the crowds of thousands of people as they hung on to every word she spoke.
“She had a command of her audience on that cold January morning,” Spratt said. “I can remember that morning, more than what she had to say, it was the way she said it that was the most effective and lasting aspect of her personality.”
Spratt said Angelou’s poetry and other writings will live on for generations.
“She was quite a woman,” Poole said. “The contribution she made to this country will be unparalleled.”