Briefings: Honor for Late Twiggs Planted at Corner of His Street…
SPRINGFIELD—Friends, family and city officials unveiled a special street sign on Westminster Street on Sunday to honor the late Ward 4 Councilor E. Henry Twiggs, just over four years after his death. The City Council had unanimously approved the sign at its November 13 meeting. Many of Twiggs’s colleagues were on hand, including outgoing Council President Jesse Lederman who emceed the event.
The full complement of speakers could not attend—Mayor Sarno tested positive for COVID-19 and federal business pulled US Representative Richard Neal away. Still, there was no shortage of emotion and honor for Twiggs, who was not only a councilor but a civil rights icon in the city.
Attendees and speakers later made their way to the end of the street. There, city staff unveiled the sign at the corner of Bay and Westminster streets.
Drizzly, cold weather did not deter attendees. Lederman, whom Twiggs had recruited into and mentored in politics, led the event from under a canopy flanked by colleagues and Twiggs’s wife Karen and son Antonio Delesline. Speakers included the family as well as former State Rep Ben Swan and STCC Professor Nicholas Camerota, a friend, supporter and confidant of Twiggs’s.
There was special emphasis on Twiggs’s faith as well as dedication to the McKnight neighborhood. Camerota recalled Twiggs’s favorite hymn and the late councilor’s former pastor offered a closing benediction. Walter Kroll, president of the McKnight neighborhood council, sold Twiggs and his wife their historic home.
Both he and Rev. Dr. W.C. Watson, Jr. of Canaan Baptist Church of Christ, Twiggs’s congregation, observed that as a councilor he worked the levers of government as much as possible for the community.
Much as Twiggs had been a councilor, he had also been a civil rights activist. Twiggs marched at many of the historic moments alongside towering figures from the Civil Rights Movement. The late councilor had also been a Democratic party stalwart, running the city committee for many years. He played key roles in local efforts to elect Governor Deval Patrick and later attended President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
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On the Council, while inarguably on the body’s left, he could also play the role of conciliator. He developed close ties with all of his colleagues, especially those in that initial round of ward councilors, the first in 50 years. At various opportunities to eulogize Twiggs in chambers, those who remained from that class, Timothy Allen, Melvin Edwards and Michael Fenton, offered vivid remembrance tinged with both professionalism and emotion.
Twiggs had been in consistent poor health for some time prior to this death. He had prolonged absences from meetings. He announced his retirement in 2019 and died shortly after his successor, Malo Brown, was elected.
During the program, one speaker noted that no one is truly dead until all memory of them has faded. Modest as it is, the street sign may guard against that for longer than living memory.
Of course, the proof that Twiggs’s legacy goes beyond fresh McKnight wayfinding. The size and diversity of the crowd assembled on a chilly day proved that. The sign was merely a marker of a broader impact that he had on Springfield.