When she passed away in 2007, friends remembered Gwendolyn Elliott’s big smile, large laugh and very dry sense of humor. She probably would have joked that she didn’t want to be a Spirit of King honoree—because the award is always posthumous.

“Any tribute in connection to Dr. King is a great honor. She had the spirit of always helping others a trailblazer for helping women and children and we should all aspire to that,” said her daughter, Kathi Elliott. “To this day people come up to me a say what an impact she had on their lives. As her daughter, it’s a privilege to accept the award on her behalf.”

So she will likely look down, with a wry smile, as she is inducted into the rolls of past Spirit of King honorees along with Pittsburgh entertainment icon Walt Harper, Jan. 19 at the Kingsley Association.

Though she was a pioneer in integrating Pittsburgh’s Bureau of Police––being one of its first Black female officers in 1976 and, later, its first Black female commander––it was her work benefiting young girls and women that has become her enduring legacy.

Even before she joined the police force, she was among those who founded the Center for Victims of Violence and Crime, and when she retired in 2002, she founded Gwen’s Girls as an after-school program because she was moved by the plight of pregnant teens she saw trapped in impossible home situations.

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