Losing Frederick Simmons

The note that i received was brief.  A good friend of mine notified me that our mutual friend, Frederick Simmons, had died just the other day.

You probably have never heard of Frederick.  He was a movement soldier in Seattle, Washington.  An electrician, he was an active member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and someone who, for years, had been engaged in the struggle for global and domestic justice.  A member of the path-breaking organization known as LELO (originally, Labor & Employment Law Office) founded by the iconic Tyree Scott, Frederick was involved in the struggles of Seattle, including the fight to desegregate the building trades.

Frederick was the sort of person who did not seek the limelight.  He reminded me, in both his courage and humility, of another ‘soldier’ i met many years ago, James Garrett who, coincidentally, was engaged in the struggle to desegregate the building trades (in that case, in Boston, MA).  In both cases, these brothers were willing to take stands and steps that many others avoided.  Neither of them saw themselves as leaders, but both were, in their own very important ways.

In our struggle for social justice there are those, such as Frederick, who history will largely ignore.  They will not speak before crowds of hundreds of thousands; they will not be invited onto TV or radio; their opinion will not be sought by media outlets or academic researchers.  Yet our movement goes nowhere without the likes of Frederick Simmons.  He was the sort of person you knew, in going into any fight, would not turn and run.  He not only had your back, but expected you, too, to do the right thing.

Frederick Simmons was a loyal friend and a committed fighter for social justice.  It is tragic that he was taken from us while he was still full of commitment and energy.  But we are lucky that he was with us at all for these many years as someone who heard and responded to the calls for freedom and  justice.

May his soul rest easy.

10 thoughts on “Losing Frederick Simmons

  1. Seldom do we acknowledge the work done by the many foot soldiers in our movement and this is a lovingly beautiful tribute to Fred and the work he did for so many years of his life.

  2. Beautiful words. I didn’t know Frederick. But I followed and wrote about the work of IBEW’s courageous African-American members in Seattle and the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus, a group that has, like Frederick, tirelessly spread the message over decades that a union can be strong only if it is truly diverse and inclusive.

  3. Our dear brother Frederick was a big man with a big heart and unwavering courage! He came to us though the indomitable comrade Tyree Scott and he showed what a powerful leader a black man in the construction trades could be. In the spirit of “international solidarity” we went to Brazil and Mexico to listen to how the Empire was crushing the worker’s by any means! Fred – I/we love you and will never forget how you led by example! Thank you Brother/Comrade Bill for that beautiful tribute to Frederick and his contribution to the movement.

  4. That was very well said and written! Thank you for sharing Brother! I didn’t knew Frederick as well, so I especially appreciate learning more about his legacy and abundant contributions!
    He will be deeply missed!

    Elita Mitchell

  5. It is true that the silent soldiers like Fredrick do not get the recognition they deserve . Thank You Bill.

  6. I just found this tribute page, Fred was a big “brother” in every sense of the word I’m better for having known him I personally admired the way he not only stood up for the movement but also the way he stood up for himself

    • Yes, he was an outstanding brother. Each time that i visit Seattle i feel a special sadness knowing that he is not there. He is missed by so many people.

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