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Denver's MLK Business Awards honoree champions voting and Black cowboy culture

Denver's MLK Business Awards honoree champions voting and Black cowboy culture
Denver's MLK Business Awards honoree champions voting and Black cowboy culture 03:14

She's been called an integral piece of Denver's tapestry. And on Friday she was honored with the Trailblazer Award at the Martin Luther King Jr. Business Awards.

Peggy Wortham has worked for decades to promote civil rights and appreciation for the integral role of Blacks in the prosperity of the West.

Peggy Wortham

"I'm from a place called Danville, Virginia.  It's south of Washington, DC. Age myself now but I graduated high school in 1963," said Wortham.

After graduation, Peggy Wortham convinced her mom to let her live with her godmother in Washington, DC. And months later she was an eyewitness to history, attending the 1963 March on Washington.

She said, "It was quite an honor just to be there and see everybody and hear all the speeches and it was such great energy. I was impressed with the fact that Dr. King was talking about equality for all, jobs and better conditions for everybody."

A military spouse, Wortham and her young family eventually moved to Denver and encountered housing discrimination.

Her family had to enlist white allies for something as simple as renting a home in Denver's Park Hill neighborhood.

"So when we went they said no. But when we sent the white person they said yes. So we got involved with the NAACP, and the Urban League and housing and all the different groups to try to stop that from going on in Park Hill," Wortham said.

Wortham's career included working on the staff of Mayor Wellington Webb, and the campaigns of Black leaders around the country. She wants fellow Americans to never underestimate the power of the vote.

Peggy Wortham

"With the younger people, they're questioning, what is it all about? And we're trying to say, again you get out and vote, you got a voice, but if you stay home, don't vote, complain. You're just more a part of the problem than you are the solution," she said.

And a champion for the MLK Jr African American Heritage rodeo, Wortham loves educating kids in Denver and people across the country about the essential role of Blacks in Western history.

"Coming from Virginia, we didn't have any cowboys or cowgirls so I was in awe when I saw real cowboys and cowgirls," said Wortham.

At 78, Wortham says there's still a lot of work to do to realize Dr. King's dream. And she's here ready to fight the good fight.


Wortham said, "I never thought in 1963, that I'd be here receiving the MLK Award in 2024. But it's a pleasure and a blessing."

Denver hosts one of the largest MLK events in the nation with the Marade set for Monday morning. You can watch live streaming coverage starting at 9:30 a.m. on CBS News Colorado.

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