When the Rev. Nathaniel Wilcox remembers his mother, Inez Wilcox, he thinks of his family as one unit.
“My mom and dad worked together as a team,” he said two days after Inez Wilcox died Monday morning at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital. She died in the city in which she was born and in a community she worked to improve over her 86 years.
“There was a total of 10 children, one died at birth, and they raised us in the church and demanded that we go to church and we go to school,” Nathaniel, 59, said. “You couldn’t get away with anything and couldn’t get in trouble because Mama worked at school.”
Nathaniel remembers a familiar refrain while growing up: “I’ll tell your Mama!”
Inez Wilcox was an English teacher at Miami’s Orchard Vila Elementary School on Northwest 13th Avenue and at Nautilus Middle School in Miami Beach. She was also a Deaconess at St. John Institutional Missionary Baptist Church in Overtown, an institution in the neighborhood that has survived for more than 100 years.
“The church has survived because not only do we love the Lord, we love our church and what it has meant for us for all of these years,” Inez told the Miami Herald in 2006 during its 100th anniversary. “We have gone through many experiences but we stuck it out. The people in this community needed us here.”
Inez Wilcox was baptized at St. John at age 9, decades before the civil-rights movement she championed in the 1940s as the daughter of the president of the Miami NAACP branch gained national traction through the efforts of Martin Luther King Jr. and others.
“She impacted family values, Christian values and how to be a lady,” said her friend and St. John member Lorraine Mobley. “She believed in helping her fellow man.”
Wilcox promoted voter registration by working alongside her son Nathaniel, the executive director at P.U.L.S.E. (People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality), a grassroots civil-rights group that advocates for black communities in Miami. She also was involved with the NAACP, and she helped raise money for Florida Memorial College every year to encourage college participation among black youth.
“She was an activist in getting the vote out,” Mobley said. “During elections she was enrolling black people to vote and trying to make things better in the community for black people. She believed it takes a village to raise a child and motivated a lot of young children to continue to get higher education.”
In 1989, Wilcox, while teaching at Nautilus, landed on The Oprah Winfrey Show when she answered Winfrey’s Valentine’s Day query to find the nation’s “husband of the year.” She nominated her spouse, James Wilcox. Winfrey’s multitudes voted James runner-up Husband of the Year.
“He’s always doing things above and beyond what the usual husband does,” she told the Herald at the time.
“I think I deserve it when I look at all these no-good husbands around,” James Wilcox, who died in 1997 at 77, quipped.
“We were not a rich family, but a close family and rich in terms of relationship,” Nathaniel said. “We are thankful for having a mom like that. We weren’t rich but God blessed us with a close-knit family that enjoyed one another.”
Inez Wilcox is survived by seven children, David, Nathaniel, Andrew, Miriam, Noel, Queen and Dorcas and 21 grandchildren. Sons Isaac and Paul died before her.
Services will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday at St. John Institutional Missionary Baptist Church, 1328 NW Third Ave., Miami.