Edith Hilliard has a new title. Retired. After 50 years of employment and volunteering, Hilliard is finally doing something for herself. She’s going to travel, rest a little and spend more time with her family.

Donned in her signature purple, the former executive assistant at the Goodman Community Center, was lauded for her leadership, her commitment to community and her welcoming smile. Hundreds attended her retirement party at Goodman on Oct. 30.  

“I really feel humbled this evening,” Hilliard said. “I just can’t tell you how much I appreciate you all. I’ve loved every single placed I’ve worked. I’ve had a blessed work career and I don’t think many people can say that. Of all the different places I’ve worked at I’ve maintained relationships with people I worked with because I cared about them and they cared about me.” 

Hilliard began her career a half-century ago breaking barriers. She was the first African American woman hired at Wisconsin Power and Light Company, now known as Alliant Energy. The longtime Madison resident and community activist also worked at MPI Protective Service, before coming to Goodman Community Center. Her commitment to helping others was recognized when the centered founded the Edith Lawrence-Hilliard Reception Lounge of Goodman’s Ironworks Building. 

She extended her leadership and community service to numerous area organizations including Women in Focus (WIF), YWCA Board of Directors, Wisconsin Women of Color Network (WWCN), Dane County Minority Affairs Commission, United Way of Dane County, and Olbrich Botanical Gardens.  

Hilliard served on a committee to plan the Madison’s first Martin Luther King Jr. Day dinner and is the longest standing member for WIF. 

 “Our branding color is purple,” Verona Morgan said of the WIF. “As you can see Edith is usually wearing some item that is the color purple whether it’s a hat, a coat, a dress … she loves the color purple. So, I decided to look up the personality meaning of the color purple. And I learned the following which perfectly defines Edith. 

“Having either purple or violet as your favorite color means you are sensitive and compassionate; understanding and supportive; thinks of others before yourself,” Morgan added. 

Hilliard, who is the historian in her family, is able to trace her roots seven generations deep in Wisconsin. She has three children, as well as eleven grandchildren, in the area.  

“I’m pretty excited to see my mom reach this level,” said Nimrod Hilliard III. “I never thought she’d ever retire, but we’ll see if she does.” 

He said his mother’s work ethic is like no other and her love for others is no exception.  

“My mom has so much dignity and she has her hands in everything,” Nimrod Hilliard added. “She has such great love for Madison, and it shows.” 

As well-wishers ushered Edith Hilliard toward her next chapter in life, she was gifted many cards and presents including a purple passport cover, neck pillow and suitcase. Hilliard’s goal in retirement is to visit African American museums and cultural centers in the United States. 

“Since you are the very best, we thought you should start at the very best, so we bought you a trip to Washington, D.C. , so you can visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture,” said Becky Steinhoff, executive director of the Goodman Community Center.