AUGUSTA — If Niravelt O’Connor ever gets to meet President Barack Obama, she’s going to throw her arms around him and give him a big hug.

“He’s a hugger. So am I,” said the 81-year-old African-American summer resident of Fuller Road. “I’ve adopted him. He doesn’t know it.”

She worked on the Obama campaign in 2008, making up to 80 phone calls a day.

“It was interesting talking to so many people,” she said. “I talked to a woman who was 94 who said, ‘He’s very smart.’ There were people overseas who were glad for him. We only hear about the bad, and so many good things are happening.”

Since 2006, O’Connor has been sending Barack and Michelle Obama notes and letters and has received photographs and notes back from the first family.

Her memories date back to the administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for whom she was named when she was born in 1933.

“Nira” stands for the initials of President Roosevelt’s National Industrial Recovery Act, which was designed to stimulate economic recovery during the Great Depression. “Velt” is the last syllable of Roosevelt’s family name.

O’Connor recalls seeing FDR standing on the back of a campaign train that ran through Erie, Pennsylvania, and waving to the crowds.

She also remembers learning of the president’s death in 1945 when she was going door to door raising money for church and “a lady said, ‘Maybe you want to stop. The president has just died.’ It was very dramatic.”

Her father, Jefferson Davis Myers, a bishop in the Church of God and Christ, marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the march on Selma, Alabama, in 1963.

O’Connor was a junior president of the NAACP and went to a national convention in 1961 where she met civil rights leaders Roy Wilkins and James Meredith and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

“I was always active in the Democratic Party,” she said. “I was a ballot clerk in my 20s in Erie, Pennsylvania. I shook Clinton’s hand when he came to town. He had that charisma about him.”

She worked 24 years for the Pennsylvania Insurance Commission as a regulator handling all types of insurance cases. In 1967, she married William Allen O’Connor, a merchant seaman. They were married 22 years until her husband died in 1989.

O’Connor’s son, William, settled in Hallowell and had four children while her daughter, Kelly, had two children and settled in Florida. She moved to Augusta in 2006 to be near her son’s family but spends the winters in Florida.

She is troubled by the current violence that has spawned the “Black Lives Matter” movement. She thinks it may have sprung from a lack of interaction between blacks and whites in recent years.

“You think way back to the times when soldiers were asked to go out and get the slaves that were running away,” she said. “A lot of young people don’t know what they’re doing. When I grew up, the policemen and the citizens knew each other and were friends. Now we don’t have that.”

But O’Connor is optimistic about the future of race relations in this country.

“I believe the pendulum is swinging,” she said. “We have reached that point where we’re going to say, ‘It’s going to start with me.'”

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