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Thu, 09.16.1920

Cozelle Breedlove, Activist and Youth Mentor born

Cozelle Breedlove

*Cozelle Breedlove was born on this date in 1920. He was a Black community program director, teacher, and mentor.

Born and raised on the North side of Minneapolis, Cozy Breedlove always considered himself a product of the Phyllis Wheatley House, a community center for Black children to participate in sports, cultural and educational events.

After graduating from North H.S. in 1939, he was awarded an athletic scholarship to attend Alabama State University in Montgomery.  The Army drafted him out of school and served stateside in World War II.  In Minneapolis, he won a Golden Gloves heavyweight boxing championship in 1949, the year he completed his last year of college at the University of Minnesota, earning a bachelor's degree in physical education.

But schools in Minneapolis, where blacks couldn't get a meal in a restaurant, weren't hiring Black teachers.  So he worked for Northern States Power (now Xcel Energy) for two years before starting as a boys' coach at Phyllis Wheatley in the early 1950s.  For decades, whether Breedlove was handing out football equipment or chaperoning dances, he was also mentoring, teaching character, commitment, and morality, attributes he had been taught as a young man at Wheatley.

In the late 1960s, Breedlove founded the Pilot City Regional Center and served on the board for 25 years. An initiative in President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, Pilot City provided financial counseling, welfare referral, and emergency shelter and food. Breedlove held a variety of titles at Wheatley in the 1970s, including executive director. Breedlove officially retired in 1988 as special assistant to the executive director. Still, he kept working to further his wish in 1974: "Fifty years from now, I want the Wheatley to still be the advocate, the fighter, the counselor, and the helper of the people over here." He also said, "The Wheatley was the only link for the folks with the outside world, which was the rest of town."

Cozelle (Cozy) Breedlove of Minneapolis was a gentle but demanding guide at the Phyllis Wheatley Community Center for over three decades as a coach, counselor, executive director, and surrogate father.  He died on February 18, 2004, of renal failure at 83 and is buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.

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Image: Susan Breedlove

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