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A Lesson in Love: Elise and James Allen… Their Lives Remembered – A Very Personal Reflection by Cassiette West-Williams  

It can be argued that Black royalty in Peoria continues with the Allen family. Elise Ford Allen’s petite stature, standing next to her husband, James O. Allen, made them a stunning couple. Attractive,  full of fresh ideas, very child friendly, and known for their solid family values, many people trusted them. 

Elise F. and James O. Allen

They were sweet on the surface, shrewd and smart business entrepreneurs, old-schooled minded parents, with a deep-seated longing for justice, equality, and the freedom that American citizenship that everyone else enjoyed in these United States. They were able to scrutinize America and unravel the strings of poverty and discrimination that have held thousands of people back from opportunities and professional success.

What made this town cherish the Allens’ was their quest for truth. The Allens’ were known for their genuine outreach to the community and never expecting a “repayment” for their good deeds. To the Allens’, everyone was someone and deserved respect and dignity. Whether you were in prison or had a title and position in Peoria, they accepted you as you were and moved accordingly. 

And James knew that his wife, Elise,  was his secret agent, who could turn the world upside down. When she spoke,  when she embraced a cause, Mrs. Allen sat behind a typewriter, eloquently explaining her position on a subject or person’s injustice. She was never afraid to speak her truth, and she did with the fierceness of a lion.

Elise could whip out an editorial that would spill out her wisdom and life’s knowledge. Self-taught and self-made, the Allens’ took note of the 1950s and 1960s civil rights era and turned it into magic, power, accountability, action, and love.

That love for each other flooded into the community in various ways, as their love was the catalyst for Peoria’s slow but an eventual change in policies, principles, and deep-seated problems that impacted people of color.

When you looked at Elise and James Allen, you saw the love language of action. You saw a couple who believed that situations needed to be explored, and circumstances were examined throughout the state, the county, and the city.

Their love was a mission to each other and a force to change the way people thought about race, political issues, families, and community building. 

Two flawed, unselfish individuals who united as one to bring their brilliance to a segregated nation. It was not just about enhancing conditions for their ten children but addressing the wrongs of the world for everyone.

Their love was a tall order to follow, and she kept the legacy going, years after he had transitioned. She walked the walk and talked the talk without fear. Mother nature surrounded her with family, nature, and sensitive, caring relatives at home.

Their love was the Black revolution. The Black royalty of Peoria. The couple that took the Biblical scripture to heart, John 13:34, reads,  “Love one another, as I have loved you.” We stand in awe of real love, dedication, perseverance, and strong, courageous voices.

They have now reunited with God, and their love continues to beg of our souls, to carry on the core of their lifelong work.

Thank you for showing Peoria what is possible to achieve thru compassion, common sense, forgiveness, and love.

Elise Ford Allen passed away in her home on November 3, 2021, at 100 years and three months of age.