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Hundreds gathered at Milwaukee’s oldest African-American church Saturday to celebrate the life of Vel Phillips, the pioneering civil rights leader, who smashed racial and gender barriers as a lawyer, city council woman and Wisconsin secretary of state.

“These pinnacles were not what made Vel’s story Vel’s story,” said U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), who eulogized Phillips at a memorial service Saturday at St. Mark African Methodist Episcopal Church — itself a central player in Milwaukee’s civil rights history.

Moore called Phillips “a valley…