By Paul Cobb
Johnnie Ann Lacy is shown above top left in her capacity as the Executive Director for Center of Independent Living. She is also pictured above right as a nursing student in San Francisco before she contracted polio. The most recent photo is her with glasses in the middle.
Johnnie Ann Lacy rode into the sunset November 15 in Hayward.
She built bridges and onramps to the freedom of movement for the disabled.
To the disabled of the bay area she was a big wheel. To the powers that she confronted
As an activist and advocate, she was the wheel within the wheels that rolled up victory after victory for equal access to transportation, building entrances and dignified health care.
She was the little wheel that ran by the grace of god.
She had aspired to become a nurse but was struck down by Polio while serving as a student nurse on the polio ward at St. Francis Hospital in San Francisco.
After standing tall against that dreaded disease she contracted polio and was confined to a wheelchair.
Johnnie Ann Lacy was born on January 26, 1937, in Huttig, Arkansas to Mr. Willie McHenry Lacy, Sr. and Mrs. Alice Lorraine Carrington Lacy. She died at the Parkview Skilled Nursing Home in Hayward.
Always a god-fearing woman, her religious training began at her great-grandmother’s knees.
She attended schools in Monroe, Louisiana before her family moved to McCloud, California in 1947. Johnnie graduated as class president from high school in McCloud in 1954. Aspiring to become a nurse while attending Chico State College, Johnnie enrolled at Chico State College in Chico, California. While serving as a student nurse on the polio ward at St. Francis Hospital in San Francisco, Johnnie contracted polio. She was confined to a wheel chair.
Johnnie Lacy’s wheelchair was not her impediment.
Her wheelchair became her chariot when she advocated for the access and health needs of the disabled community. Through her advocacy the disabled were enabled to gain access to public transportation and public buildings. She brought the tactics and fervor of the civil rights movement to her cause. Congresspersons Pete Stark, Ron Dellums, Barbara Lee, George Miller and many more stood tall when she, in her van, with her cohorts, “rode-in” on issues of health and safety. She rolled-up the big wheels in government and business when she spoke for the powerless.
She graduated from San Francisco State College with a degree in Speech,
She also attended the University of California at Berkeley. She was one of the founding members of the Center for Independent Living in Berkeley where she worked for a time before becoming the executive director of Community Resources for Independent Living (CRIL) in Hayward from which she retired in 1994.
Johnnie was the youngest of the Lacy children. She was preceded in passing by her parents and sister, Mary Alice Lacy. She leaves to treasure her memory her brother, Willie Allen Lacy, Jr. of Atlanta, Georgia, her sister, Janie Mae Lacy Murphy of McCloud, California and Janie’s twin brother, James Lee Lacy of Berkeley, California.
Her soul is at rest knowing that she went beyond her physical disabilities and created a life for herself that is a benchmark for all to reach. She ably defended the disabled. Her funeral was held Friday at the East Bay Church of Religious Science.at 3 p.m.
(Next week: Part 2. Johnnie Lacy’s Legacy)