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Remembering Gloria Johnson, Trailblazer for Equal Rights


Gloria JohnsonThis week San Diego Democrats mourn the passing of Gloria Johnson (1937-2013), who was known for four decades as one of California’s most forceful activists for feminist and lesbian issues and Democratic politics.

Gloria became the first openly LGBT person to serve on the San Diego County Democratic Central Committee in 1976; she was named a Lifetime Member this year. She was a longtime board member and past president of San Diego Democrats for Equality (previously known as the San Diego Democratic Club).

In 1978 Gloria served as the San Diego Co-Chair of the committee to defeat the Briggs Initiative (Proposition 6), which would have banned gays and lesbians from teaching in California public schools.

Gloria was a longtime member of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and served as Co-President of the San Diego County Chapter and Vice President for Political Action for California NOW. Before her retirement in 1999, she worked as a social worker for San Diego County for 30 years, where she supported clients living with AIDS.

Those fortunate enough to have known Gloria Johnson will miss her vibrant personality and tenacious committment to the causes she championed.

A memorial service has been scheduled for Thursday, November 7, at 1:30 p.m. at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego, of which Gloria was an active member. The service will be in the UUC Meeting House, 4190 Front Street, San Diego, CA 92103. Parking is available at the UUC or the adjacent UCSD parking structure. (Thanks to Cindy Green for the memorial service information, please see more in her comments below.)


Gloria will be missed by all. Jennifer and I have both known Gloria for many years and were active in her life the last couple of years, helping her whenever she needed assistance. The obituary in Tuesday’s Union-T covers many of her professional and volunteer projects. She was also a dear and beloved friend.
– Bob Wilberg

I’d like to note that Gloria was a tireless advocate for choice. With all of her hard work, she was quick to recognize the work of others. The last time I visited with her (a few weeks ago), she was on top of current political issues while warmly reflecting on the recognition she has received over her many years of service. We will miss her very much.
– Jennifer Cruse

4 Comments

  1. Cindy Green says

    This from an email I received this week from the LGBT Caucus of the California Democratic Party. An update for her memorial service.

    Cindy Green

    A memorial service has been scheduled for Thursday, November 7, at 1:30 p.m. at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego, of which Gloria was an active member. The service will be in the UUC Meeting House, 4190 Front Street, San Diego, CA 92103. Parking is available at the UUC or the adjacent UCSD parking structure.

    “Gloria was a pioneer on behalf of LGBT equality long before there were award-winning films about LGBT heroes or a President who supported marriage equality,” said Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, to the San Diego Union Tribune in their obituary. “She worked in the trenches when being openly LGBT was unpopular and risky.”

    Gloria was born in Los Angeles on August 26, 1937, moving to San Diego to attend California Western University in the early 1960s. She worked for San Diego County for 30 years as a social worker, first for elderly patients, and then with AIDS patients at the outset and during the worst years of the AIDS crisis.

    In the early 1970s, Johnson began her political activism in the women’s movement, joining the National Organization for Women, and working especially for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. She and other NOW activists spent 2 days in a Washington, DC jail after protesting the ERA’s defeat. In 1972, she worked for Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm’s campaign as the first African-American to run for President. Gloria became the San Diego County NOW chapter president from 1982 to 1983 and again from 1985 to 1988. She helped found the chapter’s Lesbian Rights Task Force, and in 1988 Gloria was director of NOW’s national Lesbian Rights Conference held in San Diego.

    In 1976, Gloria became the first openly lesbian person to be elected to the San Diego Democratic Central Committee. In 1977, Ms. Johnson joined the San Diego (LGBT) Democratic Club, now called San Diego Democrats for Equality, and became the club president in 1980. In 1978, she co-chaired a committee that fought against Proposition 6, the “Briggs Initiative”, a state initiative that would have banned gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools. She was a delegate to the 1980, 1996 and 2000 Democratic National Conventions. Gloria served as Co-Chair of the California Democratic Party’s LGBT Caucus from 2003 to 2007.

    San Diego Women’s Hall of Fame 2003 Video Tribute

    Gloria’s many honors included:

    1984 – The Advocate’s Top 400 U.S. LGBT Leaders

    2003 – San Diego Women’s Hall of Fame

    2007 – The Center San Diego Wall of Honor

    2009 – Gay & Lesbian Times Person of the Year

    2011 – Lambda Archives San Diego Heroes, Pioneers, & Trailblazers

    2012 – 76th Assembly District LGBT Person of the Year

    2013 – San Diego Mayor’s Living Legend

    Gloria always said San Diego Pride was her favorite holiday. “Yes, I actually enjoy it more than the traditional holidays that are on our calendars, because it is my day. I have been there from its earliest days when a small group of us folks strutted down Broadway and waived at a few people along the way.”

    Gloria, we’ve come a long way, and you carried us here. You will be sorely missed, dear friend.

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  2. Pingback: Gloria Johnson’s Celebration of Life – August 26, 1937 to September 22, 2013 | Point Loma Democratic Club

  3. Pingback: Gloria Johnson’s Celebration of Life – August 26, 1937 to September 22, 2013 | San Diego County Democratic Party – Club News

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