Shirley Lacey

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Served 15 years on Englewood Council

Shirley Lacycq, a civil rights activist who served 15 years on the Englewood City Council, died at Inglemoor Rehabilitation & Care Center on Saturday, a day after her 88th birthday.

"She was all of 4-foot-11 but a towering figure a real firebrand," a daughter, Celeste Lacy Davis, said Tuesday.

By the time |of her 1977 appointment to fill a 4th Ward council vacancy, the Harlem-born and New York University-educated Mrs. Lacy had a long civil rights résumé.

She marched in Alabama with Martin Luther King Jr., battled for the desegregation of the Englewood public schools and worked to register minority voters. While chairwoman of the area chapter of the Congress on Racial Equality, she led picketing of swim clubs that refused admission to blacks. Those efforts bore fruit in 1963 when a dozen clubs in Bergen and Rockland counties ended their bans.

Mrs. Lacy was best known for promoting the political empowerment of African-Americans, her daughter said. She was, for a time, in a position to do so, as leadership training director of the Scholarship, Education and Defense Fund for Racial Equality, which developed community projects in the minority community.

"The name of the game for poor people is power, not revenge," she said in a 1970 profile of the organization in The New York Times.

Her own political involvement consisted of service on the Englewood City Council she was president in 1985 and 1986 and worked as a legislative aide to state Sen. Byron Baer, D-Englewood. Earlier, she was an organizer in the 1972 presidential campaign of Shirley Chisholm, an African-American congresswoman from Brooklyn.

Former Mayor Sondra Greenberg recalled Mrs. Lacy as a collegial and hardworking representative who pushed developers of Englewood construction projects to hire minority workers.

At a 1992 council hearing, Mrs. Lacy scolded the owner of a Hackensack adult novelty shop who wanted to open a branch of the business in her 4th Ward. She accused the merchant of targeting Englewood because of its black population.

"I hope you will never open in Englewood," she said. "We have enough problems as it is guiding and directing, if you will, our young people in wholesome activities."

Weeks later, the council approved an ordinance restricting such businesses to industrial zones.

Former Assemblyman Arnold Brown, D-Englewood, the first African-American from Bergen County to serve in the Legislature, said Mrs. Lacy was "a person of civic consciousness who worked toward good causes."

"That she has gone on to her glory is a great loss to our community," he added.

Shirley Lacy is survived by her daughters, Deirdre Gaskin of Englewood and Celeste Lacy Davis of Brooklyn; two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Her husband, Reginald Lewis Lacy, died in 1969.

The funeral service will be Tuesday at 11 a.m. at Community Baptist Church of Englewood. Arrangements are by Benta's Funeral Home, Manhattan.

Email: levin@northjersey.com
Published in The Record on May 23, 2012
bullet Civil Rights
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