DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Hundreds of people gathered in Dallas Friday to say goodbye to a city icon.
Kathlyn Gilliam died in Dallas last weekend after a 13-month battle with pancreatic cancer. She was remembered Friday at a funeral service in the Christian Chapel C.M.E. “Temple of Faith” church in North Dallas.
Kathlyn Gilliam’s middle name was Joy, and joy was one term here used to describe her life. “She brought light to South Dallas and made it even sunnier because she loved children and she loved her community,” said DISD Board member Karla Ranger. Another word used was dedication. Gilliam represented South Dallas as a DISD Board Trustee for 23-years.
“She was a pioneer,” said Judge Eric Moye, a former attorney for the school district. “She brought uncomfortable issues about education in the forefront in this town when people didn’t want to hear about them.” Moye talked about her legacy. “Her courage; for standing up in the face of a lot of people who didn’t want to hear about issues involving education, who didn’t care about poor people and how they were educated.”
Robert Price served on the board with Gilliam. “Our mission was to see that all students received the best education, especially those of African descent,” he told the audience. Kathlyn Gilliam was remembered as a mother, a civil rights activist, a fierce proponent of quality education for all kids, and the first African-American woman to be elected President of the DISD board.
Former Dallas Councilmember Diane Ragsdale remembers how detractors derisively claimed Gilliam was confused at times. “She wasn’t confused about city officials who robbed south Dallas residents of basic city services and opportunities. Ms. Gilliam loved South Dallas.”
“She built coalitions based on interests, not just based on race,” said State Senator Royce West.
Gilliam had foresight, and the resolve to stay in a fight until the very end, according to former State Representative Harryette Ehrhardt, who served on the school board with Gilliam. “I think her greatest contribution was showing many of us how we could truly love all the children.” Her influence spanned generations.
For everyone who attended her funeral, Gilliam made a difference… contributions not soon forgotten.
Gilliam will be buried in her home town of Campbell, in Hunt County.