from the American Library Association
Civil Rights Pioneer, Librarian E.J. Josey Dies at 85

News reached the ALA Council list yesterday evening that Elonnie
Junius Josey, better known as E. J., had died
Friday, July 3 2009, in
Washington, North Carolina, at age 85.

E. J. Josey was born January 20, 1924. By 1984 he had reached the
pinnacle of his profession, becoming the second African-American
president of the American Library Association (Clara Jones was the
first, in 1976) after devoting his professional life to fighting the
racism that permeated American society. Those of us who had the
privilege of knowing E. J. knew him to be a fighter. Perhaps more than
any other member of
ALA, Josey represented that changes in the nation
and the profession that occurred in the second half of the 20th
century. One of the first and foremost African American library
educators (
University of Pittsburgh) and a trailblazer in Association
leadership, he said in a 2000 interview, “I was born and grew up in
the days of segregation in the kind of society that not only
dehumanizes me as an African American, but dehumanized my family and
all African Americans.” But he also noted that “people who know me
best will also say that I fought for all people who were
disadvantaged, including minorities and women, not only in our
profession but throughout the world.” He organized the Black Caucus of
the American Library Association in 1970, and in 2002 he was awarded
Honorary Membership in
ALA, the Association’s highest honor.

Not only was E. J. Josey a fighter for human rights, he was also a
fighter when it came to the ill health that ultimately put him in a
wheelchair. The last time I saw him was at the 2008
ALA Midwinter
Meeting, where the beaming octogenarian received an impromptu
introduction to basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It was one of
dozens and dozens of proud moments in the illustrious career of a man
who changed the face of librarianship and the country.

Randolph Funeral Home in at 219 North Bonner Street in Washington,
North Carolina
, is handling the service. Funeral Director Betty
Randolph told me this morning that she is meeting with the family
today to finalize arrangements. The funeral is tentatively set for
Saturday, July 11.