Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich, 89, former Buffalonian, senior government official, prominent political commentator

June 24, 1933 – September 16, 2022

Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich, a former Buffalon who held high positions in the administrations of President Jimmy Carter and Governor Mario Cuomo, then had her greatest impact as a political commentator and director of the influential Black Leadership Forum, is died September 16. in Hanover, Md., from complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. She was 89 years old.

Recognized as “one of the most important intellectual leaders of the modern civil rights movement”, she was born in Niagara Falls, the eldest of four children. Her father was Leonard A. Scruggs, an undertaker, Pullman pallbearer, and master electrical engineer, and her mother was Geneva B. Scruggs, a teacher and social activist for whom a former health clinic on Buffalo’s East Side was named.

She grew up in Buffalo, taking music and dance lessons and attending School 75. While at Fosdick-Masten Park High School, she worked for the school newspaper and, as a member of the debate team, had its first serious experiences with racial and sexual discrimination.

She played an important role at what is now North Carolina Central University, a historically black university in Durham, North Carolina, where she majored in political science, with a minor in history, and served as an editor. editor of the student newspaper his freshman year.

She was elected President of the Women’s Student Government, and after losing a race for the All-Student Body President because male students wouldn’t vote for a woman, the college president created a position for her as Head of undergraduate public relations.

In 1955, she received a Fulbright scholarship to study at the University of Bonn in Germany, the only African American among the 268 students who were accepted. She transferred to the Free University of Berlin and took ballet lessons at the Berlin Opera Ballet Company.

Upon her return in 1956, she enrolled in the School of Advanced International Studies at the Bologna Center of Johns Hopkins University in Italy, but as one of only two black female students, she did not feel that his abilities were respected.

“I told them that I was a specialist in Western Europe, bilingual in German, and that I didn’t want to be someone’s secretary,” she told an interviewer in 2013. .

As a result, she left to take an assistantship at what is now the Hubert Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, where she earned a master’s degree.

In 1959, she moved to Philadelphia, where she diverted her interests from international affairs to urban planning after being hired as a specialist for an urban renewal project. She went on to earn a doctorate in urban planning from the University of Pennsylvania.

She went to Washington, D.C., in 1974 to join the faculty of the former Howard University School of Architecture and Planning and joined the Carter administration in 1978 as Deputy Undersecretary of Housing and urban development.

She was also appointed Executive Director of the Urban and Regional Policy Task Force, where she oversaw the development of the first National Urban Policy.

She was divorced from her first husband Sherman Perry, whom she had met in college, when she returned to Buffalo in 1981 following the death of her mother to be Director of the Regional Officer of the State Housing Agency. . Here she met the Reverend Edward V. Leftwich Jr., a former gospel singer who was director of the State Assembly’s Urban Revitalization Task Force and district manager for Vice Assembly Speaker Arthur O.Eve. They married in 1982.

The following year, Dr. Scruggs-Leftwich became Albany’s highest-ranking African-American woman when Governor Mario Cuomo named her Commissioner of Housing and Community Renewal.

When she resigned in 1985, she was appointed deputy mayor of Philadelphia under the city’s first black mayor, W. Wilson Goode, and served for two years.

She then joined her husband as COO and co-owner of an innovative electronic banking company he developed to serve low-income families.

When it closed in 1990, it became a consultant in municipal finance and served on several boards of directors. She was invited to direct the Urban Policy Institute in Washington, DC, which she directed until 1995.

In 1996, she became the first executive director and chief operating officer of the Black Leadership Forum, a coalition of prominent civil rights leaders. She expressed her strategy for improving race relations in an interview with The Washington Post in 1997.

“Look smoke,” she said. “For a long time people said don’t smoke, it’s bad for your health, it’s bad for mine. Then people started complaining. Now smoking is not allowed in ( many public places). This is the same kind of moral persuasion that I would like to see prevail when it comes to the rights and privileges of people of color.”

She has also served as a professor at the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University and the National Labor College-George Meany Campus.

Retired in St. Petersburg, Florida, she and her husband started Quantum Opportunities, an after-school program for at-risk teens, through the Center for Community and Economic Justice. She chaired St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s transition team in 2012 and served as co-chair of the city’s 2020 Plan Task Force, which planned the revitalization of the depressed Southside neighborhood.

Her husband died in 2013 and she moved to Maryland in 2016 to be near one of his daughters.

She has produced numerous articles, political reports and commentaries, and appeared regularly on radio and television news programs. For her column in a syndicated newspaper, she won a Front Page Award for commentary from the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild in 2007.

She has been listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who Among Black Americans, and Who’s Who Among American Women.

Along with her siblings, she republished “Women of Distinction,” 91 biographical appreciations of notable 19th-century women of African descent written in 1893 by their grandfather, Dr. Lawson A. Scruggs, who built the first sanitarium African American against tuberculosis in the United States in the North. Caroline.

She is also the author of “Standing with My Fist: Black Women in the Political Diaspora” in 2005, “Consensus and Compromise: Creating the First National Urban Policy under President Carter” in 2006 and “Sound Bites of Protest: Race, Politics and Public Policy” in 2008.

She shared her second husband’s love for music, singing and playing piano and guitar.

Survivors include three daughters, Cathryn “Kate” Perry, Rebecca Perry-Glickstein, and Tienne Callender; one son, Edward V. “Jason” Leftwich III; two sisters, Harriet A. Scruggs and Roslyn E. Scruggs; one brother, Leonard A. “Peter” Scruggs; and three grandsons.

There will be no service.

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