Leola Bullock was a powerful and enduring force for human rights in Lincoln.
Her legacy is everywhere in the Capital City, from the workplace to the classroom to the government.
Consider this benchmark. When Bullock and her husband, Hugh, moved to Lincoln in 1950, the city had no black sales clerks. When she was hired by Gold's department store, Bullock became the first.
In a 1988 interview in the Journal Star, Bullock said that after she was hired at Gold's, other jobs began opening up for black people. Bullock could remember when the first black bank teller was hired, and the first black teacher.
Like the other civil rights activists of the 1950s and 1960s, Bullock participated in picket lines to protest inequality. One example was a protest of lunch counter segregation. It became known as the "one-woman picket line" because the group of black women involved were so few in number that they could have only one picket at a site at a time.
In the 1970s, a group she founded, the Association of Black Citizens, was instrumental in the establishment of the Lincoln Police Review Board. The new board gave minority residents and others a place to lodge complaints about police misconduct -- and the assurance they would not be ignored. Hugh Bullock served as a member.
The words used to describe Bullock after her death Sunday at age 81 included unselfish, tenacious, unrelenting, caring and loving.
"She was not always liked by some, but she never held a grudge," said Leroy Stokes, leader of the local NAACP and a friend.
Marilyn Moore, associate superintendent for instruction with Lincoln Public Schools, described Bullock's style as one that brought people in, rather than pushed them away.
"Personally, I just loved being with her. Her smile, her warmth and genuine affection for people was wonderful," Moore said. "It was not a political strategy. That's just who she was."
One of her long-time passions was education. She fought for non-whites to be more accurately portrayed in public history textbooks. She worked for equal education for all children, and education that helped all races grow up and live in a multicultural world.
Consider another benchmark. In the 1950s, an American history textbook used widely in Nebraska referred to the Ku Klux Klan as a "social club." The book made no mention of lynching, beatings or other violence. It had only the equivalent of one page of text about the positive contributions of black people, and virtually nothing about the contributions of Latinos or Asian-Americans.
Thanks to Bullock and many others, there have been major societal changes for the better. But as the community notes Bullock's considerable accomplishments during a remarkable life, it's important to remember that even at age 81, she still was working to eliminate social injustice.
"Never give up," she once said. "The struggle is always going to be there."