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New York Times Magazine remembers Carrie Lucas

Some words of appreciation to the New York Times Magazine for recognizing the life of Carrie Ann Lucas are warranted. So thanks from so many of us to The New York Times that had the ken and cognizance to place Carrie Lucas in The New York Times Magazine, “The Lives They Lived, remembering some of the artists, innovators and thinkers we lost in the past year”: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/12/23/magazine/carrie-ann-lucas-death.html. [1]

Constantly amazed by the blades of the fan on the ceiling
The clever little glances she gives me can’t help but be appealing
. . .
Sometimes I catch her dreamin’ and wonder where that little mind meanders
Is she strollin’ along the shore or cruisin’ o’er the broad Savannah
I know someday she’ll learn to make up her own rhymes
Someday she’s gonna learn how to fly
Oh that I won’t deny
. . .
I catch a little more dialogue comin’ my way
I see those big brown eyes just start to lookin’ astray
. . .
Little Miss Magic, what you gonna be?[2]

That was a song Heather Lucas loved when listening to Jimmy Buffet sing it, and even when I sang it to her. Heather was the niece and first of the many children with disabilities Carrie Lucas[3] adopted creating her marvelous family. It was as if Jimmy Buffett wrote those particular lyrics for Heather. Most thought Heather did not understand. She did. Carrie knew it.

Heather Lucas
Heather Lucas

It was as if Carrie Lucas was put on the planet for the sole purpose of believing that kids like Heather and parents like Carrie herself all have the nearly unlimited potential Carrie proved she and her kids actually had and still have. As noted in the Magazine, Carrie was responsible for having Colorado law changed so the disability is not permitted to be considered as a factor in adopting children.

The edition features Toni Morrison, David Berman, Leah Chase, Luke Perry, Unita Blackwell, Richard Todd, Elijah Cummings, Robert Frank, Kathryn Johnson, Angus McQueen, Etika,[4] Doris Day, Harold Bloom, Isabel Toledo, Peggy Lipton, Barbara York Main, and Opportunity.

Some of these names are very familiar to many. Others not so much. But the simple fact that individuals with disabilities’ lives are finally being recognized and counted among such other great lives in national publications is uplifting, to say the least. And Carrie Lucas’ life! What compares?! Thank you to the New York Times for recognizing our lives and contributions. Thank you even more for recognizing Carrie.

Carrie received many well-deserved accolades and has received remarkable recognition, but somehow, this recognition seems more striking and important than many others. The concept behind the annual NYT Magazine publication — the lives they lived — really drives home the importance of what Carrie was about and what her life encompassed.  The rest of us mere mortals cannot do what she did.

I am not worthy to even write this blog or dedication. There are so many who had tighter connections with Carrie, who loved and love Carrie in so many ways and were far more involved in her daily life and were in regular contact with her and her family. In fact, there was even a fallout between Carrie and our organization related to our work relationship before she left to split off the Center for the Rights of Parents with Disabilities, but that is so unimportant now.

Nevertheless, as I write this, I am sitting in the house I bought from Carrie. I live in this house not only because she made it wonderfully accessible, but also because we shared many great memories: The parties we had:

gathering at Carrie's house
Gathering at Carrie’s (now my) house with friends

The dinners I had with Carrie and her increasing family; the Fourth of July celebrations.

Of course, there was Chase:

Chase, the family dog, in dog bed
Chase, the family dog

And there were the hot tub extravaganzas (those of you who participated, you know who you are).

I felt compelled to bring this latest recognition of Carrie’s life to those who have not already seen it. Mainly, because I am so struck to see the focus of the importance of her life in the Magazine. Hers was a life! So few of us are capable of living such a life.

There is a long history related to my great fortune of knowing Carrie. I have a disability and use a motorized wheelchair as well and I am the Legal Program Director for the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (“CCDC”). I have been a lawyer with CCDC for 22 years specializing exclusively in civil rights law for people with disabilities. CCDC was very fortunate to have Carrie wander in (as many of us did in some form or another back in those days — somehow finding our way into working with the leading disability rights organization in the state of Colorado). At that time, Carrie was using a manual wheelchair, and the nature of her disability was different. Carrie became my Legal Program Assistant. She then went on to law school and rejoined us as an attorney. It is difficult to remember how many cases we worked on together then. Carrie also served as a plaintiff in a number of lawsuits. She had to. When her civil rights as a person with disabilities were in jeopardy, Carrie took action — litigation, protests and arrests and yes — yelling at bus drivers at 5:00 p.m. on Broadway amidst rush hour traffic and complaining passengers when the driver claimed there was “no room on the bus.” RTD found this behavior rude. We found this “rude” behavior to be absolutely necessary — explaining to the driver that her civil rights were being violated — Carrie got on the bus (which would have left without her unless she demanded people move from the wheelchair accessible areas; there was room, and she needed to get home to her kids!).

Carrie was deeply rooted in the causes of social justice for everyone and particularly people with disabilities. Prior to coming to CCDC, she had already received her Master of Divinity degree and was ordained as a minister. “Reverend Radical” was her nickname. She and I shared several distinctions: we both sued the institutions of higher learning from which we earned degrees and taught them compliance with the law was a good idea. We also both were Parrotheads[5] which explains the connection to the referenced song above. Because Carrie moved to northern Colorado, we didn’t spend as much time together. But when I think back to the hours we did spend together in CCDC’s first (technically second) offices on scenic East Colfax Avenue. We probably spent 12 hours a day working and stopping at various local pubs for a beer afterward as well as those poker games with friends and colleagues on the weekends. Those were good days. We accomplished a lot of great work for people with disabilities, and we enjoyed a great friendship and a lot of laughing (mostly about the conduct of opposing counsel). We even suffered through the occasional losses for which I still owe enormous gratitude for Carrie’s relentless work:

Carrie and me after losing a case
Carrie and me after losing a trial

Of course, that was many protests and jail time and lawsuits and Carrie’s adoption of (I actually lost count) something like five children with disabilities, if you count everyone. Heather was the first. I remember when Carrie called me (I am probably one of the most kid-phobic people on the planet) and asked me what I thought of her adopting a second child with a disability. But, because it was Carrie, I think I said I was strongly in favor. Few would be a better parent for a child with a disability than Carrie.

There is no article, eulogy or any other attribute that covers a life. Particularly, Carrie’s life. Thank you, NYT Magazine for this recognition.

Oh, “All the stories we could tell[!]”[6]

Picture of Carrie Lucas, her nephew, Gavin, and Kevin Williams at Coors Field 2018 Jimmy Buffet/Eagles concert 2018

Kevin Williams, CCDC Civil Rights Legal Program Director

 

[1] The New York Times had published her obituary already on February 27, 2019:
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/27/obituaries/carrie-ann-lucas-dead.html.

[2] © Jimmy Buffett, “Little Miss Magic,” 1980.

[3] As the story mentions, Carrie had a rare neuromuscular disease and used a wheelchair. (She actually had quite a few disabilities throughout her life, but it was nice to see the remembrance article did not dwell on all of that. We — Carrie and those of us connected with the disability community — see disability for what is: a normal part of life for some people, recognizing that appropriate supports may be necessary to make our lives work. Some people are black; others are white. Some people are women; some are men. Some people have disabilities; some do not. Although anyone can become disabled at any time.)

[4] Etika also was an individual who the Magazine describes as having “mental health problems.”

[5] To the uninitiated, that means we were big Jimmy Buffett fans. Actually, the last time I saw Carrie was at the Jimmy Buffett/Eagles concert at Coors Field with her nephew, Gavin.

[6] © Jimmy Buffet, “Stories We Could Tell,” 1974.


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