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Friday, June 6, 2008

Harriet McBryde Johnson Dies

Most people with any familiarity with disability rights or law will have heard the sad news that Johnson unexpectedly died this week. Many disability related blogs have posted moving and detailed tributes to Johnson. I only know Johnson through her published work. She was a gifted writer and a skilled story teller in the Southern American tradition. I was captivated by her style, blunt to a fault and opinionated. This is not a critique but high praise. Her class and dignity surfaced for all when she clashed with Princeton University's Peter Singer in a cover story in the New York Times Magazine section. Her ability to politely skewer Singer and get across a disability rights agenda was nothing short of brilliant. The subsequent book, Too Late to Die Young, built on the New York Times essay and exceeded my sky high expectations.

Johnson's death will leave a huge void in the disability community, one I cannot imagine will ever be replaced. As sad as I am for the passing of such a great mind, I mourn for her father David D. Johnson. A parent should never be forced to bury their child. To him, I pass along my deepest and most sincere sympathy. In the weeks and months to come I know I will reread much of what Johnson wrote. The world is a better place because if her efforts and I am grateful for her contribution. This is a small condolence to her family, one I hope they appreciate when they get over the shock of her death.