“Many residential area agreements existed between realtors and homeowners not to sell or rent to Blacks. In the Downtown shopping district one would occasionally see the “White Only” sign and signs stating “Colored Need Not Apply.” There were shops where Women of Color could not try on a hat before purchasing.”
Red Cross Worker in Japan & Philippine Islands & Civil Rights Worker
Gay Caroline, a Riverside native grew up in the beautiful pepper tree lined streets of the Eastside. She attended Riverside schools, Longfellow, Irving, University Heights Jr. High, Polytechnic High, Riverside City College, later graduating from Redlands University.
Gay’s mother and grandmother were founders of Park Avenue Baptist Church where she was baptized at the age of 7 by Rev. W.G. Goodwin. She grew up in Park Avenue Church and through the years served in various capacities, among them Church Pianist, General Program Chairman and Director of Vacation Bible School.
As a youth, she played an active role in the NAACP Youth Chapter, then went on to serve the adult branch as Secretary, Membership Chairman, Chairman of the Speakers Bureau, Vice President in charge of programs and President.
Gay was an American Red Cross worker in Japan and the Philippine Islands after World War II working with servicemen and their families during the occupation. While serving in Japan, she led tours of the servicemen to the War Crimes Tribunal in Tokyo. On trial was the notorious war criminal General Tojo. On returning to the States, Gay worked for many years as Senior Recreation Leader for Oakland and Riverside Recreation Departments.
She was heavily involved the the civil rights activities of the era. A long list of picketing events in which she participated included a trip to Washington, D.C. where she, along with other NAACP’ers, surrounded the U.S. Justice Department protesting the murders in Mississippi of three civil rights workers, Michael Swarner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney.
Gay was an active member of the committee which got the first minority candidate, John Sotelo, elected to the Riverside City Council.
She was one of four official delegates selected to represent Riverside County at the inauguration of President Lyndon Baines Johnson and served as hostess at the Sheraton-Park Hotel, one of the four Inaugural Ball sites in Washington, D.C.
She was appointed Director of the NAACP Headstart/State Preschool Program in 1973 and for sixteen years administered the program which grew during this period from five classrooms to twelve serving more than 200 children at three sites with a staff of 38 committed workers. The program was widely acclaimed as a model for other Head Start/State Preschool programs.
In May 2004, Gay Caroline was designated a charter member of the “We Also Served” register in the Women in Military Service Memorial in Washington, D.C.