Austin is mourning the passing of one of its legendary community activists, Leola Spann, who died on Easter Sunday after a long illness.
Spann, described as “a master strategist and tireless organizer,” was the longtime president of the Northwest Austin Council (NAC). She believed that, to fight for positive social change, younger generations needed to be brought into the fray, and she created an intergenerational model of community organizing that used school reform legislation to bring students as well as adults into the struggle.
She led street protests to help fight crime and in 1991 filed the first lawsuit using nuisance abatement legislation to shut down a notorious drug haven at 1144 N. Massasoit. Eventually, NAC managed to shut down 40 drug houses. She went to Washington D.C. to lobby to bring the federal Weed and Seed program to Austin.
Mrs. Spann led the fight to get the new Austin Branch Library and the 13-year campaign to save the 3,500 jobs at Brach Candy Company. She was also an organizer of the Austin Green Team, which turned empty lots into gardens. She pressured Austin Bank to make more loans to low and moderate income families, founded the Beth-Anne Tenants Association and was one of the co-founders of the Westside Health Authority.
The wake will be held April 1 from 3 to 9 p.m. at Wallace Funeral Home, 5838 W. Division. Following visitation at 10 a.m., funeral services will be held Saturday, April 2, at 11 a.m. at Judson Baptist Church, 1252 N. Austin Blvd. in Oak Park.