Ethel S. Barnett-Boone, a civil rights activist and former resident of Philadelphia, died on Friday, March 13, 2020 in Estero, Florida. She was 92.
She was born on March 7, 1928, in Macon, Georgia, to George and Luce Mae Spikes. Her father was a World War I veteran.
According to her family, Barnett-Boone was a tenacious civil rights activist who was graceful, loving and kind. She forged a path that impacted hundreds of thousands of lives. She helped to plan and participated in the March on Washington with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.; marched on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, 55 years ago; lay down in front of buses with C. Delores Tucker in Philadelphia, was hosed down with water hoses and faced canines as she fought for civil rights.
She was a police officer with the Philadelphia Police Department from 1961-1971. In 1977, Barnett-Boone was appointed by Gov. Milton J. Shapp as the first African-American civil service commissioner for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. As a commissioner, she was an administrative law judge and heard all of the cases involving employees and the state.
She was reappointed by both Republican and Democratic governors, eventually retiring as the chair of the commission. Throughout her career, Barnett-Boone served on a multitude of governing boards, including the Philadelphia Energy Education Council, the Mayor’s Commission for Women in Philadelphia and the Governor’s Study Committee on Employment of the Handicapped.
She was the first vice president of the NAACP-Philadelphia Chapter. She was a member of the advisory board for United Bank of Philadelphia, New Jersey Black Magazine consultant, lifetime member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, founding member of the National Association of Civil Service Commissioners, lifetime member of the National Council of Negro Women, and member of the Pennsylvania Honor Roll of Women, and the Forum of Executive Women.
She served as the director and resource development officer and eventually became vice president of the American Foundation for Negro Affairs. She was a member of the Red-Hot Divas, Eastern Stars and Black Women’s Leadership Council. She was the Granddaughter Ruler of Daughters of the Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World. She was published in Who’s Who Amongst African-Americans, 26th Edition, Jet magazine, and “Black Firsts: 4,000 Ground-Breaking and Pioneering Historical Events,” by Jessie Carney Smith.
Barnett-Boone was the recipient of many awards, recognitions and accolades, including the Humanitarian Award from NAACP Philadelphia, a resolution by the City of Philadelphia recognizing her as a living legend, and by Gov. Tom Wolf for her exemplary citizenry for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Barnett-Boone was also an active member and trustee of Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia for over 50 years.
She was preceded in death by her sons, Prentice Earl Vincent, Larry Charles Barnett and Melvin Barnett, and her husband Walter Boone.
She is survived by, her granddaughters, Felicia Tukes and Kathy Dupuy-Bruno; her grandson-in-law, Dr. Reginald Bruno; her great- granddaughters, Stephanie and Sophia; and other relatives and friends.
A graveside service was held at West Laurel Hill Cemetery on March 24. A memorial will be held by the family at a future date in Fort Myers, Florida.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent in her memory to the SW Florida Community Foundation, 2031 Jackson Street, #100 Fort Myers, FL 33901, in the name of Ethel Barnett-Boone. The funds will be used as part of a grant that promotes diversity, inclusion, tolerance and social justice.