Welcome, everyone. My name is Betty Anne Williams. Like all of you, I’m a friend of Kay Mills. Also like you, I’m stunned and still trapped in a state of near-disbelief that we’ve lost such a great friend. Kay was the personification of vitality and an important player in the world of news and media that we care about so deeply.
I work for a non-profit now — the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. But I first got to know Kay when both of us were reporters here in Washington, her hometown, before she moved on to the Los Angeles Times editorial pages and then to the world of books.
Our most enduring link, however, was membership in a little organization with outsize impact called JAWS – Journalism and Women Symposium. JAWS seeks to improve the way journalism portrays all of society, especially women and people of color. We were members of the founding board of directors. The strategizing and plotting that went into launching JAWS, sustaining JAWS and identifying ways to help fulfill its mission became a bond as well as a source of pleasure. JAWS became one of Kay’s passions, as you will hear tonight.
JAWS introduced us to a wider, national circle of journalists and friends. It provided learning opportunities for us and mentoring opportunities where we could pay forward some of what we’d learned. Kay reveled in her role as a mentor and sage. Some of the best conversations I’ve ever had about philosophical issues, about ethics, about right and wrong all can be traced to JAWS, and therefore probably included Kay’s forceful and persuasive voice.
I will remember her for many things – as the right kind of journalist – honest, fearless, curious, persistent and insistent, ever searching.
As the best of good companions. It was Kay who for years arranged the details of trips we would take just before JAWS’ annual camp each fall. I like to say the destination for a JAWS camp was usually “someplace beautiful in the West.” Those trips enabled us to take in breathtaking vistas and historic touchstones, enhancing our appreciation for our wonderful country and the vast and varied options we have within our borders. Kay delighted in surveying the landscape, reading up on the history and charting a course of travel and exploration for our floating group of four to six JAWDESSES. She had an eye for the quirky and humorous detail that made a story interesting. And every trip included time and attention to sampling the local wine and cuisine, for no one had a greater appreciation than Kay of a great meal and a little vino to go with it.
I can’t believe she won’t be there to play tour leader for us when JAWs meets in Asheville, NC, this fall!
Most of all, I will never forget Kay as the best kind of friend. Compassionate. Loyal to a fault. Ready with a quip, a joke or a story to cheer you up when you needed it.
Some of her other friends are going to share with us what Kay meant to them.
Marian Wright Edelman knew Kay as a journalist, author and student of the civil rights movement. Peggy Simpson and Kay were allies in the Washington press corps who shared a common goal of having the women’s movement recognized as a legitimate, powerful story that was worthy of coverage and making it happen. Kathy Bonk got to know Kay from the other side. She was one the leading feminist activists who helped frame the message and obtain the coverage of the women’s movement. Cheryl Arvidson knew Kay as a journalism colleague and a friend. Patricia Sullivan met Kay through JAWS and became one of her favorite traveling buddies, as I think she will tell us tonight.
I’m going to ask each of them to come forward and share some memories.