Paul S. Miller, 1961-2010

Photo of Paul Miller Paul Miller, a lawyer who was born with achondroplasia, dwarfism, overcame discrimination because of his disability and became a leader in the disability rights movement, died Tuesday at his home on Mercer Island, Wash. He was 49.

The cause was cancer, said his wife, Jennifer.

More than 40 times after graduating from Harvard Law School, Mr. Miller received rejection letters from law firms. One time, he said, he was told the firm feared that clients would see his hiring as a “circus freak show”.

But Mr. Miller went on to become an adviser to two presidents — Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — a law professor and an expert on the intersection of disability law, employment discrimination and genetic science.

A professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, Mr. Miller was director of the university's disabilities studies program. For 10 years before joining the faculty in 2004, he was a commissioner of the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. At the same time, he was the Clinton administration's liaison to disability organizations, a role he reprised in the first nine months of the Obama presidency.

Andrew J. Imparato, president of the American Association of People With Disabilities, said of Mr. Miller, “He was the person in the White House who recruited folks with disabilities to take positions all over those administrations — assistant secretaries, deputy assistant secretaries, commissioners.”

Drew Hansen, an adjunct lecturer who taught with Mr. Miller, said his colleague had long been concerned about the carrying out of the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act. “He believed that judicial interpretations of the A.D.A. were more restrictive than they had been of civil rights laws because there was not a similarly visible mass social movement,” Mr. Hansen said.

In recent years, Mr. Miller focused on tensions between disability rights and genetic science. In a paper titled “Avoiding Genetic Genocide,” Mr. Miller criticized scientists for what he saw as their eagerness to use genetics to produce “perfect” humans.

“Good health is not the absence of a disability,” he wrote. “Scientists caught up in the excitement of genetic discovery can forget that life with a disability can still be a rich and fulfilling life.”

Calling him “a powerful warrior in the battle,” Dr. Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health and leader of the Human Genome Project, referred Wednesday to a paper Mr. Miller wrote, “Is There a Pink Slip in Your Genes?”

Its purpose was “to bring attention to the risk of individuals losing their jobs if information about their future health risks were disclosed,” Dr. Collins said. “And the persistence paid off: after more than a decade of frustration, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act was finally signed into law in 2008. Paul was one of its biggest heroes.”

Paul Steven Miller was born in Flushing, Queens, on May 4, 1961, and grew up in East Northport on Long Island. His father, Stanley, was a textile engineer; his mother, Barbara, a school psychologist.

Mr. Miller graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983 and received his law degree from Harvard three years later. He then began his difficult job search. He was eventually hired by a Los Angeles law firm, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. By 1990, he was director of litigation for the disability rights law center at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. That led to his position in the Clinton administration.

In 1997, he married Jennifer Coletti Mechem, who at the time was disability policy coordinator at the Department of Education; Ms. Mechem is hearing impaired.

Besides his wife, Mr. Miller is survived by two daughters, Naomi and Delia; two sisters, Marjorie Piquiera and Nancy Miller; a stepsister, Susan Wolfert, and a stepbrother, Marc Freyberg.

When the University of Washington named Mr. Miller its Henry M. Jackson professor of law in 2008, his colleague Anna Mastroianni spoke at the ceremony. “Paul Miller may have been born a dwarf, but in reality he is a giant,” she said. “We are all better for seeing a little further from the perch of his shoulders.”


Paul K. Longmore, 1946-2010

Paul K. Longmore dies at 64; leading disability scholar and activist.

“Unable to use his hands because of a childhood bout with polio, he helped establish disability studies as a field of academic research and teaching”:
By Valerie J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times, August 15, 2010

Unable to use his hands because of a childhood bout with polio, Paul K. Longmore wrote his first book by punching a keyboard with a pen he held in his mouth. It took him 10 years, and when he was done, he burned a copy in front of the Federal Building downtown.

By taking a match to “The Invention of George Washington” in 1988, the scholar brought national attention to a campaign to reform Social Security policies that discourage disabled professionals from working.

Some of the most restrictive penalties were soon lifted — including one preventing him from earning royalties on books — in a policy change that became known as the Longmore Amendment.

Longmore, a leading disability scholar and activist who taught at San Francisco State, died Aug. 9 of natural causes at his San Francisco home, said his sister, Ellen Brown. He was 64.

“He devoted his life to making this a better and more just world,” Robert A. Corrigan, the university's president, said in a statement. “Legendary, inspirational, pioneering, irreverent; many words are needed to sum up this remarkable man.”

As a major founder of disability studies, Longmore helped establish it as a field of academic research and teaching.

In 1996, he helped start San Francisco State's Institute for Disability Studies and was its director. Longmore worked to bring the discipline to other college campuses and provided leadership at disability rights rallies across the state and nation.

He also wrote some of the first academic and historical articles about how disabled people have been depicted in popular culture.

In his 2003 book, “Why I Burned My Book and Other Essays on Disability,” he challenged popular views of assisted suicide, which he had campaigned against legalizing in California, and highlighted the relatively unknown history of the disability rights movement during the Depression.

Last month, Longmore spoke at a San Francisco celebration of the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act and reminded the crowd of a perspective he had long espoused: Disability rights activists had brought about change by redefining what it means to be disabled.

The movement recast “disability” as “a problem located mainly out there in society” that had to be dealt with, Longmore had said, whether it meant improving access by placing wheelchair-accessible ramps on curbs or elevators in buildings.

Stephen Rosenbaum, a staff attorney for the advocacy group Disability Rights California, said in a statement: “I once heard Paul introduced as the 'James Dean' of disability studies. That captures the combination of intellectual, rebel and down-to-earth man he was.”

Paul Kenneth Longmore was born July 10, 1946, in Mount Holly, N.J., to Kenneth and Evelyn Longmore. His family moved up and down the West Coast for his father's career as a Baptist minister.

At 7, Longmore came down with polio, which paralyzed his arms and severely curved his spine. He used a ventilator for as long as 18 hours a day.

He attended special-education classes in elementary school, but his parents and teacher successfully pushed for him to attend his local junior high.

Before sending him off, his teacher told him: “You have to succeed. If you don't, they won't let others in. You're a pioneer. And I've never forgotten that. Every school and every job, I've always been the first with a major disability,” Longmore said in a 1991 news release from Stanford University, where he once taught.

Longmore studied history at Occidental College, earning a bachelor's degree in 1968 and later a master's.

While studying history at Claremont Graduate University, Longmore audited a USC class on policy-making about disability and helped develop a program on disability and society.

The experience made him realize he could apply his training as a historian to the study of disability history, Longmore later said.

In college, he was repeatedly discouraged from teaching because of his disability and had trouble getting financial help, he later said. Eventually, a member of the state Legislature helped Longmore secure funding for a Dictaphone and a transcriptionist.

The quality of my work improved, and I said to myself, “Well, you're not lazy. You just didn't have the means to do it,” he told the Washington Post in 1991. It was an epiphany that shaped his perspective as a disability rights activist.

“I relocated the problem from me to outside of me, which is part of the transition any member of a minority group has to go through,” he said.

After earning his doctorate in 1984, Longmore taught at USC and delved into advocacy for the disabled. In 1990, he went to Stanford on a two-year fellowship and in 1993 joined San Francisco State.

“When I was growing up, I was the only visible disabled person I saw,” Longmore told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2005. “Now you see disabled people all around. People with disabilities ought to be able to participate in society, and we did that. We changed American values.”

Longmore, who was divorced, is survived by his sister.


John Callahan, 1951-2010

“John Callahan, Cartoonist, Dies at 59”
By Bruce Weber
Published: July 28, 2010

John Callahan, a quadriplegic, alcoholic cartoonist whose work in newspapers and magazines made irreverent, impolitic sport of people with disabilities and diseases and those who would pity and condescend to them, died on Saturday in Portland, Ore. He was 59 and lived in Portland.

The causes were complications of quadriplegia and respiratory problems, his brother Tom said.

Like his friend Gary Larson, creator of “The Far Side,” Mr. Callahan made drawings with a gleeful appreciation of the macabre that he found in everyday life. He was, however, a man who lived his life with disadvantages, some of them self-wrought, and he viewed the world through a dark and wicked lens.

“This is John, I'm a little too depressed to take your call today,” the message on his answering machine said. “Please leave your message at the gunshot.”

Looking askance at the culture of confession and self-help fostered by the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Geraldo Rivera, he was not inclined in his work to be outwardly sympathetic to the afflicted or to respect the boundaries of racial and ethnic stereotyping. His cartoons were often polarizing: some found them outrageously funny, others outrageously offensive.

There was the drawing of a restaurant, the Anorexic Cafe, with a sign in the window saying, “Now Closed 24 Hours a Day.” There was one showing a group of confused-looking square dancers unable to respond to the caller's instruction to “return to the girl that you just left,” with a headline reading, “The Alzheimer Hoedown.”

There was the drawing of a blind black man begging in the street, wearing a sign that read: “Please help me. I am blind and black, but not musical.” In another, a sheriff's posse on horseback surrounds an empty wheelchair. The caption gave him the title of his 1990 autobiography: “Don’t Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot.”

And there was the drawing of an aerobics class for quadriplegics, with the instructor saying, “O.K., let's get those eyeballs moving.”

At the peak of its popularity, about a decade ago, Mr. Callahan's syndicated work appeared in more than 200 newspapers around the world, and many of them got used to receiving letters of objection.

When a car accident in 1972 severed his spine, Mr. Callahan was already an alcoholic, having been a heavy drinker from the age of 12. He wasn’t driving, but the driver, whom he barely knew, was drunk when he smashed Mr. Callahan’s Volkswagen into a utility pole at 90 miles per hour. He was paralyzed from the diaphragm down and lost the use of many of his upper-body muscles, though he could extend his fingers and eventually, after therapy, hold a pen in his right hand. To draw, he guided his right hand slowly across a page with his left, producing rudimentary, even childlike images.

Mr. Callahan often defended his work with a shrug, saying simply that he thought it was funny, but he also said that people who were genuinely afflicted tended to be his fans.

“My only compass for whether I’ve gone too far is the reaction I get from people in wheelchairs, or with hooks for hands,” he said in an interview in The New York Times Magazine in 1992. “Like me, they are fed up with people who presume to speak for the disabled. All the pity and the patronizing. That’s what is truly detestable.”

Mr. Callahan was born on Feb. 5, 1951; information about his biological parents was unavailable. As an infant he was adopted from an orphanage in Portland by David Callahan, an elevator manager for Cargill, the grain company, and his wife, Rosemary. They named him John Michael Callahan and subsequently had five more children.

Mr. Callahan grew up in the Dalles, the Columbia River city about 80 miles east of Portland; went to Roman Catholic school, where he grew deft at drawing caricatures of the nuns; graduated from a local high school; and went to work as an orderly at a state mental hospital and then in an aluminum plant. He described his young adulthood mostly as aimless days of work in between bouts of drinking. A friend, Kevin Mullane, said in an interview that the drinking came closer to killing him than the accident did.

“Ironically, the crash may have saved his life,” Mr. Mullane said.

Actually, Mr. Callahan continued to drink for several years until he joined Alcoholics Anonymous in 1978. He eventually earned a bachelor’s degree from Portland State University and at his death was enrolled in its master’s program in counseling.

Mr. Callahan’s cartoons are collected in a number of volumes, including “What Kind of a God Would Allow a Thing Like This to Happen?!!” and “Do What He Says!: He’s Crazy!!!” He also wrote a second autobiography, “Will the Real John Callahan Please Stand Up?” His work was adapted for two animated television series: “Pelswick,” a family-appropriate show about a boy in a wheelchair determined to live a normal life, and “John Callahan’s Quads,” an adult show featuring a menagerie of characters with different disabilities, foul mouths and bad attitudes.

In addition to his brother Tom, Mr. Callahan is survived by his mother, Rosemary; two other brothers, Kevin, known as Kip, and Richard; and two sisters, Mary Callahan, known as Murph, and Teri Duffy. All live in the Portland area.

“Even as a teenager he’d sense things in other people, the way an impersonator would,” Tom Callahan said on Tuesday. “He’d make fun of his friends, his teachers, in cartoons, so I don’t think the accident was really responsible for his humor. I think it allowed him literary license, though, to get away with things he might not otherwise have.”


James Sullivan, 1961-2010

Photo of James Sullivan James Augustine Sullivan of Hudson died on Ash Wednesday Feb. 17, 2010 having faced his most recent challenge of cancer with the same courage, grace and dignity that has characterized his entire life. He passed with friends and family by his side at the Community Hospice House in Merrimack.

Mr. Sullivan was born on June 21, 1961 in Panama City, Florida to Charles and Constance Sullivan.

His young life included stops in Washington, DC and Fairbanks, Alaska before his family settled in Hudson N.H. in 1970. Jim was known in his early years as an exceptional mechanic; he loved to work on cars and motorcycles. He was also a gifted athlete, having particularly excelled as a skier, hurdler, and pole vaulter. He earned Most Valuable Player honors for Track and Field his senior year at Alvirne High School, and he held the school’s pole vault record for over a decade.

Mr. Sullivan’s life took a dramatic turn on June 19, 1979, however, as a freak diving accident at Hampton Beach left him a quadriplegic. He met this challenge with incredible resolve. Soon after leaving the hospital, he began to study at the University of Lowell, and he then ventured to Arizona State University where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. Mr. Sullivan returned to his hometown of Hudson upon graduation in 1987 and began working at Digital Electronics Corporation.

Jim soon realized, however, that his true calling was to serve the school district and hometown that he loved so much. He began to volunteer as an assistant track coach at Alvirne, and he also offered invaluable assistance to the vocational, media, computer and music programs at his alma mater. Mr. Sullivan was elected to the Hudson school board, and he ultimately earned a position as the board’s president.

Mr. Sullivan was also very much involved in N.H. Independent living and was instrumental in ADA standard implementation throughout the state. The impact Mr. Sullivan has made on his community will continue to be felt for many years to come.

Sullivan’s legacy will live on through his parents, Charles and Constance Sullivan of Hudson N.H.; two sisters, Laura Larson of Manchester N.H. and Teresa Kelly of Fayetteville, Georgia; three brothers, Charles Jr. of Grosse Point Woods, Michigan, Timothy of Derry N.H., and William of Honolulu, Hawaii; fourteen nieces and nephews, numerous aunts, uncles and cousins, and countless friends.