Noted education reformer and civil rights activist Lauri J. Wynn passes away at the age of 83

January 15, 2014


Determined, driven and dedicated to her community are just some of the traits used to describe Lauri J. Wynn, who has engaged in a lifelong passion to nurture and empower youth, adults and communities across the nation. She is widely known for her work in education, public, political and human arenas as an organizer, leader, worker, consultant and volunteer. In other words, Wynn was someone who got the job done!
Born in Harlem, NY in 1930, Wynn attended Virginia Union University, where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in history. She also attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and later earned a master’s degree in education at National Louis University School of Education in Evanston, IL. She also completed advanced studies at Chicago State University, School of Education. Wynn was married to Thomas H. Wynn. Sr. (deceased 2004). and ultimately raised five children as a single mother.
While her professional career was varied and enviable, her focus has primarily been singular–education, whether in the public school or the political arena. Perhaps Wynn was most noted for her prominent involvement in Milwaukee’s desegregation movement during the 1960s-a plight she got involved with upon her first day of arriving in Milwaukee.
After meeting with Attorney Lloyd Barbee–best known as the architect of the Milwaukee school desegregation movement,Wynn understood that the major hurdle to Barbee’s public school de facto desegregation lawsuit was funding. To that end, Wynn single-handedly developed a financial lobbying strategy to encourage the Teacher Union’s decision makers to take an affirmative, active stance to help defeat school segregation.
Using her own funds, she traveled to Washington, DC to present before the National Education Association (NEA) a testimony so compelling that within 10 days of her presentation to get funding to computerize evidence, she received a $10,000 grant. This monumental move served as the catalyst to facilitate the Midwest school desegregation movement, which included Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan.
A career teacher in Milwaukee Public Schools, Wynn also used her political shrewdness from 1982-1986 to work in the Governor’s Office as a Policy Advisor on Black Affairs (1982·1986). She also served as President of the 45,000-member Wisconsin Education Association Council, from 1973-1976.
Throughout her career, Wynn earned numerous accolades and awards, including the NAACP Distinguished Service Award (1994). Wynn has served tirelessly on community and professional boards, such as the Black Political Network (1983-84); co-coordinator of the United Negro College Fund Walk/Run (1985); Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (lifetime member); Governor’s Council on Minority Business; Future Milwaukee (class of 1985); Martin Luther King Community School (Board President 1972-74); National Education Association Black Caucus (founder, 1970 chairperson, 1971); National Education Association (Executive Committee 1975-80); Wisconsin Education Association Council (Legislative Lobbyist, 1974-75, Wisconsin Black Political Convention, President. 1985); and a Black Excellence honoree.