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By Henrietta J. Burroughs                Follow East Palo Alto Today on
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January 22, 2019                          EPA Today Facebook page Follow epatoday on Twitter EPA Today Blog Icon



Mrs. Gertrude Dyer-Wilks
Mrs. Gertrude Dyer-Wilks
Photo courtesy - The Wilks Family

On Sunday, January 20, 2019, the East Palo Alto community lost one of its longtime, influential residents, Mrs. Gertrude Dyer-Wilks. The announcement of Mrs. Wilks' death was made by her granddaughter, LaPria Wilks, who issued the following statement:

"The Wilks family is sad to inform you that the sun has set on Mrs. Gertrude Dyer-Wilks. On Sunday January 20th 2019, She died peacefully in her home surrounded by family, friends, and community members. Funeral arrangements are being made and details will be shared in a subsequent press release.  Please save the date of March 9, 2019 as the Mothers for Equal Education will be hosting a Memorial celebration in honor of Mrs. Wilks and the work she has done. If you would like more information on Mrs. Wilks and the legacy she has left behind, please visit WWW.GERTRUDEDYERWILKS.COM to purchase her book “Gathering Together”. If you have any questions or comments please send an email to Lapria.wilks@gmail.com."

Mrs. Wilks was born in Duboc, Louisiana on March 9, 1927. Years later, she moved to East Palo Alto, CA with her husband, Otis, whom she met as a teenager in Duboc and married when she was 17.

Mrs. Wilks was active in East Palo Alto before it became a city. She sat on the East Palo Alto Municipal Council and served as mayor in the late 1970’s, before the city’s incorporation.

She was opposed to the city's incorporation and her opposition led to a bitter struggle between those who supported it and those who opposed it. The issue was so contentious that it went as far as the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of those who supported and voted for incorporation.

After East Palo Alto became a city in 1983, Mrs. Wilks served as one of the city's first council members.

As an early advocate of the importance of education, Mrs. Wilks was the founder and director of Mothers for Equal Education, an educational nonprofit in East Palo Alto. She later became the director of the Nairobi Day and High School.

The school was renamed the Gertrude Wilks Academy in 1981. The academy later became part of the well-known Shule Mandela Academy, which at the time taught many of East Palo Alto's youth.

For a number of years, Mrs. Wilks was involved in a variety of workshops and seminars throughout the United States and was the recipient of numerous honors and awards. In her later years, she authored her autobiography, called "Gathering Together," which her granddaughter mentioned in her announcement of Mrs. Wilks' death.

More information about Mrs. Wilks will be posted as the details of her memorial celebration near completion.


The author of this article, Henrietta J. Burroughs , can be contacted by email at epatoday@epatoday.org