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Minnie Gillette

She later died on 1-7-1992.
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Minnie Gillette was the first African American woman elected to the Erie County Legislature (1977) and had the backing of the Democratic, Republican, and Conservative parties. Shortly after her election into the Legislature, she allied herself with Republican legislators. She was considered a feisty political figure who strayed from party lines in the interest of her constituents.

As a legislator, Ms. Gillette, a former director of the Model Cities Program and past vice president of the Ellicott Community Action Organization, led the movement to convert the former main post office building on Ellicott Street in Buffalo into the Erie Community College City Campus. She also helped establish the Ram Van, a traveling lending library, and fought to help minority contractors receive a fair share of county contracts. She served two terms in the County Legislature, losing re-election in 1981.

Ms. Gillette was appointed as the first director of the county's Victim/Witness Assistance Program, and also served as an election inspector. During this time, she continued to work for a food pantry in the Towne Gardens housing development. Ms. Gillette, coordinator of food distribution to the hungry, received a Martin Luther King award in 1990 at the annual Martin Luther King Awards Dinner sponsored by the Erie County Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Before becoming involved in politics, she was active in such organizations as the Community Action Organization and the Western New York Health Systems Agency. For many years she worked at Columbus Hospital as dietary supervisor. She obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in nutrition from Buffalo State College.

Ms. Gillette sat on the Board of Managers of the William-Emslie YMCA and helped establish the senior citizens center there. She served as a chairwoman of the Seventh (Ellicott) District Planning Board, and on the Advisory Board of the University at Buffalo's Educational Opportunity Center. She was the President of the New York State Community Action Agency.

She was a past president of the Association for Retarded Children. In 1986, Governor Mario Cuomo appointed her to the Board of Visitors of the West Seneca Developmental Center. Her involvement with these organizations stemmed from her personal experience with a developmentally disabled daughter. A newspaper report of her death noted that her "final act before she died was to visit her ailing retarded daughter in the hospital. She dragged herself out of her own sickbed to bid goodbye to the child who had long resided in a state institution. It was a mother's gesture, one that everyone who knew Minnie Gillette expected of her."

Ms. Gillette was past Worthy Matron of Paramount Chapter 57 of the Order of the Eastern Star, and also was a member of the advisory board of the Jesse E. Nash Health Center.

As an early member of the Black Leadership Forum, Ms. Gillette organized block clubs and helped register voters throughout her civic career. She was a member of the Erie County Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Buffalo chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In 1980, she received the University at Buffalo's Outstanding Women of Western New York Government Award. The Buffalo News also honored her as Outstanding Citizen for 1979.

Ms. Gillette died on January 7, 1992 at the age of 62. She had two daughters Hasinah Ramadhan and Loretta Gillette, a son Calvin Gillette and two grandchildren.