Good Trouble for 80 Years
By Teresa Kelleher
When we think about Good Trouble, we think of Congressman John Lewis and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Locally, we have a citizen who has been working for good for 80 years: Carol Waymire. She says, “Everything is connected.”
Carol Waymire was born in 1933 to a traditional family of the Depression Era. Her mother was home with the kids while her dad worked. Times were hard and wages low. In the Redwood Forest of California, there wasn’t electricity or running water to homes, nor telephones.
Carol comments, “We didn’t see the economic disparity; everyone we knew was in the same situation. The area gave me an appreciation for the grandeur of nature.”
Her mom emphasized that all people were created equal and all should be treated with respect. At a young age, Carol became aware that their home had a rider on the deed that prevented them from selling the house to a Jewish or Black family. Her cultural education about the State of the Union began.
She remembers playing sports as a teenager, having friends from all different backgrounds. She recalls that the boys jeered the girls who participated in baseball and field hockey, considered “unladylike” in the 1940s.
When Carol was 16, four years after World War II ended, her father left the family: four children and an unskilled mother. She helped with odd jobs to make ends meet. Consequently, Carol is an experienced plum picker.
Carol’s mom pushed her to college, while she worked tinting photos at a department store so that Carol could finish. A friend there was a Japanese-American citizen who had just been released from an internment camp. It was another eye-opening experience. She and other Japanese-Americans had had their businesses stolen and had been imprisoned in their own country.
After graduating from San Jose State in 1955, Carol returned to Santa Rosa to teach and help the family. Her annual earnings of $4,500 felt like a fortune! Not only could all bills be paid, but also some luxuries were purchased: a four-burner stove and a sewing machine.
Her good trouble -- service work to help others -- continued and moved into larger realms. Carol was accepted into President Kennedy’s Peace Corps. She had heard the call from the president: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” In 1961, with the first overseas Peace Corps group ever, she traveled to Ghana, on the west coast of Africa. While teaching English there for two years, she learned valuable life lessons. One such instance came when her African students, who had seen newsreels, asked why police in the USA were beating up Black US citizens.
“I didn’t know what to say! I had not even been fully aware of what was taking place in my own country!” Of course it wasn’t right; Carol’s views were broadened once again to the injustices of the times and she began to understand that, indeed, the Civil Rights Movement was necessary in her home country.
Upon her return home in 1963, Carol trained other Peace Corps volunteers. She used her voice to educate people about conditions for Black Americans, and she actively supported Black organizations and events in Los Angeles.
She also got involved in a group of Adult Education Teachers, helping procure contracts rather than being paid low hourly wages with no benefits or security.
Since most teachers at the time were women, the Women’s Movement also came to the forefront of her group’s activities. They wondered why women were doing the same work as men but getting paid less.
Students living in poverty told about conditions and obstacles they faced: she formulated opinions about right and wrong in the larger world. What really appalled her was learning that the violence in El Salvador was being perpetrated by soldiers trained in the USA. Her group raised money and sent it to churches that helped Salvadorans.
Carol decided to get a law degree, passed the California Bar Exam, and worked as a Hearing Officer for the Superior Court, determining if people with psychiatric problems were treated justly. She worked to make sure they were not held longer than legally allowed on an involuntary hold.
Then the AIDS epidemic hit the USA, brought the LGBTQ movement into the light, and Carol remained active, moving her energy in the direction of continued demonstrations and education.
In 2004, at 71 years old, Carol moved to Payson. She attended an organizational meeting for Amnesty International, the oldest grassroots human rights organization in the world. Penny Navis-Schmidt says, “Carol came to our meeting and thanked us for being involved! The fact is, we owe her an enormous debt of gratitude. We could not have been a productive group without Carol’s wealth of knowledge, awareness, insights and caring.”
As Carol says, “Everything is connected. In my seven decades as an involved voter, I have seen that the work for American values all goes together. People cannot stay well without healthcare benefits. They cannot have equality without advocates in the court system. The poor cannot magically escape their challenges without equal access to education.”
She continues, “I am concerned about the poverty that will result from the pandemic; it will impact the USA for years. I want economic and racial justice in this country. I want great education to be available to all, in rural towns like Payson as well as in cities. I want prison reform with equal consequences for all people, no matter what their economic status or their ethnicity.”
Those fortunate enough to know Carol thank her for her 80 years of working for what is right: justice and equality for all, and compassion for those who need guidance along the way.