Back to previous page


Donald Galloway, advocate of rights of disabled, dies at 73

By ,

Donald Galloway, 73, a civil rights advocate for minorities with disabilities who won a lawsuit against the D.C. government for the right of the blind to serve on juries, died Oct. 3 in a hospice in Santa Barbara, Calif.

He had metastatic prostate cancer, said his wife, June Galloway. The Galloways lived in the District and were visiting family in California when Donald Galloway died.

Mr. Galloway, who had been legally blind since an accident in childhood, had an eclectic career. He was a folk singer as a young man, received a master’s degree in social work and, in 1978, became Jamaica’s Peace Corps director.

He retired in 2009 from the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs as program coordinator for the Americans With Disabilities Act. He joined that department after serving from 1987 to 1998 as manager of the disability affairs branch of the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development.

In 1991, he showed up at D.C. Superior Court after receiving a summons to serve on a jury and said he was turned away when he arrived with a guide dog. He was told a blind person would be unable to observe the demeanor of witnesses and read through troves of evidence, if required. He sued the District government.

“I don’t have to see a gun,” Mr. Galloway said at the time. “I could feel the gun or have someone describe it to me. They are making the assumption that I can’t perceive or make judgments.”

In 1993, U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green ruled that blind people could not be automatically excluded from a jury. She said exceptions could be made on an individual basis, especially involving cases where jurors must evaluate loads of documents.

Donald Galloway was born March 21, 1938, in Washington and raised in Annapolis. At 13, he was injured in one eye with a bow and arrow while playing. Because of improper treatment, his wife said, nerve damage affected the other eye and led to complete blindness by age 16.

He attended the Maryland School for the Blind and completed high school in Los Angeles, where his family moved. He was a 1967 graduate of California State University at Los Angeles and in 1969 received a master’s degree in social work from California State University at San Diego.

In the mid-1970s, Mr. Galloway worked in Berkeley, Calif., as director of peer counseling at the Center for Independent Living, which encouraged self-sufficiency among the disabled.

He later was executive director of the Governor’s Council on the Handicapped in Denver, followed by an appointment from 1978 to 1980 as Peace Corps director in Jamaica. His wife said he was the first blind country director, but a Peace Corps spokeswoman said she could not confirm that from the organization’s records.

Mr. Galloway was subsequently turned down for an administrative job with the Foreign Service because of his blindness. He sued and reached a financial settlement with the government, his wife said. He went on to direct the Center for Independent Living in Washington.

Mr. Galloway served in leadership roles on many commissions and panels on disability rights. As a volunteer, he had spent the last 15 years as president of the National Federation of the Blind’s Washington affiliate.

His first marriage, to Julia Townes, ended in divorce. Survivors include his wife of 45 years, June Williams Galloway of Washington; a son from his first marriage, Kevin Galloway of San Marino, Calif.; two children from his second marriage, Makini Galloway of Maui, Hawaii, and Ade Galloway of Philadelphia; two sisters; four brothers; and six grandchildren.

© The Washington Post Company