June 4, 1927
Battle Creek, Michigan, U.S.
|Died||December 22, 2012
Washington, D. C., U.S.
|Alma mater||Western Michigan University|
|Known for||faithless elector in 2000 US Presidential Election|
|Political party||Democratic Party|
|Spouse(s)||Samuel J. Simmons|
|Children||David C. Simmons
Robert A. Simmons
Lett-Simmons was born in Battle Creek, Michigan. Lett-Simmons was an alumna of Western Michigan University which she graduated in 1949. Lett-Simmons taught in Detroit before moving to Washington, D. C. in 1962. Lett-Simmons was an elementary school teacher in Detroit and Montgomery County before moving into politics. She was a teacher in Montgomery Country from 1962 to 1965. Lett-Simmons worked as an educational coordinator for the United Planning Organization, a community services and empowerment organization and for a District of Columbia poverty program. Lett-Simmons was the host of a local radio talk show and a cable television program.
She was a consultant of helping to lead the search that led to the appointment of Barbara D. Sizemore as District of Columbia superintendent of schools in 1973. She was elected to the District of Columbia board of education in 1973, in which she served from 1974 to 1986.
A Democratic elector from the District of Columbia in the 2000 U.S. Election, she abstained from voting in the Electoral College rather than vote for Al Gore and Joe Lieberman as was expected, in protest of the District's lack of a voting representative in Congress. Although D.C. does have a non-voting delegate to Congress, Lett-Simmons's Electoral College abstention, the first since 1864, was intended to protest what Lett-Simmons referred to as the federal district's "colonial status." (See faithless elector.)
She was the widow of Samuel J. Simmons, who died in 2003, former Assistant Secretary for the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She was married to Samuel J. Simmons for 53 years. She has two sons, David C. Simmons, the chief administration law judge of the District of Columbia Commission on Human Rights and Robert A. Simmons, both work at Washington, D. C.. She has a brother and granddaughter.
Tenure as DC Education Board Member
On April to October 1975, Lett-Simmons was the subject of a drama of operatic proportions, when the school board meetings were held to look at the future of superintendent Barbara A. Sizemore, who was appointed in 1973. She was a defender of Sizemore. The superintendent, Sizemore was fired and was replaced by Vincent E. Reed. Lett-Simmons wrote a letter to The Washington Post, in which she complained about a travesty of justice and questioned whether the newspaper’s editorial board opposed Sizemore because she was black and female.
In 1977, she said, "For years people wanted to suggest politics was a nasty word". Her opinion said, "the schools are the most significant institution in society, and necessarily education must be politicized".
In 1978, Lett-Simmons helped to launch a piano competition for District of Columbia public school students.
In 1982, she criticized a plan for a closing school, saying it favored schools in predominately white sections of the city. Lett-Simmons often clashed with school superintendents and other board members.
Lett-Simmons was defeated for re-election in the District of Columbia board of education in 1985.
She was part of a vanguard of public officials who sought to leave their mark on the city. Lett-Simmons aims were to broaden opportunities for inner city children, expand vocational training and make the schools more accountable to residents.
She was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention starting from the 1970s until her death in 2012. She ran unsuccessfully for the Council of the District of Columbia in 1982 and 1984. Lett-Simmons helped lead a 2004 petition effort to recall D.C. mayor Anthony A. Williams. In 1990, she failed a bid to become District of Columbia's nonvoting delegate in Congress which she lost to Eleanor Holmes Norton.
On January 3, 2013, many people gathered at Shiloh Baptist Church to pay tribute to Lett-Simmons. Mayor of the District of Columbia, Vincent C. Gray urged people in the gathering to follow Lett-Simmons example, stating, "If you want to celebrate Barbara’s legacy, do it by standing up and fighting until we get statehood."
- Barbara Lett Simmons Remembered as Fighter for D.C. | The Afro-American Newspapers | Your Community. Your History. Your News
- Schudel, Matt (27 December 2012). "Barbara Lett Simmons, former D.C. school board member, dies at 85". The Washington Post. Retrieved 28 July 2013.