Congratulations to our own Betty Liggins for winning
Whitney Young Award presented by the Tucson
Urban League, January
amazing life was transformed by Martin Luther King (MLK)
back in 1960. From time to time she visited a
lawyer friend at Jesse Jackson’s Operation
Breadbasket where she got to know MLK. It was MLK
who personally advised her to leave her Post Office
job and go to nursing school under a new federal
program, the Manpower Development and Training Act.
She took Dr. King’s advice and was one of the first
people to get her Licensed Practical Nursing
certification under the Manpower Development Act.
Betty got the
education bug which earned her five degrees, ending
with a Master’s degree as a Geriatric Nurse
Practitioner from the University of Arizona after
moving to Tucson in 1978. She used her training and
expertise to change the lives of thousands of
elderly people in need of health care. Working for
the UA College of Medicine, Department of Family and
Community Medicine, Betty provided direct health
care regularly rotating her time to see residents of
Tucson House, Craycroft Towers, Martin Luther King
Apartments, and Burney Sidley House in Tucson –
all health programs which she founded and
implemented on behalf of the College of Medicine.
At the same time
she worked, she was involved in community service
activities. She served on the Pima County Board of
Health from 1989-1975, and was president of that
group from ’94-95. She was a founder of the Pima
County Nurses Association. She served on the
Governor’s Advisory Council on Aging, the Pima
County/Tucson Women’s Commission, and remains a
member of the Black Women’s Task Force to this day.
At age 84, Betty is still zooming.
She is active in
Sunland Vista Neighborhood Association and is a
former president of this association. She is the
Vice Chair of the Democratic Party’s African
American Caucus. She was once targeted in her
neighborhood by some of the gangs because she tried
to force them to stop the drug trade. This activity
that took her to Washington, D.C. with the, then
Tucson Police Department Chief Ronstadt, to testify
before the Congressional Judiciary Committee’s
Subcommittee on Crime and Criminal Justice on the
issue of gang wars and drug distribution. In the
90’s Betty served as the First Vice-Chair of the
Arizona Democratic Party.
Betty’s success in
life is due to her grit, determination,
intelligence, and determination to foment justice
and equality for all. Her contributions have been
acknowledged through awards such as the Rosa Parks
Award, the Jefferson Award, the MLK Drum Major
Award, and the Women on the Move Award.
Betty and her two
siblings were placed in foster care together when
Betty was around three years old after her tap
dancer parents died in a car crash. The three
remained in foster care until they each turned 18.
She remembers attending three different primary
schools, after being placed in first grade at age
10. She remembers four different foster families
over those years, which she referred to as Mom and
Dad. The final foster family she lived with was a
cousin and his wife. Through those years, her
relatives kept tags on the three siblings.
Theirs was a
famous tap dancing family. Her mother’s brother was
Willie Covan of the Four Covans. (Check his amazing
dancing skills on Youtube!) Her uncle and his wife,
Aunt Flo, opened a dance studio in Los Angeles with
the help of Mae West, and it was there for MGM they
taught dancing to stars such as Debbie Reynolds,
Gregory Peck, Shirley Temple, Angie Dickinson and
Kirk Douglas!!! Her uncle lived late into his 90’s
and Betty would often drive from Tucson to L.A. to
visit him. Yes, Betty Liggins has led an amazing
life. Her contributions deserve to be recognized by
the Tucson Urban League.