Last year the Pasadena chapter of the NAACP celebrated its 100th anniversary, making it one of the oldest chapters in the nation, having been founded just 10 years after the creation of the national organization itself. Throughout that time the Pasadena chapter has proven to be an influential example for other chapters nationwide.
Though the national organization has never had a female president, perhaps the Pasadena chapter’s most influential member was a woman. Pasadena resident Ruby McKnight Williams served Pasadena for over 50 years, including as branch president in 1959, 1960, 1969, and into the 70’s. It was during this racially contentious period in American history that under McKnight’s leadership the branch supported two national precedent-setting civil rights cases. In 1983 in recognition of her lifelong fight for the cause of civil rights and human dignity, she was named President Emeritus.
Since 1958 the Pasadena NAACP has recognized individuals who demonstrate excellence in community service with an award named in McKnight’s honor. And since 1985 the chapter has held a gala and awards dinner, with 2019 marking the 34th annual Ruby McKnight awards. (Typically held in October, the 2020 event is on hold pending the progress of the Corona19 crisis).
Allen Edson, current President of the Pasadena chapter says of McKnight: “She was a powerful leader who elevated the Pasadena Branch of the NAACP to the presence we have today.”