John Wilkins was a passionate and eloquent activist for the rights and dignity of the disabled. With a keen intellect and fierce grace he dedicated his life to improving in-home personal assistance for both people with disabilities and their care providers.
John Wilkins and Evan LeVang of The Disability Action Center pose for a picture together on the steps of the California Capitol Building - Summer of 2009
John Wilkins was born in Roswell, New Mexico on December 29, 1954 and died on June 9, 2014, at home in his longtime residence of Fresno, California. He was dearly beloved not only by his immediate family, but also by a great many friends and colleagues throughout California and other states.
He was diagnosed at a very young age with Muscular Dystrophy. His father passed away while he was still a toddler but with the support of his mother, Edith, and brother, Ed, John never felt sorry for himself and grew up with his dreams and ambitions fully intact. John attended and graduated from New Mexico State University. Shortly after graduation, determined to live a meaningful and independent life, John, like so many other young people, followed his California Dream and headed further west, eventually settling in Fresno.
For most of his adult life, John was a devoted and outspoken advocate for the rights of people with disabilities and their caregivers. He worked for the Center for Independent Living – Fresno and led the Central Valley In-Home Supportive Service Coalition from 1994 to 2000. In 2002, he cofounded the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Coalition, a discussion group containing representatives from many groups related to homecare. Coalition members frequently lobby the highest levels of California government for needed change in state laws. John stepped down as chairman after seven years in order to focus on operating the IHSS Coalition website.
“The moral test of a government is how it treats those who are at the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadow of life, the sick and the needy, and the handicapped.”
— Hubert Humphrey (a favorite quote of John’s)
In 2010 the Muscular Dystrophy Association named John the recipient of its Robert Ross Personal Achievement Award for California. The Robert Ross award is MDA’s highest achievement award and is given to one recipient annually to represent the state of California. MDA, in making the award, noted John’s “Determination to succeed and his years of work on behalf of people with disabilities.”
John supporting the National Union of Health Care Workers against the SEIU. November 24, 2009
John Wilkins speaking on the steps of the California State Capitol Building. Sacramento, CA circa 2009