In 1955, Dorothy L. McMillan, born and raised on 12th Street, graduated at just 17 years old as valedictorian of Quinn High School.
Sixty-five years later, after blazing a trail as a civil rights pioneer and long-serving political leader, the town on Long Island, New York where she made her home showed their love for her by naming the Town Hall plaza in her honor.
The town board of Hempstead, the largest town in a county of about 800,000, surprised Dorothy Goosby on Feb. 27, which also happened to be her birthday, with the honor. The board made the announcement at the town's African American History Month celebration.
Supervisor Don Clavin, joined by Hempstead Town Councilmen Bruce Blakeman, Anthony D'Esposito, Dennis Dunne, Tom Muscarella and Christopher Carini, Town Clerk Kate Murray and Receiver of Taxes Jeanine Driscoll unveiled a printed replica of a dedication plaque for "Senior Councilwoman Dorothy L. Goosby Plaza," which will be installed later outside the Nathan L.H. Bennett Pavilion at Hempstead Town Hall.
The plaza is named after Goosby in recognition of her efforts to obtain equal voting rights for African Americans and other minorities through a method mirrored in her own home, which was the creation of single-member districts
"At a time when African Americans and other minority groups were underrepresented in Hempstead Town government, Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby challenged the status quo and fought for equal voting rights," said Clavin. "I am personally honored to serve alongside this civil rights champion, and the Town of Hempstead is proud to name Town Hall Plaza as 'Senior Councilwoman Dorothy L. Goosby Plaza.'"
In 1988, Goosby — then a private citizen — filed a class action lawsuit against the Town of Hempstead, arguing that its at-large voting system for electing town council members discriminated against African Americans and other minority groups who comprised a smaller percentage of the town's population.
Nine years later, in 1997, a federal judge ruled in favor of Goosby and her supporters. And, in 1999, Goosby ran for office and became the first African American woman ever to serve on the Hempstead Town Council, as well as the first Democrat elected since 1905.
As a result of Goosby's lawsuit, six districts were established in the town, allowing for more equal representation of African Americans and other minority groups in government.
In November 2000, a special election was held for all six seats; Goosby was re-elected to serve Councilmanic District 1 — which encompasses Hempstead, Lakeview, Roosevelt and portions of Baldwin, Freeport, Lynbrook, Rockville Centre, Uniondale and West Hempstead. Over the past 20 years, district residents have repeatedly re-elected Goosby by an overwhelming majority.
"There are so many incredible African American people, stories and moments that have been chronicled from all across our nation, but it is important to acknowledge that Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby made true civil rights history right here in the Town of Hempstead," Clavin said. "Senior Councilwoman Goosby blazed a path for others to follow in her footsteps, and it's fitting that the walkway leading directly to Hempstead Town Hall will forever be named in her honor."
Goosby is president of the Association Of Towns of New York, where she serves on the executive, and the rules and resolutions committees.
The press release from Hempstead said her recognition was also for her ongoing community efforts, that have included initiating community meetings and town board evening meetings that provide access and opportunity for more residents to participate in government than ever before.
“She has intervened in areas that have resulted in a better life for many,” it reads. “These include repair and renovation of streets that were long neglected, parks that were in total disrepair, vacant lots that were littered and street lights that did not function properly, just to name a few.”
Upon her graduation from Quinn, Goosby, the daughter of Joe and Bennie McMillian, received three scholarships, one from the railroad, where her father worked; one from the Tallahassee Democrat, which gave 500 scholarships to African-Americans; and one from Sears & Roebuck.
As a child, Goosby lived with her parents on 12th Street. That property, a huge block-corner of Ave L and 11th Street down to past the Ave M and 12th St intersection, is still in the family.
As a 9-year old, she worked in the summer as a dishwasher at The Grill, where she and her 8-year old brother earned $6 a week, together.
After graduating Quinn, she worked herself through college with a job in the cafeteria, and in 1959 graduated from Florida A&M University with a bachelor of science degree in foods, nutrition and institutional management.
She hoped to find a job in Apalachicola after finishing college, but couldn’t and so moved to New York.
Goosby received her masters in business administration in labor relations/corporate finance and accounting management from Adelphi University. She worked as a registered dietitian with more than 25 years of administrative experience in the medical profession. She attended Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York and obtained her chemistry teacher certification.
Goosby recently lost her husband of 50 years, Anderson Jay Goosby. She has two daughters, Alcina and Cassandra Goosby, and is a longtime member of Union Baptist Church in Hempstead.