Sally Fox: A Public Service Life Comes to a Close

Sen. Sally Fox, public advocate extraordinaire, has died after a two-year battle with lung cancer.

According to reports on Vt Digger, House Speaker Shap Smith made the announcement Friday to a shocked chamber of legislators, many of whom had been her colleagues during her seven terms in the House. She was in the middle of her second term in the Senate. According to the story in the Free Press (limited free access) Senate President Pro-tem John Campbell called her “courageous and passionate in fighting for people who couldn’t fight for themselves.”

I met Sally Fox a few times, and was inspired and impressed. Hers was clearly a public service life, dedicated to speaking up for those with less access to power. She was kind and smart and did terrific work. She will be missed by thousands of people, some of whom might not ever have known who she was or what she did to make their lives better.

Our hearts and thoughts go out to her husband and children and to all those who must find a way to carry on without her voice, her compassion, her presence to make justice real in this world.

7 thoughts on “Sally Fox: A Public Service Life Comes to a Close

  1. Sally was already working at Vermont Legal Aid when I came to Vermont in 1983. She was actually one of the first 100 women ever admitted to practice law in Vermont.

    She also was unusual in that she ran for and served in the Vermont Legislature while working at Legal Aid. This was in the 1980’s, when Ronald Reagan was attempting to abolish legal services for the poor, and had turned the board of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) into a tool to attack effective advocacy for poor people. While Sally was in the Legislature we had a monitoring visit from a team from LSC and I’m pretty sure they asked everyone they talked to about Sally and her legislative work. As I recall, they criticized the Legislature for engaging in “social engineering”–isn’t that what legislatures do?

    We have many allies and supporters in the Legislature, but Sally was always one of the strongest voices, not only a supporter, but someone who considered the very purpose of her service to be to serve as a voice for the poor, for people with disabilities, and for the voiceless.

    This work continued to the end. Throughout the 2013 legislative session and last summer and fall, Sally was there, even as she was looking frail and her voice was weak. The last contact I had with her was right around Christmas as she contacted me to work on strategy to defend against the latest legislative measure to attack the rights of mental patients. Defending those rights, and responding to those attacks, will be much harder without Sally in the Senate.

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