On Thursday, October 16th, the NADP family lost a stalwart abolitionist. We wanted to take a moment to remember and honor Norma’s many contributions to the repeal movement in Nebraska.
So many have a great, entertaining story about when they first met Norma. I first met her when I had just joined the board of NADP and was going on my first visit to death row. Norma rode with me that evening and could tell I was sort of nervous about my first visit, so she set my mind at ease by telling me stories from her many years of visiting the inmates. She also told me stories about how she got involved in the repeal movement during her time in Tennessee.
On Mondays for many years Norma and Fran Kaye would spend the lunch hour in front of the governor’s mansion or in the capitol rotunda reminding elected officials and passers-by that “execution is not the solution.” Through many years and several administrations, they collected stories of interactions with citizens, senators, governors, and first ladies, and they faithfully and peacefully drove the dialogue about the death penalty forward. Well into her 80’s, even when Norma had to use a chair because she could no longer stand for long periods of time, she continued her vigil at the capitol. She would often joke “I am sitting for what I stand for.” Probably most notable was the summer that Norma visited all 93 counties in the state to engage fellow Nebraskans in a discussion about the death penalty. I had just started as director of NADP, and nightly I would get a call from Norma with an update about her journey. I remember her explaining to a reporter why she was doing this. She said she had always thought people all over the state needed to be hearing the truth about the death penalty, but then one day she thought, “You old bag you, you aren’t doing anything. Why don’t you go?” Her humor and joy brought people close to have a conversation about a hard subject. This reminds us all that most people change their mind about the death penalty through conversations with friends and neighbors.
On a personal note, Norma was one of my biggest cheer-leaders. She would often call me just to check on how I was doing. We would monthly go for Chinese food at her favorite place, Golden Wok, and she would donate regularly to NADP and write “in honor of my young friend, Stacy”. As we get closer than ever to achieving repeal in Nebraska, I often think of Norma. She was thrilled to see so many people joining the effort to repeal because she knew that meant the work would continue after she was gone. So thank you for all you do as an NADP supporter (giving, calling, writing, volunteering). Every step you take to advance this work honors the memory of Norma and so many other amazing abolitionists that have gone before us.