RIP: Leola R. McCoy
by Brittany Wallman, Sun Sentinel
Leola R. McCoy, a tiny black woman with a large passion for righting wrongs against African-Americans, was buried Saturday after a funeral attended by friends, family, state legislators, the mayor and a congressman.
As McCoy lay in repose in a sparking silver outfit and lace gloves at northwest Fort Lauderdale‘s New Mount Olive Baptist Church, her 70 years were remembered.
And, yes, “stubborn.”
A little obstinence helped McCoy push against the establishment for decades, as she fought to expose the deadly dangers of the now infamous Wingate landfill and incinerator on Northwest 31st Avenue. McCoy lived to see the site, from which she lived a mile away, declared a Superfund toxic dump and to see it capped with a protective membrane.
But a headline in the Sun Sentinel last Sunday, the day McCoy died, showed the continuing struggle that she couldn’t finish: “Health questions linger after state study on Fort Lauderdale trash incinerator.”
McCoy, a five-time City Commission candidate, wanted longtime health monitoring and care for Wingate neighbors. U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, told mourners that McCoy was a “force of one.”
“She has talked about death in this little square-mile area, and now she has joined their ranks. I for one will not let it die,” Hastings said.
A self-taught “lawyer,” McCoy was awarded Nova Southeastern University‘s first honorary law degree from the Shepard Broad Law Center, and her casket was inscribed “Dr. Leola R. McCoy.”
McCoy was mother to more than just her own three children, inspiring black children all around her to “be somebody,” friends said.
At times, she lamented the black community’s timidity in standing up for its rights.
“Lee believed the burden was not too heavy, if everyone would lift,” said Dr. Margie Larkins, a friend of McCoy’s since high school at Dillard in the 1950s.
State Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, presented a state proclamation Saturday honoring McCoy.
In the audience were Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle, who considered McCoy an adviser for years; Broward Clerk of Courts and former Sen. Howard Forman; and state Rep. Matt Meadows, D-Lauderhill.
The Rev. Dr. Mack King Carter, who knew McCoy for more than 50 years, since she lived in Ocala, said life is but “a vapor” and McCoy “a raindrop that came down from God. Just a raindrop.”