I’m a law professor. My field is disability law, and I have been asking my students to read Unspeakable Conversations ever since I first read it myself. It was really exciting to me to learn Harriet would be at a conference at Emory University and I would actually have an opportunity to meet her in person. It got even better, though. The attendant with Harriet on that trip was her sister Beth, and I was attending the conference with my own sister, Pat, who is a well known disability rights advocate. The two sets of sisters ended up having dinner together that night, an evening that remains one of my most indelible memories. Later, I met Harriet again at a book signing, and still later, I was able to bring her to Georgia to deliver the Edith House Lecture (a prestigious law school lecture series) in the spring of 2007. Harriet being Harriet, she insisted she didn’t lecture, she just talked, but the room was packed and she held her audience in thrall. I had one more opportunity to be with her in person, and that was when my husband and I went to Charleston over the Labor Day weekend 2007 and helped with her MDA telethon protest. We visited with Harriet in her lovely, lush office, which seemed to me to be the epitome of Charleston style. Harriet herself was the epitome of Charleston style, for that matter. It is hard to imagine a world without Harriet Johnson. But then, as long as her eloquent writings survive, the world does have her in it. She is immortal in the only way she would have admitted — through the memory of the people who knew her and the new people who will only know her through her writing. My heart goes out to her family. They had her so much longer than they expected to, and that must be a big comfort. She didn’t have a period of prolonged incapacity, which she would have dreaded. She lived a life of adventure and achievement and joy, and her family can take credit for helping to make it possible for Harriet to express her indomitable individuality. RIP Harriet!
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