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Disability Network Southwest Michigan

Brad Lomax

Celebrating Black History Month

Brad Lomax on stage at a demonstration, seated next to Judy Heumann.

When Brad Lomax helped found the Washington chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1969, he had already been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  In 1973, Lomax moved to Oakland, California to immerse himself in the social movements growing in the Bay Area, and remained connected to the Black Panther Party.

As a wheelchair user, Lomax was confronted with access issues throughout the city. Realizing the obstacles people with disabilities had to face on a daily basis, Lomax joined forces with the budding disability rights movement. In 1975, Lomax approached Ed Roberts, the director of the local Center for Independent Living in nearby Berkeley, proposing that the CIL combine efforts with the Black Panthers to offer assistance to people with disabilities in East Oakland, a predominantly Black community.

This partnership proved vital to the success of the famous 504 Sit-in in April of 1977 when disability rights protesters occupied the Federal Building in San Francisco for 28 days, demanding that the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare sign off on regulations for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Lomax called on his connections with the Black Panther Party who supported the protestors by delivering hot meals and other provisions needed over the prolonged sit-in.

Brad Lomax was born in Philadelphia on September 13, 1950. He attended Howard University in Washington, DC; it was during this time that he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and began using a wheelchair.  Lomax died in Sacramento, California on August 28, 1984 at the age of 33 from complications related to multiple sclerosis.