Local black leader Val Joshua dies at 92

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

Published:

Updated: December 3, 2012, 9:55 PM

 

Val Joshua, who served for 29 years as president of the Vancouver chapter of the NAACP, died Monday. She was 92.

The YWCA’s Val Joshua Racial Justice Award is named for her.

Pat Jollota, a former member of the Vancouver City Council who worked for years as curator of the Clark County Historical Museum, said Monday that Joshua was part of the “Class of ’42.”

In the early 1940s, more than 8,000 blacks moved to Vancouver to work in the shipyards, building ships for World War II.

“She’s on the cover of my ‘Legendary Locals of Vancouver’ book,” Jollota said of Joshua.

“We talk about the ‘Greatest Generation’ who fought in the war,” Jollota said. “Val was a member of the ‘Greatest Generation’ who stayed here and made things better.”

“She really did impact the city of Vancouver,” the Rev. Marva Edwards said. “She was in community efforts all over.”

Edwards serves now as president of the Vancouver chapter of the NAACP.

“We lost a great person,” Edwards said. “One that cared about people and she showed it in everything that she did.

“I patterned my life after her.

“She started the WORTH program with the YWCA and they visited the women in prison,” Edwards added. She said Joshua in October received an NAACP Lifetime Achievement award at a tri-state convention. She noted that Joshua was president of the Vancouver NAACP for 29 years.

Bertha Baugh, who arrived in Vancouver in 1945, said she and Joshua were friends for more than 50 years.

“She was involved in so many organizations,” Baugh. She said she and Joshua worked four years on the 2012 book, “First Families of Vancouver’s African American Community: From World War II to the Twenty-First Century.”

In 2009, Joshua told a Columbian reporter that she came to Vancouver with her husband, Joseph, from Gilmer, Texas, in 1944. They helped start the local NAACP.

“His parents were here and they sent us train tickets,” she said then.

They lived in McLoughlin Heights in war housing. At first, “the whites were on one side of the street and the African-Americans were on the other side. And we took care of that. We worked on it with the housing authority and the NAACP.”

“The Vancouver Housing Authority wanted to integrate housing,” Joshua said. D. Elwood Caples, the VHA board chairman, was helpful, as was tenant adviser Mark Smith, a black man.

But there was tension, she said.

“Some of the churches were not very kind in accepting African-Americans into their congregations,” Joshua said at that time.

So, Vancouver blacks tended to worship in Portland, and Joshua remembered tolls on the Interstate 5 Bridge.

Joshua is survived by her daughter, Jackie Webster, and three sons, Michael, Joey and Reggie. She was preceded in death by two sons, Ronnie and Gerald, and her husband, Joseph.

Dave Kern contributed to this story.