Vivinee Price, who overcame discrimination against African Americans in California as a public servant and businesswoman, died Aug. 29, her family said. She was 99.
The granddaughter of a former slave and daughter of a Baptist preacher, Mrs. Price supported civil rights and belonged to African American groups and churches all her life. In Sacramento, where she moved in 1989 to be near a daughter, she volunteered at polling places and was active at St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Oak Park.
"She was an election volunteer all her life," said her daughter Vivinee Garner-Jones. "She felt it was her duty after everything people went through to be able to vote."
Mrs. Price rarely spoke about her own role in breaking down racial barriers in Southern California during the 1930s.
At some upscale department stores, where black shoppers were not allowed to try on clothes, she browsed the racks for ideas and then went home to design and make her own dresses.
She became one of the first African Americans to get a job with the Internal Revenue Service in Los Angeles. During the Great Depression, she worked for the newly created Social Security program and typed her own original Social Security card.
"She didn't sound black on the phone, so people would hire her over the phone and then turn her down when she showed up," Garner-Jones said. "When the IRS called, she said, 'I'm Negro. If you don't want me, don't have me come all the way downtown.' But they wanted her."
In 1946, Mrs. Jones earned a real estate broker's license and helped black families buy homes in segregated neighborhoods. She opened a real estate school in her Pasadena home during the 1950s and trained other African American agents.
She later returned to public service and retired from the California Department of Rehabilitation.
Vivinee Zelma Baltimore was born in 1913 in Bessmay, Texas. Her father was a Baptist minister and her mother was a missionary. An only child, she moved with her parents to Los Angeles and graduated from high school at 16.
She settled in Pasadena, married James Garner and had four daughters. She held leadership positions and was active in many ministries at Friendship Baptist Church in Pasadena and Second Baptist Church of Monrovia. She served as secretary of the Pasadena chapter of the NAACP and belonged to Tau Gamma Delta, an African American sorority.
Her marriage ended in divorce, as did a later marriage to Woodrow Price.
Mrs. Price was "a very soft-spoken woman who never raised her voice," Garner-Jones said. She raised her family in a multi-generational household that included her maternal grandfather, Dan Coleman, a former slave who was freed by his owner at 7. She cared for him until his death at 99.
"She was the granddaughter of a slave, and she lived to see and vote for the first black president of the United States," said her daughter Gretchen Garner-Easter. "She was very proud of that."