Mamie Jennings

Obituary: Mamie Jennings, longtime Del Paso Heights activist

Published: Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3B
Last Modified: Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 - 8:57 am

Mamie Jennings, a longtime Del Paso Heights community activist and matriarch, died Dec. 27. She was 92.

Mrs. Jennings had deep roots in Del Paso Heights, where she settled in the mid-1940s at the head of a wave of African Americans who migrated from the South to Sacramento after World War II. She devoted herself to getting involved in civic groups and working to improve the quality of life for residents, especially children.

She was an early member of the Good Neighbors Club, which formed to help newcomers settle in Del Paso Heights in the 1950s and 1960s. She was an original member of Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a leading congregation on Grand Avenue.

Mrs. Jennings and other Good Neighbors members provided day care for children in a private home and later at Allen Chapel.

As the program grew, she helped lead efforts to open the Good Neighbors Child Development Center, which moved to a building on Knightlinger Street by 1992.

"Mamie Jennings was an African American pioneer in our community," Sacramento City Councilman Allen Warren said. "She planted a number of good seeds … that are still bearing fruit."

Mrs. Jennings spent 17 years on the Sacramento County Board of Education, including a term as president. Appointed to fill a vacancy created when her husband, board member Sylvester Jennings, died in 1977, she was re-elected until she stepped down in 1994.

She also served on the Sacramento County Juvenile Justice Commission and a Del Paso Heights redevelopment advisory panel.

For decades she attended meetings, marched against drugs, joined improvement clubs and gave money to education groups. Meanwhile, she raised four sons and went back to high school at night to earn a diploma. She packed produce in canneries and worked as an electronics technician at local military bases.

"I'm just doing what needs to be done as a part of living," she told The Bee in 1996. "I've just tried to be a friend, a neighbor, a person."

Mamie Delores Goethe was born in 1920 in Sandy Point, Texas, to farmers who raised 14 children in a blended family. She moved with her family to Tulare and married Sylvester Jennings in 1938.

They moved to downtown Sacramento in 1942 and later to Del Paso Heights. She worked at the Sacramento Army Depot and retired after more than 20 additional years at McClellan Air Force Base.

She married twice after her first husband died, to James Trice and Alfonso Booker, who both predeceased her. She also was predeceased by two sons, Perry and Rodney.

Mrs. Jennings was widely recognized for her community activism. She was one of 10 Del Paso Heights leaders honored with streets named for them in the Del Paso Nuevo development.

"It feels good," she said in 1996. "It's really a nice feeling for people to know that you're doing the best that you can to make the quality of life better for your fellow man."

Mamie Jennings

Born: Dec. 8, 1920

Died: Dec. 27, 2012

Survived by: Sons, Buford of Vallejo, and Eugene of Sacramento; six grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; and four great-great-grandchildren

Services: Viewing, 2 to 6 p.m. today at Thompson Rose Chapel, 3601 Fifth Ave., Sacramento; services, 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1239 Grand Ave., Sacramento

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