Lucy Judkins Durr Hackney, wife of Penn President Emeritus Sheldon Hackney, died October 26, at her home in Vineyard Haven, Massachussetts, following a prolonged period of declining health. She was 81.
Mrs. Hackney was born in Montgomery, Alabama, to prominent civil rights activists. Her father was one of the attorneys who helped Rosa Parks make bail after she was arrested for refusing to leave her seat on a Montgomery bus. Mrs. Parks was a family friend and also a talented seamstress who helped with the alterations on Lucy Hackney’s wedding dress. Mrs. Hackney’s uncle, US Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, took part in the Brown v. Board of Education decision to end racial segregation in public schools.
Lucy Durr met Sheldon Hackney in high school and later left college to marry him. After having three children, she returned to school to earn her bachelor’s degree from Princeton and a law degree from Tulane. Ms. Hackney was a board member for the Children’s Defense Fund and served as a Juvenile Law Center staff attorney. In the early 1990s, she founded the Pennsylvania Partnership for Children, a broad-based advocacy center for children, and she served as the PPC board chair for many years. She was also a strong supporter of Camp Jabberwocky, where her daughter, Virginia, had been a camper.
During her husband’s tenure at Penn, she was very involved on campus. She served on the 1988 President’s Forum Committee to address the futures of children; she led a session during the 1990 Peak Week on child health at CHOP; and gave talks on other topics such as the Handicapped Act. She interviewed Sadie Alexander and Margaret Wettlin for the Women’s Oral History Project, which documented the experiences of over 100 prominent female University of Pennsylvania students, administrators, faculty and faculty family members; both taped interviews are held in the University Archives.
In 1993, when her husband retired from his position as Penn President (he later came back as a professor of history, as he was a noted historian of the American South), the Sheldon and Lucy Hackney Professorship in History was created by the Trustees in honor of their many years of dedicated service to Penn. Appointees have included Thomas Childers, Michael Katz and most recently Warren Breckman (Almanac February 20, 2018). At the 1993 Commencement ceremony, Mrs. Hackney was also awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree by the University (Almanac May 18, 1993).
In 2001, Mrs. Hackney was named a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania, an award that recognized “her efforts [that] resulted in health coverage for 100,000 previously uninsured young people in the Commonwealth. As staff attorney at the Juvenile Law Center, she was tenacious in her work on behalf of numerous children’s health, welfare and justice programs. She also had been active on the boards of numerous regional, state-wide and national educational institutions.”
The Hackneys moved to Martha’s Vineyard after Dr. Hackney retired from Penn. He died in 2013 (Almanac September 24, 2013). Mrs. Hackney is survived by a son, Fain, and daughter, Elizabeth McBride.