Betty and Jean Fairfax
The daughters of two college graduates, Jean and Betty Fairfax excelled in higher education. Jean was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and graduated with Honors in Liberal Arts from the University of Michigan. She then earned a master’s degree in World Religions from Union Theological Seminary. Betty received a Bachelor of Science degree from Case Western University and did graduate work at Teachers College in New York city.
The sisters were pioneers in Arizona and across the nation in advocating for equal opportunity for all. Jean did so as Director of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s Division of Legal Information and Community Service. She helped black families wrestle with whether and how to enroll their children in white schools. She documented white resistance to school integration. Jean wrote reports that helped direct federal funds from President Johnson’s War on Poverty to poor families and helped black workers challenge discrimination in employment. Jean became legendary within the Legal Defense Fund, though she remained largely unsung in the overall civil rights movement.
Jean retired from the LDF to move to AZ to be with her sister Betty, a longtime educator and guidance counselor. After 10 years in the Cleveland Public Schools, Betty was recruited by the Phoenix High School District to teach at Carver High School, a segregated high school. When that school was desegregated, she was among the first black teachers at Phoenix Union High School. She later served as Dean of Students at Central High School for many years. Upon retiring she and Jean became philanthropists! They worked with the AZ Community Foundation to establish the Dan and Inez Wood Fairfax Fund in honor of their parents as well as endowing several other funds. For her 60+ years of service to the community, Betty was honored by the Phoenix Unified School District by naming its newest school her honor: the Betty Fairfax High School in Laveen.
These two remarkable women dedicated their lives to advocate for social justice, leveraging philanthropy to help close gaps in equity among women and minorities across AZ. Their legacy is still transforming lives.