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Longtime Civil Rights Activist Passes

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The Black Voice News
Courtesy of Sacramento Observer

By Observer Staff Reporter


The Sacramento Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People owes much of its storied past to the might of one woman, Virna Canson.

The long time civil rights advocate passed away last Monday at age 81.

Canson was born in Bridgeport, Oklahoma to schoolteacher parents William A. and Eula Gross Dobson on June 10, 1921. Canson moved to Sacramento upon marrying the late Attorney Clarence Bernard Canson on August 7, 1940.

From 1953 to 1965, Canson served as Treasurer-Manager of the Sacramento Branch of the NAACP Credit Union. Assets of the credit union grew from $35,000 to $400,000 under her leadership. A proposal she authored and submitted from the Sacramento Branch of the NAACP Credit Union was funded as a component of the Community Action Program of Sacramento County. The proposal, entitled LIFE, or Low-Income Family Economics, provided an organization for money management, counseling, and consumer education among underserved families in Sacramento County. It was the first such proposal funded under Title II-A of the Economic Opportunities Act of 1964.

Canson joined the staff of the regional NAACP as a field director and legislative advocate in July 1969. She worked tirelessly to ensure that California laws reflected the interest of low-income families. On August 1, 1974, following the death of Leonard Carter, then regional director of the West Coast Region NAACP, Canson assumed the position of regional director of Region I, NAACP. Canson retired from the NAACP in 1988.

As for Canson's spirit of political activism, she "came by it honest." Her father served as mayor of the all-Black town of Lima, Oklahoma. Her mother was also state president of the Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs.

Her legacy lives on through the West Coast Region NAACP Historical Documents Project she established with The Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley. She also donated her personal papers to Oakland's African American Museum. The project will be completed by her family, with the donation of the balance of her personal papers and pictures.

After her husband's death in 1989, Canson moved to President James Monroe Manor where she continued to serve the community as a member of the World Council and as a mentor to students at California Middle School. Her favorite duty however, was that of grandmother to her two grandchildren Philip and Maya Canson.

Last month, Canson returned to her residence of 50 years to make her journey home.

Daughter Faythe Canson, said she died peacefully and comfortably.

Canson is survived by her son Dr. Clarence B. Canson of El Sobrante; daughter-in-law Pat Canson and her mother Kay Smith; daughter Faythe of Sacramento; brother Attorney William A. Dobson of Hill City, Kansas and her sisters-in-law Ruth Dobson and Dorothy Dobson and their two children Rheanette and Richard Dobson; niece Dr. Patricia Canson and her son Aurin; her Godson Michael Jon Burney Colbert, members of the extended Canson and Thornton family and many more cousins and long-time family and friends.

Those wishing to make donations in the name of Virna Canson may do so to: Faith Community United Church of Christ-Congregational Church, 7486 Center Parkway, Sacramento, CA 95823 or NAACP Act-So Program, NAACP National ACT-SO, 6000 Metro Drive, Baltimore, MD 21215, Attention: Dawnyell Harris or the American Cancer Society, 1765 Challenge Way, Suite 115, Sacramento, CA 95818.

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