1924-March 13, 2007
Redwood City, California
Barbara Mouton, East Palo Alto's first mayor, died March 13 in Redwood City after a period of failing health. She was 82.
"My mother was tired," a daughter, Manon Peterson of East Palo Alto, said. "She knew her race was complete and it was time to go to a different venue."
Mouton was elected the city's first mayor after the city incorporated in 1983. She was considered a voice of conciliation after incorporation led to a bitter split in the community. She served as mayor until 1986 and was on the City Council until 1990.
Gertrude Wilks often differed with Mouton on city issues, but was also a close friend.
"Sometimes we agreed and sometimes we disagreed," Wilks said. "We never did fall out. When something happened to me, Barbara was always the first person at my house."
The two women became friends more than 40 years ago after both attended a PTA meeting. "We traveled together and worked together over the years," Wilks said. When one of Wilks' children was ill, she said she and Mouton shared duties of keeping watch over her.
Sharifa Wilson, who served as the city's mayor for three years, credits Mouton for getting her interested in running for the City Council.
"She was very supportive and got me involved," Wilson said. "And she continued to guide me while I was on the council." Wilson noted that after Mouton ended her council service she remained closely involved in the affairs of the community, working with nonprofit groups.
"She really served as an example to other people," Wilson added.
One of the nonprofits Mouton worked with was Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto Palo. "She volunteered at our office every Friday" including the Friday before she died, said Carolyn Tucher, an agency board member. "We will certainly miss her." Mouton was also a board member.
She was raised in San Francisco. Her parents resisted injustice, once being kicked out of their church for being black and outspoken. Her father was the president of San Francisco's NAACP in 1929. Mouton went on to earn bachelor's from four colleges, including Stanford.
She was an administrator of Nairobi Day School in East Palo Alto from 1970 to 1979. "I was there day and night," she said in 2004. "When people called me at home, my children said, 'She doesn't live here anymore,'"
Mouton received a "Lifetimes of Achievement" award from Avenidas, the Palo Alto senior center, in 2004.
At that time, when asked why she had worked so hard for her community, Mouton replied, "You did what you had to do." Mouton was also honored at the 20th anniversary of East Palo Alto's incorporation in 2003.
Mouton is survived by her daughters, Manon Patterson, Maisha Mouton and Lauriene Mouton, all of East Palo Alto, Barbara George of Hayward and Cecile Blair of Sacramento; and by a son, Martin Pierre Mouton of East Palo Alto.