Thursday, October 16, 2008

Judith Gilliom, Pentagon Advocate for Disabled Employees, Dies

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

Oct. 16, 2008 - Judith C. Gilliom, a senior Pentagon civilian who for 25 years championed Defense Department programs for disabled employees and work force diversity, died at age 65 here yesterday, officials said. Gilliom died of respiratory and other complications during treatment at a regional hospital following an Oct. 10 stroke.

Her passing represents "a great loss," David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, stated in an e-mail. "Her indomitable spirit was an inspiration," Chu added.

Gilliom's earlier work at the U.S. Civil Servant Commission and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission included writing two of the basic documents upon which the federal affirmative-action program for people with disabilities is based.

Upon joining the Defense Department in 1983, Gilliom became the Pentagon's first department-level disability program manager.

At age 27, Gilliom was permanently paralyzed from the neck down as the result of an accident.

"Inclusion and empowerment are the things that make diversity great," Gilliom said at the Defense Department's annual disability awards ceremony in 2002. "People with disabilities are now part of the mainstream. We belong."

At the Pentagon, Gilliom served as the disability program manager on the staff of Clarence A. Johnson, principal director of the Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity, formerly known as the Office of Civilian Equal Employment Opportunity.

"She was a key component in this office as our DoD disability program manager," Johnson said of Gilliom.

Johnson praised Gilliom as a tireless worker and a
leader in the federal disability community. Her photo and story are featured along with those of several other distinguished DoD civilian employees at a wall-mounted display in the Pentagon's A-ring.

Gilliom established the department's disabled work force recruitment program about 12 years ago, Johnson said. She also assisted in the start-up of the
Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program for disabled employees, he said, and managed DoD's Asian/Pacific-American heritage program.

Gilliom had been hospitalized off and on during the last several years, Johnson said. She took ill again in January, he said, and often worked from her Wheaton, Md., home until her death.

Johnson said Gilliom was planning to return to work part-time at the Pentagon following another stint in the hospital a few weeks ago. However, he said, her health worsened after the stroke, and she died.

Gilliom specified in her will that she didn't want a funeral or a memorial service. So Burton Rothleder, her long-time friend, asked that no flowers or donations be sent, Johnson said. Gilliom did arrange, at her expense, a party for family and friends at a local restaurant. Rothleder will ensure invitees are notified when it is planned, Johnson said.

"Burt said many years ago that Judy said she didn't expect to live past 50," Johnson said. "She lived beyond age 65, and we were blessed and inspired by her presence. We will surely miss Judy."

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