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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Community Mourns The Loss Of Long-time Activist Tony Orange

Anthony (Tony) Orange

The Greater Seattle Community is mourning the loss of long-time community advocate/activist Tony Orange. Orange passed away Sunday morning after a long battle with cancer.

Anthony (Tony) Orange was born in Kilgore, Texas. He was the third child and only son from the union of John Robert Orange, a carpenter, and Mary Belle Orange, a cook.

Orange served as Executive Director of the Central Area Motivation Program (CAMP) from September 2003 to September 2007. In its effort to combat poverty, CAMP served more than 15,000 people in excess of 40,000 times annually by carrying on the tradition for social change and self-sufficiency. Through many programs and services, CAMP served the underemployed, educated at-risk students, fed the hungry and kept thousands of families from going without heat during the fall and winter months.

Orange also worked for seven years as Executive Director of the Washington State Commission on African American Affairs. Upon that appointment in June of 1996, then Governor Mike Lowry said, “Tony has a long history of involvement in the African-American community and has worked hard his entire career for equal opportunity for all people. His background in education, community service and public administration will serve him well as he steps into his new office.”

Prior to Orange’s service to Governor Lowry, he coordinated a stakeholder listening project for Region 4 Community Services Division Administrator of the State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). Prior to that, he served for a year as Acting Director of the Central Area Youth Association Seattle and was Staff Assistant to the Seattle Human Rights Commission from 1988 to 1994. Orange was Executive Director for the Coalition for Quality Integrated Education before landing a job as Manager in the Equity and Compliance Department of the Seattle Public School District in 1977.

During his time in Seattle, Orange served on more than 20 boards and commissions, including serving as the Vice-President of the Board of Directors for the Festival Sundiata in Seattle, the Task Force on Policy Issues in Elementary and Secondary Education for the U.S. Office of Education, the Task Force on Goals for Common Schools for the Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Juvenile Justice Committee of the Washington Council on Crime and Delinquency, as well as the Washington State Minority and Justice Commission and the Loren Miller Bar Association Judicial Review Committee. Additionally, he has served as Chair of the Central Area School Council, Advisory Board Member for the Seattle Vocational Institute Worker Retraining Program and on the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation-Puget Sound Affiliate as Chair of African-American Initiatives. Orange also served the NAACP Seattle King County Branch as the Political Action Chair and served as the President of the Seattle Affiliate of the National Black Child Development Institute and Steering Committee for the African-American Leadership Forum of Greater Seattle.

Orange also served on the Defender Association Board of Directors as Nominations Chair and as Executive Board Member of the Breakfast Group as well as a founding member of the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee.

Orange was recognized by the Seattle City Council and Mayor with a resolution in celebration of his legacy and life designating August 29, 2014 as “Tony Orange Day.”

Former King County Councilmember Larry Gossett, a long-time friend and colleague of Orange, said that Tony Orange “was one of the truly great activist/leaders Seattle produced during the Black Power and social justice movement during the past 50 years in Seattle and beyond.”

“Tony’s attitude and commitment to the people was always on and about being involved, studying the issues affecting Black and other oppressed people in Seattle was on display in everything he involved himself in during his illustrative career in the Pacific Northwest,” said Gossett. “It was exemplified beautifully during the period he served as the Executive Director of the Washington State African American Commission.

“His articulation of some of the finer points of issues hurting and disadvantaging the Black community was admired by all lucky enough to her his clear explanation,” Gossett continued. “The killing of affirmative action was one such issue he worked on and he did a great job of mobilizing the people to resist those trying to kill it. Tony could always break down complex issues so that every day people could understand what they were fighting for every day. We really appreciated that about him.”

Orange will be remembered as a friend and colleague to many, but part of his legacy will be the number of younger people that he helped mentor and provide guidance and counsel to over the years. One such person, Ed Prince, who is the current Executive Director of the Washington State Commission on African Americans, says that Orange provided him with his first opportunity to serve, and although he let him bump his head a few times he was always there to make sure that he didn’t fail.

“Meeting Tony Orange changed the professional trajectory of my life,” says Prince. “He gave me my first shot in government and was a mentor, cheerleader, and trusted advisor. Tony was the person I could go to when I was struggling with a major decision his advice was always timely and on point. I will miss him dearly.”

Services for Orange are pending. The Seattle Medium will provide any information once it is received from the family.

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