Justin Dart, Jr.
"Most importantly, ADA is a landmark commandment of fundamental human morality. It is the world's first declaration of equality for people with disabilities by any nation. It will proclaim to America and to the world that people with disabilities are fully human; that paternalistic, discriminatory, segregationist attitudes are no longer acceptable; and that henceforth people with disabilities must be accorded the same personal respect and the same social and economic opportunities as other people."
Justin Dart, Jr., was a longtime advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. He was widely recognized as one of the main forces behind the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990. Mr. Dart was the recipient of five presidential appointments and numerous honors.
Mr. Dart attended the University of Houston, earning a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and a Master's degree in History. Mr. Dart became active in civil rights while attending the University of Houston.
Mr. Dart went into business in 1956, building several successful companies in Mexico and Japan. He started Japan Tupperware with three employees in 1963, and by 1965, it had expanded to some 25,000 employees. Mr. Dart used his businesses to advance the employment opportunities of women and people with disabilities.
Mr. Dart returned to Texas in 1974, and immersed himself in local disability activism. From 1980 to 1985, Mr. Dart was a member, and then chair, of the Texas Governor's Committee for Persons with Disabilities. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan appointed Dart to be the vice-chair of what is now known as the National Council on Disability. Mr. Dart and others on the Council drafted a national policy that called for national civil rights legislation to end discrimination against people with disabilities. This document would eventually form the basis for the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. In 1986, Mr. Dart was appointed to head the Rehabilitation Services Administration, a federal agency which oversees a vast array of programs for people with disabilities. In 1988, he was appointed to co-chair the Congressional Task Force on Rights and Empowerment of Americans with Disabilities. In 1989, Mr. Dart was appointed chair of the President's Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities, shifting its focus from its tradition of urging business to "hire the handicapped" to advocating for full civil rights for people with disabilities. In 1998, Mr. Dart received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award. After passage of the ADA, Mr. Dart threw his energy into the fight for universal health care.
Known for his trademark cowboy hats and boots, Mr. Dart was a true and devoted soldier in his march for equal rights for all peoples of the world -- especially and profoundly for individuals with disabilities.
Mr. Dart was devoted to his wife, Yoshiko, and cherished by five daughters, 11 grandchildren and two great-grand children.