Remembering Jada Mae Langloss by Chris Lydgate
I first met Jada Mae sometime in the winter of ‘94. I was a cub reporter at Willamette Week and she was running for Mayor. I can remember her standing outside the newspaper office, across the street from the County Library, in a brown suede jacket and a floppy hat studded with buttons and topped with feathers. “I’m underfunded and overqualified!” she said. “Are you gonna endorse me?”
I had no idea what to say—a sensation that would return over and over as I got to know her better. Jada specialized in leaving people speechless. She had the gift of the gab. Willamette Week was the “Willamette Wimps.” Editor Mark Zusman was “Fussy Zussy.” Publisher Richard Meeker was “Sneaker Meeker.”
There was Uncle Runkel, the Libel-gonian, and my all-time favorite, her nickname for the City Commissioner who demonstrated the least tolerance for her frequent appearances at City Hall, Five-Minutes-Only Francesconi.
And she had names for herself. Grandma Jada. Grandma Coyote. Grouchy McGrumpy.
Jada collected labels like she collected buttons—perennial candidate, homeless activist, runaway Grandma—but none of them quite fit her. The other day, out of curiosity, I looked back at one of her old VP statements to see how she described herself.
Under “Occupation,” she wrote: Full time advocate for patients rights, children’s rights, social justice, plant & animal restoration, and healthy homes and habitats for people & natures diverse species.
Under “Occupational Background”, she put: Space Needle Restaurant, nutritional consultant, Fuller Brush Sales; Aetna Insurance, John L. Scott Realtor; Journeywoman Painter, Researcher, and Wise Advisor.
Under “Prior Governmental Experience,” she put: No paid experience in government, yet.
Jada was, of course, the founder—and as far as I know, the sole member—of the Preservative Party, a name which was designed to appeal equally to progressives and conservatives. As she liked to say, “You need both wings to fly.”
She pulled almost 8,000 votes in the primary for Multnomah County Chair in 2002.
I remember that result because I was Jada’s date for the Victory parties the night the results were announced. We met up in the basement of the Hilton Hotel, which was buzzing with assorted dignitaries and hangers-on. I was wearing a magnificent polyester suit that Jada had given me. It was a show-stopper—paisleys on acid with bell-bottom pants and lapels wide enough to land a 747. I walked into the Hilton feeling pretty conspicuous—until I saw Jada.
She was perched in her wheelchair, wearing a magnificent black wig, with curls cascading down to her waist, leather boots, and her most regal hat, topped with feathers. As I walked up to her, she was hectoring some local politician (it might have been Earl Blumenauer) and grilling him on his position on homelessness. Earl was trying to disentangle himself, but with little luck. Jada was a professional pest—and nothing short of an answer would satisfy her (although it was often not clear what the question was.) Finally I was able to pull her away with the lure that we should go and harangue some Republicans. Read More…