Oklahoma Universal Human Rights Award Honorees
Organizations are underlined.
Lydia Gill Polley
Born Lydia Pfrimmer in Arkansas, Lydia Polley came to Crescent, Oklahoma, with her parents at the age of four. She proclaimed to be, “an Okie ever since.”
Lydia was a lifelong advocate of “peace and justice for all.” An unwavering anti-death penalty activist, she served as the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty’s (OK-CADP) Chair, Co-Chair, and Secretary.
In 2013, she was honored with the coalition’s Lifetime Abolitionist Award, recognizing her as the “heart and soul” of the organization.
She participated in numerous OK-CADP vigils and demonstrations, including a protest of the execution of Oklahoma death row inmate Wanda Jean Allen in 2001 attended by national civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and Polley;s minister, Rev. Robin Meyers, Sr, Pastor of Mayflower Congregational Church.
In 2013, Lydia was key in developing the OK-CADP Bob Lemon Capitol Defense Attorney Scholarship Fund, which fosters ongoing professional development to promote more effective defending and appealing of death sentences.
Lydia was active with the Amnesty International local chapter helping to facilitate a ‘letter writing campaign” each year that sent Christmas cards to each Oklahoma death row inmate.
Lydia had a lifelong love of music, playing and teaching piano from a young age.
Her formal education in music included attendance at the University of Oklahoma. She earned a degree in adult education from Oklahoma City University.
Lydia was an avid Oklahoma University football fan and adored spending summers at her lake house on Lake Tenkiller with friends and family.
Lydia was a motivational speaker on such topics as communication, education, influencing behavior, leadership, marketing, planning, problem-solving, program evaluation, team building, and time management. She celebrated being a life-long-learner and called that forth from others.
As a workshop facilitator Lydia attracted “repeat participants” who proclaimed her sessions as “the most rewarding you’ve ever been a part of because she creatively involved all participants in a way that rewarded them with new insights, enhanced skills and renewed enthusiasm.”
During a long career as an educator, Lydia worked for 84 organizations in 37 states, the District of Columbia and Costa Rica. She facilitated over 363 sessions and workshops, “influencing thousands of participants who carried that forward to many, many more.”
Her ground-breaking work in the field of energy conservation and efficiency started with a video series for Oklahoma Low Income Weatherization in the seventies. She set educational standards that are used around the country to this day.
Lydia was the founder and director of the Agency for Christian Cooperative Ministry, an associate director at the YWCA and spent time in many programs sponsored by federal energy funds.
A dedicated Democrat, in the 1970s Lydia ran for Oklahoma City Council and over the years managed or volunteered for several progressive political campaigns.
Lydia drew great joy from involving young people in the democratic process. A supporter of CAIR-Oklahoma, she often joined others during the group’s annual Muslim Day at the Capitol to participate in their legislative awareness event.
Lydia stated that in retirement she never grew tired of “standing on street corners, holding signs for peace and good causes.”
In addition to her many professional and volunteer affiliations, Lydia was the mother of four grown children. She had nine grandchildren and numerous great grandchildren.
A professional colleague John Augustino said of Polley, “We meet thousands of wonderful people in our lifetimes but there are few souls we come across who touch our hearts and our lives as Lydia did, in such a way that change us and make us better people.”