Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. FFRF.org

In memoriam: Judy Lansky was ‘unique in all the world’

Vol. 38 No. 09 November 2021
Judy Lansky and Ken Gould                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

By Ken Gould

One of the planet’s brightest lights extinguished on July 9, 2021. Judy Lansky, born Nov. 11, 1950, in Milwaukee, died following a valiant, courageous battle with leptomeningeal metastases, a rare complication of cancer. 

Judy was known by all for her infectious laugh, smile and vibrant personality and character. The laugh and smile were a significant part of why my wife Judy reminded me of the advertising promotion for the 1965 Thunderbird: “Unique in all the world.”

Judy and I traveled the world — Russia, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Canada, the Baltic countries, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Taiwan — on our tandem recumbent bicycle. And, we did it on our own, not as part of an organized tour with a tour guide, but with the enriching experiences that come from meeting the peoples of the countries through which we traveled, directly and on our own terms.

Judy was very actively involved in service to the community, especially through her advocacy of bicycling for recreation, transportation, health, and improvement of the overall quality of life for all citizens of central Arkansas. She was co-founder of Bicycle Advocacy of Central Arkansas, a nonprofit organization advocating for safe bicycling and improved bicycle facilities in the central Arkansas community, serving in all the organization’s offices, including as president from 2012 through 2014. 

Judy also served as the first chair of the Big Dam Bridge Foundation. In 2006, the Big Dam Bridge — one of the longest bicycle/pedestrian bridges in the world built for that purpose — was opened in Little Rock. The bridge, built on an existing dam, crosses the Arkansas River and through 16 miles of trails on both sides of the river links with an abandoned railroad bridge converted for bicycle/pedestrian use that also crosses the Arkansas River from the grounds of the Clinton Presidential Library. Her appointment as chair of the foundation was in recognition of her individual and organizational support and advocacy for construction of the bridge.

The Big Dam Bridge has significantly enhanced the quality of life in central Arkansas with thousands of people walking, running and biking the bridge every day. One of the chief projects undertaken by the foundation through Judy’s leadership was sponsorship of the annual Big Dam Bridge 100 bicycle ride. The “BDB 100” now attracts around 3,000 riders for the annual ride. Another project Judy undertook with a friend was to organize and direct the highly successful Full Moon Walk that in 2011 drew more than 2,500 citizens for an evening stroll across the Big Dam Bridge.

The Central Arkansas community also benefitted from Judy’s service as a volunteer with Last Chance Arkansas and the Arkansas Department of Corrections Paws in Prison program. Stemming from her background as a lawyer, Judy also served as a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for abused and neglected children in the court system. 

And, she was also one of four federal court plaintiffs in the ACLU’s challenge of the constitutionality of the placement of a Ten Commandments monument on the Arkansas Capitol grounds [in a case which has been joined with FFRF’s own challenge].

Judy held three degrees from the University of Wisconsin, earning her law degree with the cum laude distinction. During her legal career, she served for 21 years as law clerk to Federal District Judge George Howard Jr., the first African-American federal district court judge appointed in Arkansas (by President Carter), and, following Howard’s death, as law clerk to Federal District Judge Brian Miller.

Perhaps some solace regarding Judy’s death may be found in the words of the 19th-century poet Algernon Swinburne: “From too much love of living, From hope and fear set free, We thank with brief thanksgiving whatever gods may be, That no life lives forever, That dead men rise up never, That even the weariest river winds somewhere safe to sea.”

Judy was and Ken is a Lifetime member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.