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Faith Frazier, who served as a San Leandro City Council member from 1974 until 1982, died on Feb. 20, 2011 at age 85. She is known for her advocacy in getting women involved in local politics. (City of San Leandro)

SAN LEANDRO -- When Faith Frazier was elected in 1974 as the first female City Council member in nearly 30 years, she said it was the realization of a goal she'd had for decades.

"I asked the people of San Leandro to take seriously the candidacy of a woman for political office," she told The Daily Review. "The people answered affirmatively."

Frazier, who is remembered as a champion of women getting involved in local politics, died Feb. 20 after a long illness. She was 85.

Former Mayor Shelia Young counts herself among those mentored by Frazier, and remained a close lifelong friend.

"She was an incredibly gifted woman who helped numerous people throughout her lifetime learn things about government and how it affects us all," Young wrote in an e-mail. "She will be missed by scores of electeds."

Frazier told the media in 1974 that ever since she came to San Leandro "and saw that a woman could work on the local level and perhaps achieve something politically," she wanted to be on the council.

Frazier's late husband, James, served on the council from 1954 to 1960, and Frazier also wanted to make a mark on the community, said her son, Carl.

"She was very spirited, very aware of civil rights issues, and my dad was eyeball deep in civic stuff," Carl Frazier said. "My parents were part of that generation that built the modern San Leandro you see today."

Faith Frazier later managed a campaign for Larry Taft, who strived to be the first black man elected to the City Council.

"At the time, nobody would consider running a campaign to get an African-American on the council," Carl Frazier said. "We got a lot of hate mail, there were death threats and we had neighbors who wouldn't talk to us. But my mom was forward-thinking, ahead of her time."

Among other civic groups, she was a founding member of the San Leandro Arts Council, the San Leandro League of Women Voters, the Political Action Committee for Excellence, and the Bonaire Civic league, a long-standing neighborhood association. She was also on the board of the first California chapter of the National Organization for Women.

Frazier was a native of New Orleans who was reared in Memphis, Tenn., before attending college at the University of Cincinnati and UC Santa Barbara, where she met her husband.

They moved to San Leandro in the mid-1950s, and she worked as a teacher at San Leandro, Hayward and Oakland schools. She also wrote a popular column titled "Poetically Speaking" for the Morning News.

Frazier is survived by sons Carl, of San Leandro, and John, of Pleasanton, and four grandchildren. Services are pending.

Contact Eric Kurhi at 510-293-2473. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi. Read his blog at www.ibabuzz.com/hayword.