It was always hard to conceive that Shel Trapp had been a Methodist minister. He smoked like a chimney and swore like a sailor.
The co-founder of National People’s Action, who died October 18 at the age of 75, Trapp was strategist for the extended organizing campaign –growing out of grassroots drives against redlining and blockbusting on Chicago’s West Side – that won the Community Reinvestment Act in 1977.
“I don’t know many organizers who can claim an impact of $1 trillion,” sociologist Randy Stoecker tells the Sun-Times . He says the campaign for CRA was “arguably the best piece of community organizing,” after the civil rights movement, in the nation’s history.
“The success of CRA is not debatable,” Stoecker said. “It has brought so much money into communities that would otherwise have been excluded from that money. Cities would be different. It’s scary to think of what they would be.”
Beyond CRA, Trapp’s legacy is comprised of thousands of scrappy organizers he trained, passing on his tenacity and commitment.
“Among his proudest achievements was his work to help create ADAPT ,” NPA reports. Trapp worked with the group from the beginning, on campaigns to free people from nursing homes, to win accessible public transportation, and ultimately to pass (and enforce) the Americans with Disabilities Act.