Activist For Boston’s Poor, Robert Coard, Dies At 82

Longtime Boston community activist Robert Coard has died at 82. Coard, who suffered from heart disease, only officially retired from his post as chief of Action for Boston Community Development on Sunday.

He had been with the anti-poverty agency for 45 years.

His successor, John Drew, said that under Coard’s leadership, ABCD found housing, jobs, food and heat for countless Boston residents.

“He had ideas that the city could be better, that those who were left behind by the economy, by other means — because they were disadvantaged because of their race or color or creed — could all do better if they were given opportunity. That was his life’s work,” Drew said.

Coard was a native of Grenada who took a job as a planner with ABCD in 1964. Under his leadership, the group grew to have a staff of about 1,000 and a budget of $132 million.

He is remembered as a force in the local community.

Patricia Landry was struggling on welfare when she got involved in Head Start, which eventually paid for her to complete her education. She is now the director of Native American Head Start in Jamaica Plain.

“I was depressed enough that I considered suicide,” Landry said. “And the fact that I was able to go and volunteer in the Head Start program saved my life. And Bob, as a person, is a supporter of people like myself, people in my position.”

Former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn said that Boston without Robert Coard is like the public garden without the swan boats.

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  • Lem Mills

    Bob Coard was the guardian for the disempowered, dispossessed and disenfranchised. A true hero when it counted most.

    I revered his unique ability to maintain the bearing of ABCD irrespective of City and State politics.

    His foresight as a human service advocate and leader, in providing necessary and innovative programs and services to low income residents, is renowned locally and nationally; as evidenced by the growth of Boston ABCD during his 45 year tenure.

    His ilk, hopefully, serves as inspiration for future Social Service practitioners.

  • http://springfieldpartners@springfieldpartnersinc.com Paul F. Bailey

    I have been the executive director for Springfield Partners (ABCD sister agency in Springfield)for over 9 years. Much of my success and the success of the agency is a result of Bob’s mentoring. I always found Bob easy to talk to and always willing to assist. I tell a story of when I had been on the job for about two months and asked Bob to meet with me. When I arrived at the ABCD headquarters Bob had his entire senior staff at the entrance to greet me. Here I felt that I was coming to visit the leged of Community Action (a celebrity of sorts)and he made me feel like the celebrity.

  • Elliot Coard

    Grenada is proud of her son Robert M. Coard

    Thank you Boston for the love you gave him all these years

    You were his soul

    Thank you Boston!

    God bless you all!

    God bless America!

    Bobby we love you!

  • Donna Wells

    I came to Boston in 1970 and my first job was as a visiting nurse in Roxbury. From there I went to a job working for the Boston Family Planning Project that was closely affiliated with ABCD. I never met this man but always understood what a wonderful force he was for this city. I am honored to have had even this loose association with a great man.

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