Former Berkeley City Councilmember Miriam ‘Mim’ Hawley dies at 89

Joanna Hawley/Courtesy

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Miriam “Mim” Hawley, who served as a Berkeley City Council member in District 5 from 2000 to 2004, died in her Oakland home April 12 at age 89.

Hawley was active in local politics and organizations, such as the League of Women Voters and the Berkeley Baby Book Project, which she helped found. She was known as a “consensus builder” and worked on many transportation policies, according to her daughter Seena Hawley.

“She was passionate about helping people being able to make the most out of their time,” said Miriam Hawley’s grandson Ryan Mallory-Jones. “She was just a very empathetic person, very interested in what other people were thinking and feeling, and wanted to make sure people were happy.”

Miriam Hawley was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Aug. 20, 1928. She attended Antioch College in Ohio, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1951 and met her future husband, Robert “Bob” Hawley. They were married in 1952, and after college, they moved to Berkeley, where they began a family.

Miriam Hawley became involved in local politics in the 1960s with Berkeley’s Oxford Elementary School PTA. When the National Guard came to Berkeley during the anti-Vietnam War riots, tear gas hurt schoolchildren — Hawley helped organize a successful march that led to the National Guard leaving the city.

After earning a master’s degree in urban history from San Francisco State University in 1971, Miriam Hawley worked on planning the BART system for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

“Assets that made her so effective in leadership roles were not only her expertise and integrity but also her easy-going personality, ready smile, and quick sense of humor,” said Sherry Smith, Miriam Hawley’s longtime friend and the former president of the League of Women Voters of Berkeley, Albany and Emeryville, or LWVBAE, in an email. “Her willingness to say ‘yes’ when asked to take on a civic task was deeply appreciated.”

Miriam Hawley served as president of LWVBAE from 1992 to 1994. She later served on AC Transit’s board of directors from 1996 to 2000.

In 2000, Miriam Hawley was elected to City Council, where she continued to work on policies related to transportation and pedestrian traffic. According to her daughter, Joanna Hawley-Jones, she would often bring home “huge paper binders full of all the information” for the next council meeting.

“She was a very kind person, but she was also very factual and down-to-earth; she never sugarcoated things, which was always appreciated,” Hawley-Jones said. “You knew when she said something, you could always believe her.”

One of Miriam’s biggest impacts as a council member was her proposal for the creation of a fund for teenager-friendly places, such as the skateboard-friendly wall at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park. The skateboard-friendly wall was one of many projects designed to help teenagers feel welcome and part of the community rather than feared and shooed away, according to Seena Hawley.

“She had a long-standing reputation for building alliances and being able to bring people into agreement — including her four children,” Seena Hawley said.

Contact Jenny Weng at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @jennyweng1999.