California Hall of Fame inducts Bay Area notables Jerry Garcia, Ruth Asawa, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon

Three activists and three performers, including rock titan Jerry Garcia, are the latest Californians to be celebrated in Golden State history as new inductees into the California Hall of Fame, Governor Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday.

Artist and sculptor Ruth Asawa, labor activist Larry Itliong, LGBTQ advocates Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon and rock musician Ritchie Valens, who Newsom says touched us all in deep and meaningful ways have joined the late Garcia as as laureates. Newsom and his first partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom announced the 14th Hall of Fame Class, all posthumous recipients, during a live broadcast hosted by the California Museum in Sacramento.

“Since 2006, the California Hall of Fame has honored California pioneers who embody the innovative spirit of the Golden State, and our inductees come from all walks of life,” said Siebel Newsom. “These lights represent the heart and soul of California and have left their own mark on history.”

The annual Hall of Fame induction was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The California Museum hailed Asawa as an “internationally recognized” material artist, known for her wire sculptures and her imprint on the Bay Area through her publicly commissioned pieces. His legacy also includes activism and advocacy for arts education.

Garcia, the groovy guitarist and songwriter of the Grateful Dead and the Jerry Garcia Band, was honored for his musicality and role in the San Francisco counterculture movement of the 1960s. The Bay Area native is remembered. as a pioneer of the jam band movement and an inspiration to countless musicians, not to mention Pied Piper of “Dead Heads”, tireless fans of the Grateful Dead.

Considered one of the foremost labor and civil rights activists of the 20th century, Itliong, originally from the Philippines, helped organize the Delano Grape Strike in the 1960s and worked with union leader Cesar Chavez to speak out against the poor working conditions for Californian farm workers. He became president of the Philippine American Political Association and became involved in Democratic Party activities, the museum noted.

Martin and Lyon, a couple who championed LGBTQ rights after moving to San Francisco in 1953, were inducted into the Hall of Fame together. They are credited with founding the first nationwide lesbian organization and the first nationally distributed lesbian publication. In 2008, Newsom presided over their marriage, making them the first gay couple to be legally married in the state.

Valens was recognized for his role in founding the Chicano rock movement, which would inspire musicians such as Carlos Santana and Los Lobos. Known as the first Latin rock and roller in the United States, Valens rose to fame with hits such as “Come On, Let’s Go” and “La Bamba” which became the first Spanish language song to appear on Billboard Hot 100, according to the California Museum.

“Although they are no longer with us,” Siebel Newsom said in Tuesday’s livestream, “their memories and the gifts they gave to the world will live with us here at the California Museum, as well as in our hearts, for inspire future generations to keep the California dream alive.

Andy Picon is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: Twitter: @andpicon

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