President-Elect's Unsung Hero, San Francisco Businesswoman Ruth Garland-Dewson

San Francisco businesswoman Ruth-Garland Dewson, owner of Mrs. Dewson's Hats, worked tirelessly to get Barack Obama to the White House. And now she owes him a hat.

San Francisco, CA, November 09, 2008 --( San Francisco businesswoman Ruth Garland-Dewson endorsed America’s next president on a blustery San Francisco day in early 2007 – and she never stopped getting out the vote for Democrat Barack Obama until the polls closed in California this Tuesday night.

Known as “The Mayor of Fillmore Street” – Dewson turned her hat shop, Mrs. Dewson’s Hats, into a makeshift Obama campaign headquarters. Plastering the storefront’s windows with photos of herself with Obama, newspaper clippings of her interviews about the candidate and letters from the Illinois Senator thanking her for her support, the shop became San Francisco’s unofficial Obama headquarters.

In the heart of Pacific Heights, neighbors and tourists looked at Dewson’s quote from the San Francisco Chronicle from March 5, 2007, prominently displayed in the shop’s window that said, “Go Obama! You’re black enough for me,” and smiled. Then they came in to ask her how they could get involved in what would soon turn out to be the country’s most historic campaign.

“I first met Barack Obama in March 2004, when former Mayor Willie Brown threw a reception at the Waterfront Restaurant in San Francisco. Obama was preparing to run for the Senate. I took one look at him and knew he was destined for greatness,” says Dewson.

Not everyone thought so. Back in early 2007, Senator Hillary Clinton was the all-but-nomination-clinched Democratic candidate, and nearly presumed next president of the United States. She had the support of most of San Francisco’s elected officials.

The Hat Lady, as Dewson is also affectionately known, put on her community activist hat, and wrote a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle in defense of Obama against those who were saying he wasn’t “black enough”. She coined the phrase, ‘Go Obama, you’re black enough for me.”

A few weeks later, Dewson was the only black person at a Pacific Heights fundraiser for Obama. She had a chance to talk with him one-on-one for quite awhile.

Dewson had her photo taken with the Senator. They talked about her Fillmore Street hat shop and he asked her what kind of hat would look good on him. Dewson said, “When you’re President, I will give you a hat that looks good on you.”

On April 4, 2007, Dewson granted an on-air interview to Carolyn Tyler of the local ABC-TV affiliate and declared her commitment to Obama. From that point on, she continually gave interviews – to the Chronicle, to John Rothman of KGO radio, to her hometown Paris, TX newspaper and many others. At her own expense she traveled back home to Paris many times where she opened the local Obama campaign headquarters and rallied the local community by speaking at churches and the community college.

Back in San Francisco, she started working to get elected officials to support Obama and got Public Defender Jeff Adachi and City Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi on board. Attorney Jeff Bleich asked her to host private fundraiser in January 2008, where she raised $25,000. And – when Obama returned to the Bay Area in May 2008 for a fundraiser at Gordon and Ann Getty’s, she was there to present Senator Obama with an envelope full of checks totaling a very large sum, which only she will say was “a lot of money.”

Today her shop window bears Wednesday morning’s front-page of the San Francisco Chronicle announcing Obama as the nation’s 44th President. But Dewson has one remaining task left as the President Elect’s unsung hero -- finding the hat that will look the best on President Obama come Inauguration Day. “And that,” she says, “isn’t going to be hard to do.”

Mrs. Dewson's Hats
Ruth Garland-Dewson