Coworkers Remember ACLU Leader As Passionate Civil Libertarian

Sep 11, 2017

Ask Adrienne Gavula's former colleagues at the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio whom she cared about, and the answer is easy: Everyone.

The woman described as a "true civil libertarian," who helped usher in reforms in Ohio prisons and polling places, died September 2 from injuries she suffered in a car crash in Clintonville. She was 35 years old.

“She had a passion for everybody. People she didn’t know, people she would never meet, people who would vehemently disagree with her and be against everything she stood for,” says Gary Daniels, the ACLU of Ohio’s chief lobbyist and Gavula’s long-time coworker.

Gavula joined the ACLU in 2004, and went on to be regional director of the Columbus office before being named development director.

She’s credited as being the driving force behind the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction’s 2015 decision to no longer house seriously mentally ill inmates in solitary confinement. She continued to work on the issue of solitary confinement after the policy change.

After attaining her masters in social worker from The Ohio State University, she rejoined the ACLU of Ohio and in 2015 launched a pilot program in Dayton to help voters who used American Sign Language obtain a translator during early in-person voting.

But her biggest professional motivation, Daniels says, was abortion rights and other reproductive issues. Gavula served on the Freedom of Choice Ohio Coalition, and was a former chair and board member for the abortion access fund Women Have Options.

“Adrienne was only 35, and I think that’s part of the tragedy of her death, is that she’d accomplished so much to this point and she had such a bright future ahead of her,” Daniels says. “We’re all left wondering, having passed at 35, how much more could she have accomplished.”

Daniels says Gavula was also a committed Pittsburgh Steelers fan who usually got the best of them in their friendly office rivalry.

“Sometimes you don’t see the sort of social justice and hardcore sports fan circles overlapping,” Daniels says with a laugh. “But Adrienne was just as passionate about the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh sports as she was about helping others.”