Foster, Ezola 1938–
Ezola Foster 1938–
Vice presidential candidate
Ezola Foster had just celebrated her 62nd birthday when arch-conservative Pat Buchanan named her his Reform Party running mate in his bid for the White House in 2000. A retired Los Angeles-area schoolteacher and outspoken conservative, Foster’s presence on the Buchanan ticket confirmed the Reform Party’s desire to be an inclusive party that welcomes all Americans; it also helped minimize charges of racism that had plagued Buchanan periodically throughout his career. “She’ll be an ambassador to America for what this party is all about,” Buchanan said upon the announcement, according to Jet. “This shows that we are a party that is open to everybody.”
Foster was born in Texas in 1938, and grew up in Louisiana. She earned a degree in business education from Texas Southern University, a black college, in 1960, and moved to Los Angeles soon afterward. Foster worked in a law office before becoming a high school teacher of business, typing, and English in 1963. She also earned a master of science in school management and administration from Pepperdine University. Foster, whose first marriage was annulled when she learned her husband had a felony conviction, wed Chuck Foster, a truck driver, in 1977.
During her career as a teacher, Foster taught at schools located in predominantly minority Los Angeles neighborhoods like Watts and South-Central. Her experience with public education shaped her political beliefs, and she came to feel that the government was far too involved in the lives of its citizens. Such sentiments led her to join the Republican Party, and she ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the California State Assembly in 1984 and 1986. Foster opposed AIDS education in schools, wrote for Headways, a black conservative periodical, and founded a group called Black-Americans for Family Values in 1987. Her activities helped bring her to the attention of Republican leaders, and she became acquainted with Pat Buchanan, who made a bid for the Republican Party nomination in 1992 and again in 1996. Foster co-chaired the 1996 campaign.
Around this time, Foster was forced to abandon her career as a teacher. She had become an outspoken advocate for the restriction of immigration laws, and spoke out in favor of the controversial 1994 California ballot proposal Proposition 187, which sought to deny government benefits to illegal immigrants, including education. In 1995, she organized a testimonial dinner for a Los Angeles police officer convicted of beating motorist Rodney King; the city canceled the dinner, however, and Foster filed a lawsuit demanding $155 million. She also wrote a book, What’s Right for All Americans, which led to an invitation to appear on the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour in 1996. She argued that school overcrowding in cities like Los Angeles was the result of overly lenient immigration laws, and the statements aroused the ire of Foster’s students and fellow teachers at the school where she taught, whose student body was ninety percent Latino. After the television appearance, her colleagues wrote an open
At a Glance…
Born August 9, 1938, In TX; first marriage annulled; married Chuck Foster (a truck driver), 1977; three children. Education: Texas Southern University, B.S., 1960; Pepperdine University, M.S., 1973. Politics: Reform Party, religion: Congregational ist.
Career: Worked in a law office in Los Angeles, early 1960s; high school teacher in Watts, Los Angeles, 1963-85, and in City of Bell 1985-96. Black-Americans for Family Values, founder, 1987, president, 1987-; ran unsuccessfully for California Assembly as a Republican in Los Angeles, 1984, 1986; joined Reform Party, 1999; named vice presidential candidate for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan, 2000.
Addresses: Office —c/o The John Birch Society, P.O. Box 8040, Appleton, Wl 54912.
letter denouncing her views, and she became a pariah. “They called me a racist, a liar,” she told Los Angeles Times. “They called me a Nazi.”
Two days after her MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour program aired, Foster spoke at an anti-immigration rally sponsored by Voice of Citizens Together. “The group contends that Mexican political leaders and agitators in the U.S. are conspiring to reclaim Mexican sovereignty over the Southwest,” explained Los Angeles Times reporter Doug Smith. A group of students from her school attended and threw cans of frozen soda at Foster when she spoke. A fight broke out, and some members of the Voice of Citizens Together were injured. Claiming that she feared for her safety, Foster refused to return to school and even sued the district. The case was dismissed by a judge without trial, but she then filed a workers’ compensation disability claim and collected benefits until she reached the age of retirement in 1998.
Foster remained active in politics, and joined the Reform Party, founded in 1992 by billionaire industrialist Ross Perot. She appeared at a “Repudiate Jesse Jackson” rally in early 2000, and delivered a speech in which she defended the Confederate flag—symbol of a defiantly pro-slavery antebellum South—and declared that slavery was part of God’s plan to bring Africans to America, as she was quoted in the Washington Post, “so that their descendants would know freedom.” She has also made statements asserting that illegal immigrants take jobs away from African-Americans, and has picketed the Log Cabin Club, an organization of gay Republicans.
On August 11, 2000, Buchanan announced that Foster had accepted his invitation to join the Reform Party ticket as the vice presidential nominee. In her acceptance speech, Foster dismissed charges that the Buchanan campaign was unfriendly to minorities in America. “I have a message for those who continue to spread the lie that Pat Buchanan is a racist,” she told the crowd the next day, accordine; to the web site www.buchanan.org. “I was born black, I attended all Negro schools including college, I grew up in the segregated South during Jim Crow. If anybody knows a racist, I do. Pat Buchanan ain’t no racist.”
Like all of the presidential candidates in 2000, Foster decried the state of education as she campaigned, and pledged to reform it.
“It wasn’t until the federal government got involved in education that the quality of education went down,” she told supporters in her acceptance speech. “We will bring it back up. And we’ll do that by having the schools returned to parents who know they are more interested in their children learning how to read, write, and think, rather than trying:o decide what is racism, sexism, classism, atheism. That has no business in our schools.” Like other conservative Americans, Foster is an advocate of a greatly reduced role for government in the lives of its citizens. She argues instead for a commitment to personal responsibility and return to more traditional family values. As she told the Washington Post, if the Reform Party was elected, there would be no more free lunch—literally. “This idea that you come to school hungry—come on! It’s crazy! …That’s not the job of the schools—to feed the children. Let them pay for it or let them bring their own.”
During the campaign, the press revealed that Foster was a member of the John Birch Society, a far-right political group founded in 1958 as an anti-communist organization. The Society is known for its conspiracy theories, one of which is that President Eisenhower was a communist conspirator. Foster and the John Birch Society oppose U.S. membership in the United Nations, which, its web site declared, serves as “a cover for American prssidents to conduct undeclared wars…The U.N. does not recognize the supremacy of God and views itself as the source of ‘rights.’” When the news of Foster’s involvement in this controversial organization disseminated, Buchanan voiced his continued support of his running mate. He told the Washington Post that Foster “is a very strong, principled conservative who has lived in the real world and has iron convictions and great courage.”
Further controversy arose when the Los Angeles Times also revealed that Foster had claimed an undisclosed mental illness as part of her battle with the Los Angeles Unified School District, and when challenged by a reporter, admitted that the condition was nonexistent. However, she claimed that it had been the only way that she could avoid returning to a school where hostility made her job difficult without resigning altogether and forfeiting much of her pension. “If I don’t have a broken leg or they don’t see blood, or I’m not dead, they said I have to be crazy. And I would have been to go back there,” she told the Los Angeles Times. She said the claim was arranged by her doctor and an attorney, and that she has not suffered from any mental illness then or now. “I am perfectly sane,” she told Smith. The Reform Party made a negligible showing in the election results on November 7, 2000, winning just 445, 343 votes nationwide.
What’s Right for All Americans, WRS Publishing, 1995.
Jet, August 28, 2000, p. 16.
Los Angeles Times, August 24, 2000; September 2, 2000.
Time, August 21, 2000, p. 61.
Washington Post, September 13, 2000, p. C1.
Additional information was obtained on-line at “Reform Party Vice Presidential Nomination Acceptance Speech,” http://www.buchanan.org and the John Birch Society web site, www.jbs.org.
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