The California Department of Rehabilitation is featuring 50 Notable People in celebration of their 50th Anniversary. Sam Dardick- (1933 – 2011) – “The Sit Down Farmer” is featured for Week 17: May 15 – May 21, 2013
Sam Dardick, disability rights activist, urban planner, County Supervisor and artist, contacted polio when he was 13. By the end of high school, he was adept enough in his wheelchair to become an All-American wheelchair basketball star. He graduated from Washington University with a degree in architecture, and continued on to earn a Master’s Degree in City and Regional Planning from UC Berkeley.
He returned home to St Louis, settled down, started a family, and began to practice his trade, but the tumultuous late 1960′s stirred in him a yearning to travel. In the early 1970′s, Sam and his wife, Geeta, left America and took their kids on an 8,000 mile 3-year overland adventure across Europe and India in a VW Microbus, named Brunhilda.
Upon returning to the States, the Dardick family moved onto 37 undeveloped acres in rural Nevada County. Sam started sketching to document the years he cleared the land at Sai Lake, built the family’s cabin, raised animals, gardened, strove for self sufficiency and learned the art of interdependence.
In the early 1980′s, Sam met Ed Roberts who inspired him to open FREED, the first independent living center for people with disabilities in the Northern Sierra Nevada foothills. An ardent activist, Sam fought for disability rights in Sacramento and in Washington, DC, where he was active in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. As a wheelchair athlete with a passion for basketball and tennis, he helped start the Nevada County’s wheelchair sports program as well. Sam’s political activism on environmental and social justice issues helped him to be twice elected to Nevada County Board of Supervisors where he left a lasting mark on water, environmental and land use issues.