Minnie Gillette Drive: One Of The Streets In Ellicott Town Center Is Named After The First African American Erie County Legislator

The Ellicott Town Center,  which replaced the Ellicott Mall,  was completed in 1997.  Minnie Gillette Drive is one of the   streets that runs through the Ellicott Town Center. 

Minnie Gillette  was elected to the Erie County Legislature in 1977. She was the first African American woman elected to the Legislature. Her candidacy was backed by the Democratic, Republican and Conservative parties. Her obituary called her “a feisty political figure who strayed from party lines in the interest of her constituents.” She didn’t get involved in partisan politics, instead focused on serving her community.

Mrs. Gillette worked with Legislator Joan Bozer to convert the former Post Office Building into the Erie Community College City Campus.  At the time, people did not always appreciate old buildings   Legislators Bozer and Gillette helped change that attitude, save the building, and bring ECC into the City.  

Mrs. Gillette helped to establish the “Ram Van,” which was a traveling lending library. She also fought to ensure that minority contractors got a fair share of county contracts.

She  served two terms as a legislator. After she left, she continued her work advocating for the homeless, the poor and the needy. She was appointed as the first director of the County’s Victim/Witness Assistance Program. She worked at a food pantry in the Towne Gardens Housing Project. Among her numerous prestigious awards and honors, she  was presented with a Martin Luther King Award in 1990 from the Erie County Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Mrs. Gillete was very involved with a host of community  organizations. She died on January 7, 1992. She had been ill with cancer for a year before she transitioned, but she continued to work on community projects up until about two weeks before she died.  

The Hon. Minnie Gillette  is featured on the Freedom Wall at Michigan and Ferry.  In addition to the street, the auditorium at ECC City Campus is named for her.