OC Register, February 11, 2015

By Theresa Walker, Staff Writer

Dottie Mulkey_1

SANTA ANA – Back in the 1960s, Dorothy “Dottie” Mulkey fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn housing discrimination in Santa Ana.

Now Mulkey, who is African American, is scrapping to repair damage a fire caused to the home that she eventually bought in 1970, not long after her landmark case that affected fair housing laws nationwide.

Mulkey, a 74-year-old retiree, had to leave her three-bedroom house on Wood Street when a Dec. 14 fire destroyed the kitchen. Smoke and water damage makes the house, built in 1955, uninhabitable.

Mulkey didn’t have homeowner’s insurance. She’s been staying with family and friends while figuring out how to fix her house.

A local admirer of her civil rights stand recently launched an online fundraiser at Crowdrise.com, along with setting up a bank fund.

Eli Reyna, a videographer who met Mulkey when he worked for the Orange County Human Relations Commission, tried to find a program to help Mulkey.

“I couldn’t get her anything,” said Reyna, who lives in the Floral Park area of Santa Ana. “It was very frustrating. So I just decided to make a video to raise some awareness and maybe help raise some money.”

The video is posted on Crowdrise. As of Tuesday, $600 had been donated.

Reyna had done previous videos about Mulkey when she was honored by the Human Relations Commission.

Mulkey and her then-husband, Lincoln, both Navy veterans, were turned away when they tried to rent a Santa Ana apartment in 1963. That same year, voters in California had approved Proposition 14, which overthrew state legislation outlawing racial discrimination in housing sales and rentals.

The effort to reverse Proposition 14 focused on the Mulkeys, with the NAACP and the ACLU winning the favorable 1967 ruling in Mulkey v. Reitman.

Mulkey was at church the morning of the fire, which she said started behind the microwave table in the kitchen. The bitter irony: She had finished a complete remodel of the kitchen early last year.

The company that had been her insurer stopped covering California homeowners last year, Mulkey said. Her insurance expired in August, but she put off getting a new policy, thinking she could give herself until the end of the year to do research.

“The fire didn’t wait for that,” Mulkey said in an interview Tuesday. “For 40 years I had paid insurance. When I needed it, it had lapsed.”

Mulkey, who lives alone, spends most of her time doing charitable work. She doesn’t want to take out a loan to fix her house, even if it is low interest.

“I’ve been debt free for so long,” she said, “I would probably go to McDonald’s and get a low-paying job before I get a loan.”

For more information on the Mulkey fund, contact Eli Reyna at 714-514-1826 or [email protected].

City News Service contributed to this report.

Contact the writer: 714-796-7793 or [email protected]