DR. VICTORIA MARLENE JACKSON BINION
November 14, 1947 to March 4, 2014
By Andwele Lewis
She brought joy to all those around her
Dr. Victoria Marlene Jackson Binion, a distinguished clinical psychologist and passionate advocate for African Americans in the field of mental health, died Tuesday, March 4, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. She was 66.
She did it all: scholar, psychologist, professor, public servant, writer, researcher, activist, artist, textile weaver, collector, world traveler and—most of all—loving wife, mother, sister, aunt and friend.
Scholarships, fellowships, and honors
Victoria was born on November 14, 1947 to the late Dr. George Edward Jackson and Bertha Gomez Jackson, in Highland Park, MI. She graduated from Mumford High School in 1965. and then completed three degrees at the University of Michigan: a B.A. with honors in 1969, an M.A. in 1973, and a Ph.D. in 1981—all in Psychology. Her twelve years at the University were filled with fellowships, scholarships and honors, including the prestigious Board of Governors Scholarship from Wayne State University, the University Fellowship from the University of Michigan, and the American Psychological Association Minority Fellowship. While obtaining her degrees, she also acted as an Instructor and Research/Teaching Fellow for the University of Michigan, Wayne State University and Wayne County Community College.
She met the late Attorney Thomas Binion when they were in college and, after their courtship, they married in 1970. They were blessed with a baby boy in 1985 who they named George Martinez Binion. Victoria was a devoted wife and mother, constantly sacrificing her needs to care for her family.
A very special joy
What will be missed most about Victoria is the joy she brought to the lives of all those around her. Victoria had an infectious energy about her and an optimism that earned her the friendship and love of many. She was a loving mother, daughter, aunt, godmother and friend and seemed to get the most joy from seeing her loved ones succeed. She gave the loudest cheers when attending graduations and celebratory events, and it was obvious that she looked at her nephews and godchildren as if they were her own children. As you will see in many of the photographs displayed, she had a wonderful smile and sense of humor and she loved to laugh. It was always a very special joy to be around “Auntie Vic.” (In photo at left, Victoria is shown seated to right of her nephew, Andwele Lewis, and with her mother, Bertha Jackson.)
A person of many dimensions, Victoria was blessed with varied interests and talents. She was an accomplished artist and textile weaver, and her drawings, paintings and weavings are proudly displayed in family members’ homes. She had a deep interest in the study of African and African American art and the history of people of African descent. This love extended to her assembling a respected collection of African and African-American art and Black memorabilia. She also studied and collected dolls and antiques.
Could have been a model
A strikingly beautiful woman, Victoria could have had a modeling career which she entertained briefly in college. She loved to shop and dress in stylish clothes. However, she chose brains over beauty and her intellectual and career pursuits won out.
In 1991, the Honorable Mayor of Detroit Coleman A. Young appointed the accomplished forty-three-year old Victoria to be the Director of the City of Detroit Health Department where she served for a very fruitful three years. Prior, Victoria served in leadership positions with several community service organizations and acted as a professional consultant for a number of departments in the City of Detroit and the University of Michigan. After her time in public service, Victoria entered private practice as a clinical psychologist and led professional consultations for many clients including the Detroit Police Department and the Detroit-Wayne County Community Mental Health Board. Meanwhile, she also served as an Assistant Professor for Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry.
Passion for mental health
Victoria’s professional passion was research regarding mental health issues and treatment for African Americans. She wrote and/or contributed to the writing of more than 17 publications and one book pertaining to racial and gender differences in psychological treatment. In addition to her writing, Victoria also put her knowledge and understanding to good practical use, and participated in several important projects including the National Women’s Drug Research Project. One of her projects was honored in a ceremony which she attended in the White House Rose Garden. She also served on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Black Psychologists and the Southeastern Michigan Health Association.
In addition to Victoria’s professional commitments, she had very active and important roles in a number of civic organizations. She was on the Board of Trustees for the Junior Council of the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Detroit Children’s Museum and Planned Parenthood of Southeast Michigan. She was also an active and beloved member of the Detroit Chapter of Jack and Jill and the Detroit Study Club. These organizations brought her great joy and were a part of an extended family for her, her son and her mother.
She met each physical challenge with courage
Victoria (shown at left with Andwele and son George Binion) was extremely adventurous from a young age, even spending the summer of 1966 studying in Japan. She traveled the world, visiting Ghana, India and many countries in Europe. She never let fear dictate her course in life. In 1996, she attended the summer Olympics in Atlanta, undeterred by the bombing in Centennial Park. That same bravery served her well when she was diagnosed with lupus in her late twenties. She met each physical or medical challenge with courage and never complained. While many stages of her treatment were extremely painful, until the end, she never gave up or felt sorry for herself and did all that she could to remain on this earth to care for her loved ones.
She is preceded in death by her father and brother both named George Edward Jackson. She had a very special and close relationship with her father. She was blessed with a long and loving bond with her mother, Bertha, who is ninety-three years old. Her mother and her sister, Denise, were her special guardian angels.
Victoria is survived by her son, George Binion; her mother, Bertha Gomez Jackson; her sister, Denise Jackson Lewis; her nephews, Andwele and Imani Lewis; her godchildren, Ayana Kilili, Patrice Hinton and Sarah Lewis; and a host of other family members, friends and colleagues.