Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2007 | 7:22 a.m.
DiDi Carson was not afraid to champion less-than-popular causes if she thought they would benefit the Democratic Party.
She proudly wore a pin supporting in its infancy the ill-fated Equal Rights Amendment and broke ranks with the national party's efforts to reelect President Jimmy Carter in 1980, becoming a driving force in the unsuccessful bid to put Sen. Ted Kennedy in the White House.
But she had her successes , too, including efforts to increase voter registration statewide and to garner recognition for Nevada while serving as a key Western Region Democratic Party officer.
Diane "Didi" Carson, who in 1976 became the first woman to chair the Nevada State Democratic Party , died Sept. 4 in St. George, Utah, of complications from Alzheimer's disease, her family said. She was 78.
Services for the Las Vegas resident of more than 50 years will be at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at Our Lady of Las Vegas Catholic Church, 3050 Alta Drive.
"DiDi had the ability to see all people for their value," said Harriet Trudell, an aide to Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., in the 1980s. "She made a difference in the way women have advanced in Southern Nevada."
Carson was a longtime local banker who in the 1990s retired from the private banking department at Valley Bank - today Bank of America - where she oversaw the accounts of casino operators and other influential Nevadans.
"Whether it was in politics or in banking, she had classic professionalism," said banking colleague Lorri Jackson, a financial adviser for Merrill Lynch. "When DiDi walked into a room people noticed her."
She was born Diane Fugazy on Nov. 25, 1928, in New York. Her father , Louis Fugazy, was a financier and her mother was Fedora Bontempi Simpkin, host of local television shows in New York ("Continental Cookery With the Bontempis") and Las Vegas ("Our Town.")
Carson began her local political activity in 1968 as a member of the Clark County Women's Democratic Club. She was elected vice chairwoman of the Nevada Democratic Party in 1972 and 1974.
In 1973 Carson became the first woman to be elected vice chairwoman of the Democratic Western States Conference. There, she worked to get Nevada a larger share of funds for political projects and greater recognition for party activities.
In her later years, Carson was a strong, compassionate voice in lobbying for the protection of the state's wild horses. She was a member of the Augustus Society and Wild Mustang Association.
Carson also served on the Women's Democratic National Advisory Board, the Women's Democratic National Political Caucus and the Democratic National Telethon Committee. She was a Nevada delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Miami in 1972.
Carson is survived by a daughter, Kit Victoria Carson of St. George.
Carson's family said donations may be made in her memory to the Humane Society of the United States.