Nearly four decades have kept Stan and Yolanda Woodard united in a mission to improve the lives of others.
Since meeting in the early 1980s at a Milwaukee rally for Earnest Lacy, an African-American man who died in police custody, the two have pressed forward with their desire and personal obligation to put others before themselves in their public and personal lives.
Stan, 69, who currently works as an assistant public defender, has had several roles seeking to press against the status quo. Professionally, he previously served as an assistant district attorney in Milwaukee County and at the Environmental Protection Agency, where he worked as an air enforcement attorney holding companies accountable for pollution.
Yolanda, 64, worked in data processing, was an administrative law judge and currently works as an attorney in Madison assisting families and juveniles.
“I love working with young people that are parents,” Yolanda said. “Trying to figure out how is it that we do this. I love partnering with them, help to mold them, so that they can have the kind of life that they want.”
From his days as an activist during the civil rights movement to his legal career, Woodard said he’s lived his life as a revolutionary.
“A revolutionary means change,” Stan Woodard said. “A lot of people adhere to the status quo, and a revolutionary wants to upset the status quo for the better. It’s a revolutionary of the mind, first of all, and how we think and approach our quality of life in this country.”
To that end, he recalls pushing back against corporations polluting in predominantly minority neighborhoods, representing people of color against baseless accusations, advocating for those with felonies to get the right to vote and giving criminal defendants a second chance to turn their lives around.
Stan emphasized he’s not the only assistant public defender doing good work, and that he competes only with himself.
Yolanda said she considers herself “a little” revolutionary, but that her biggest attribute is her ability to listen.
The couple’s service mission is rooted in their faith. Both attend Mount Zion Baptist Church, one of the oldest African-American churches in the city.
“It’s our faith that makes us activists,” Stan said.
Stan and Yolanda seek change in their own way — particularly in areas of criminal justice — but try to stay out of the political fray.
Stan argued railing against the current political situation without a plan to address it would just be “blowing off steam.”
The Woodards have a long history of involvement in the Madison community outside of their professional careers, starting with giving youngsters a little holiday cheer.
For three decades the couple have dressed up during the holiday season as Mr. and Mrs. Claus to distribute gifts to children around Madison, something they think is particularly important given a lack of African-Americans to play the role.
“There is no color for Santa,” Stan said. “There is no color for love and giving and understanding.”
The Woodards also have been involved in numerous other volunteer activities. For much of her life Yolanda, whose daughter is disabled, has worked to secure rights for those with disabilities and to address domestic violence.
Both Yolanda and Stan were NGO delegates to the 2001 United Nations World Conference Against Racism in South Africa, have taught English in China and were HIV educators for the American Red Cross.
Stan also hosted a popular radio program, the “Tuesday Eight O’Clock Buzz,” for 15 years on Madison community radio station WORT. On the show, he spoke with numerous authors across a variety of subjects, such as climate change, food and drink, racial issues, sexual identity issues and suicide, particularly in the African-American community.
While Stan and Yolanda have tapered their volunteering in recent years, they’ve simply filled the additional time with their work. Neither keeps the word “retire” in their vocabulary.
“I’m not really sure where my lane is right now,” Yolanda said. “My lane gets kind of wide. But at this point, my life is about service.”