Christy Gilliland Dunaway was born and raised and still resides in Jackson, Mississippi. She is the daughter of the late Pat Gilliland and Linda Gilliland, and sister to Lee Gilliland and Leslie McMellon. She was born with missing limbs – both arms below the elbow and the left leg below the knee. Christy is a graduate of St. Andrews High School and Millsaps College, and has a Masters of Counseling from Mississippi College. She also received an honorary doctorate in Public Service from Millsaps in 2010.
At 19 years old, while still a student at Millsaps College, Christy began her career in Independent Living as a peer counselor with the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services, later becoming an Independent Living Counselor and Counselor Supervisor with the Independent Living Program. She also was the Program Director for the state’s first Disability Prevention program funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She left employment with MDRS in June 1995 to work as the Center Director for the Jackson office of Living Independence For Everyone (LIFE) of Mississippi, the state’s nonprofit Center for Independent Living, and took the position of Executive Director of LIFE in 2000, overseeing the operations of all the Center’s offices in Mississippi. She remained Executive Director of LIFE until August 2014, when she retired to pursue her and her late husband’s dream of starting their own consulting business. Christy was married to Daryel Dunaway for 11 years until his untimely death in 2011.
Dunaway Consulting provided disability and equal rights information, training and technical assistance regarding all aspects of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Emergency Planning. Christy maintained consulting contracts with Portlight Inclusive Disaster Strategies, LIFE of Mississippi, the Southeast ADA Resource Center and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) before recently accepting a full-time position with MEMA as the agency’s first Disability Integration Advisor where she will be actively involved in ensuring that all aspects of Emergency Management in Mississippi are fully inclusive.
Christy has been actively involved in the civil rights of individuals with disabilities for over 30 years. She has organized and participated in many actions, conferences and events both statewide and nationally. She has written and developed numerous successful grants, and created and managed various programs designed to assist individuals with disabilities to live independently in their own homes and communities. Christy is most proud of her advocacy work within the disability community, and of her years living with and working alongside Daryel.