Richmond icon 'Dirt Woman' has died

Richmond icon 'Dirt Woman' has died

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Donnie "Dirt Woman" Corker -- a local icon and legendary activist -- has died.

"Thank you, Donnie, for making Richmond a more vibrant place to be," a friend wrote in a Facebook group devoted to Corker.

Outrageous, vibrant, controversial, outspoken, Richmond's legendary drag queen had a way of stealing headlines. Donnie grew up in Oregon Hill. In his youth, he walked the streets as a prostitute. He cross-dressed, eventually becoming the humorous and self-deprecating drag queen Dirt Woman. Back in the day, Donnie was one of the few outspoken members of the LGBT community.

"He may not have packaged his message the way most of us would have, but he was honest and he was out there and he was very courageous," said President and Executive Director of Diversity Richmond, Bill Harrison.

He ran for mayor in 2008. He's probably most known for creating 'Hamaganza,' a wild and raunchy show that raised money and collected food for the homeless for more than 20 years.

"I was at a bingo game at a synagogue here in town. He won the jackpot of $1,000, and he gave it all back to the synagogue and that was unheard of,"
remembers Harrison.

Anyone who's lived in Richmond any length of time has a Dirt Woman story.

"I went to a funeral of a friend, and Donnie was at the cemetery and when I left the cemetery, we said, "Well, you're very Richmond if Dirt Woman comes to your funeral," said Harrison with a chuckle.

"People say, 'Oh, I saw him in front of Mama Zu's or I used to buy flowers from him on Grace Street or I saw him at the Villiage," added Jerry Williams, a longtime friend.

"He's unique in so many ways, and there will never be another person like him not only in Richmond but anywhere in the world," added Williams.

Diagnosed with congestive heart failure a few months ago, Corker fought until the very end. He blazed a trail of acceptance throughout his life and Richmond didn't just accept him, it embraced him.

Earlier this year, friends hosted a toast for Corker and said a documentary was being planned.

"Dirt Woman has been one of RVA's most unique characters for many years," organizers posted online.

The site also noted Corker being known for a best-selling calendar, mud wrestling Dave Brockie and playing Mrs. Santa at the annual Hamaganza. He was also a frequent caller to Elliot in the Morning.

Richmond Councilwoman Reva Trammell issued a statement on Corker's passing:

I've known Donnie for the many many years he lived in our 8th District, I am very sorry about his passing and he will always have a place in my heart. We just talked recently and my thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time as we say goodbye to one of Richmond's most well-known personalities.

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