Commission on Human Rights
Announcing the 2010 Inductees to the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame
Announcing the 2010 Inductees to the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame
Today with an audience of about 500 people, the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights inducted 31 people to its Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame.
The ceremony took place at the Kentucky International Convention Center this afternoon from noon to 3:30 p.m. There were several guest speakers including Kweise Mfume, former president of the NAACP and former U.S Congressman, Linda Breathitt, daughter of the late Gov. Edward (Ned) Breathitt who signed the Kentucky Civil Rights Act in 1966, and Judge Sarah Combs, widow of the late Gov. Bert T. Combs who created the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights in 1960.
The Hall of Fame was held at a luncheon that first honored the two late governors for their leadership in making Kentucky a pioneer civil rights state by leading the south to end segregation and make discrimination illegal. The luncheon and inductions were part of the commission’s 50th Anniversary Civil and Human Rights Conference. The conference started Wednesday of this week and ended today. Over 400 people attended the entire conference. The commission’s 50th anniversary was on March 21, 2010, and the commission has held several public awareness events throughout the year to promote civil rights and the commission’s service to the people of Kentucky.
Some of the inductees below with public notoriety who attended the inductions were Nick Clooney, former AMC television host and father of George Clooney who was another nominee to the Hall of Fame this year. Another inductee, the late A.D. King, was a brother of the late Martin Luther King Jr. Several of the brothers’ family members attended.
An independent, volunteer group of citizens elected the inductees out of more than 50 nominations from people in the state. The state Human Rights Commission held its first Hall of Fame in 2000 to celebrate the state government agency’s 40th anniversary. Since then, the commission has inducted new members on a periodic basis. The Hall of Fame without the addition of the 2010 inductees had more than 80 members. Nominees to the Hall of Fame are people who are from the Commonwealth or who have lived or worked in the state and have made progress for civil or human rights. Candidates may be living or deceased, can represent present or passed eras, and will have made civil or human rights accomplishments most often impacting members of protected classes or potential protected classes of the Kentucky or U.S. Civil Rights acts. These laws protect people from discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, and family status. The Kentucky Civil Rights Act protects people from discrimination in the jurisdictions of employment, public accommodations, housing and financial transactions. The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights is the state authority that enforces the act and federal laws prohibiting discrimination. The commission’s rulings carry the authority of a court of law.
The new inductees are listed below. Following the list is each inductee’s biographical profile. The list and profiles are not in alphabetical or any particular order.
Dr. James Bond
Judge Robert Delahanty
Judith G. Clabes
Rev. Leo Lesser
Sister Janet Bucher
Rev. A.D. King
Harold (Pee Wee) Reese
Judge Ernesto Scorsone
Lee B. Thomas Jr.
Porter G. Peeples
Gracie M. Lewis
Sister Pat Reno
Curlee Brown Sr.
Wesley Earl Acton
Leona T. Hargraves
Norbert J. Ryan
Rev. Walter L. Johnson
The inductees and their biographical profiles are below:
Dr. James Bond
Dr. James Bond, Louisville, Ky., (1863-1929): Bond was born a slave in Woodford County, Ky., but rose to become one of Kentucky’s great educators and promoters of equality in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was a minister, teacher, and civil rights activist who spoke against discrimination in Kentucky and Tennessee, where he also lived and worked at Fisk Theological Seminary. He earned a Bachelor’s of Science Degree from Berea College in Kentucky in 1892 – one of only 2000 African Americans in the country with a college degree at the time. He later received his Divinity degree from Oberlin College and a Doctorate degree from Berea College. During his long educational career, he taught African American soldiers to read at Camp Taylor while working for the YMCA in Louisville. He was a trustee at Berea College from 1896-1914. He helped create the Lincoln Institute, an African American school that opened near Shelbyville, Ky., in 1912, by securing $400,000, of which half came from a Carnegie Foundation grant. He was the financial director at the Lincoln Institute until 1917, when became the service director for the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) at Camp Zachary Taylor. After World War I, he became Kentucky Secretary for the black YMCA’s in the state and was named Kentucky Director of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation. The Southern Regional Council of Atlanta and the Kentucky Council on Human Relations have used some of Dr. Bond’s ideas to further their goals. His grandson, Julian Bond, became a leader of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, Georgia State Senator and Chairman of the Board of the NAACP. Senator Bond has often cited his grandfather’s life and work as an influence on his own human rights activities.
Judge Robert Delahanty
Louisville, Ky. (1923-1993). He was elected to the Jefferson District Court in 1978 as was the first chief judge. As judge, he helped implement the United State court system in Jefferson County and led the effort to replace the Bail Bond system that was oppressive to low-income people with Pre-Trial release, which allows some defendants to be released on their own recognizance without posting bail. He was known as a fair and compassionate judge. But he is best known in the Civil Rights community for his defense of those who had been denied access to jobs, housing, public accommodations and bank loans because of their race, color, gender, disability or national origin. The judge was a member of the Lawyers Panel for the Kentucky Civil Liberties Union from 1956-1977, board member and president of the Legal Aid Society from 1964-1968 and served under two distinguished African American judges – Judge Neville Tucker and Judge Benjamin Shobe. As a young lawyer, Delahanty participated in sit-ins in 1961 in Louisville and marched with demonstrators to protest police brutality – even if his participation cost him clients who disagreed with his civil rights activities. He gave legal advice to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and helped secure $10,000 in financial support to open a Martin Luther King community store in Louisville. After representing a young Black man who was expelled from school for wearing an Afro and a mustache, He helped secure financial aid to help the youth attend the University of Louisville. The young man that Delahanty defended became an administrator at U of L. The judge had a career of integrity that led him to represent anyone from Vietnam War protesters to demonstrators for fair housing. One supporter said Judge Delahanty’s “work exemplified his devotion to social justice in words, deeds and action.’’
Judith G. Clabes
Paris, Ky. (1945-) – She was the first and only woman editor of The Kentucky Post. As editor from 1983-1995, She fought for social change and civil rights by hiring minorities, demanding better treatment of women in the workplace by local employers and calling on Kentucky officials for higher educational funding and standards. She commissioned a year-long investigation that resulted in series about Blacks in Northern Kentucky that showed inequality in education, housing, employment, criminal justice and politics. She also edited a series about politics in education that found many school districts in Kentucky had patronage jobs that diverted money from the classroom. She reprinted the education series and sent it to the General Assembly, which later adopted the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990. She organized “A Summit for Our Kids,’’ in the mid -1980s to learn why a teen-ager in Newport held two young boys hostage. The summit resulted in hundreds of new volunteers to social service agencies. She hired minorities as editors, reporters, photographers and clerks and sent staff members to speak at historic black colleges to encourage diversity in journalism. She was a co-founder of the Outstanding Women of Northern Kentucky Awards, which celebrates the achievements of women and students. Clabes, as director of the Scripps Foundation, approved a $10 million grant to Hampton University, a historic black college in Virginia, to build a journalism program that employs dozens and produces hundreds of journalists and broadcasters. She is a founding member of the University of Kentucky First Amendment Center and serves on many non-profit boards.
Rev. Leo Lesser
Louisville, Ky. (1928-1974): He was a contemporary and friend of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his brother, Rev. A.D. King. And like the Kings, Rev. Lesser dedicated his life to fighting for fair housing, equal opportunity in jobs and education. Although he was a man of peace, Lesser was often met by rocks and jeers as he led demonstrations in Louisville during the 1960s and early 1970s to promote open housing, fair hiring and equality in education. He served as president of the Kentucky Southern Christian Leadership Conference, executive director of the West End Community Council and associate director of the Louisville-Jefferson County Human Relations Commission. His human rights work took him from Kentucky to England, where he conducted graveside services for Sir Winston Churchill, the former prime minister. He toured six military bases in Germany in 1972 and found that hundreds of black serviceman were subjected to racism and disparate treatment. Rev. Lesser produced a public affairs radio show in 1970. In 1969, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for Louisville city alderman. He also ran unsuccessfully for Louisville mayor in 1973 in an effort to help disadvantaged people obtain fair treatment from city hall. Lesser was a chaplain at the Jefferson County Jail. He was a soft-spoken man whose faith and dignity brought people of all colors, genders and ages together. Judge Robert Delahanty said of Lesser, “I would guess that Leo did more good in his way for this community than anyone I have ever known. He won’t be replaced.’’
Sister Janet Bucher
Covington, Ky.: Sister Janet is the administrator of the Church of Our Savior in Covington’s Eastside, a small church whose members are mainly African Americans. She is known as the driving force to keep the historic church open to cater to the needs of her congregation. She holds educational programs at the church to teach the youth; community forums to educate the neighborhood; and seminars on health to promote safety and well-being. Sister Janet was among the community leaders who fought for 17 years to have Dr. Martin Luther King’s name added to 12th Street in Covington, and she realized that dream in 2007. Sister Janet has raised her voice to end wars and fight poverty, racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination. She has opened the Church of Our Savior to immigrants from Mexico and Guatemala to make them feel welcome and have services in their own language. She has been honored for her work by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the Northern Kentucky NAACP. In 2010, she was named an Outstanding Woman of Northern Kentucky by Toyota, Northern Kentucky University and Thomas More College.
Rev. A.D. King
Atlanta, Ga., formerly of Louisville (1930-1969): He was a human rights leader who fought for open housing, jobs for poor people, voting rights and civil rights and marched from Louisville to Alabama to Atlanta to obtain his goals. The younger brother of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. A.D. King organized thousands of people in his own right to obtain equality and liberation from police and political oppression. Over his lifetime, he served as a pastor of four churches, including Zion Baptist Church in Louisville and Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where his father and brother also preached. A.D. King endured bombings to his church in Louisville and his home in Alabama, yet he continued his call for non-violence social change. Rev. A.D. King participated in boycotts, sit-ins, voting registration and marches calling for voting rights and access to public accommodations. He demanded fair housing laws in Kentucky and lived to see Kentucky adopt its Civil Rights Act in 1966 and a fair housing law two years later. He was a leader of the Birmingham Campaign in 1963, when demonstrators were attacked by police dogs and fire hoses, and also of the 1965 March from Selma to Montgomery that led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He organized hundreds of Kentuckians to participate in the Selma to Montgomery March, including Father Anthony Deye, a Catholic priest from Northern Kentucky who was a charter member of the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2000.
Russellville, Ky. (1941-): His long career as a civil and human rights activist has taken him through more than 40 states and 50,000 miles as a member of The Freedom Singers, a legendary quartet that performed at the 1963 March on Washington and alongside other musicians Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Peter, Paul and Mary. Neblett helped form The Freedom Singers in 1962 under the direction of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, which helped plan the March on Washington where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream Speech. Neblett began fighting for civil rights after the 1955 death of Emmett Till, a black teenager who was killed in Mississippi. Neblett was Till’s age at the time of Emmett’s death and Neblett dedicated himself to human rights so that others may not suffer the way Emmett Till did. Neblett has worked for the New York City Human Rights Commission. He moved to Russellville after marrying his wife, Marvina Benton. He was the first African American elected as magistrate in Logan County and helped found the Warren County and Logan County Human Rights Commissions. In February 2010, Neblett performed before President Obama during a “Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement.‘’ He is one of the founders of the Martin Luther King Jr. March and Celebration in Logan County. Neblett and his wife operate a non-profit program called Community Projects to educate children in Logan County. He is on the board of the West Kentucky African American Museum and the Logan County NAACP.
Hattie Neblett, Owensboro, Ky. (1903-1993) and Reginald Neblett, Owensboro, Ky., (1900-1978):
Hattie Neblett and her husband Reginald Neblett, M.D., were the founders of the H.L. Neblett Community Center in Owensboro, which has helped thousands of youth further their education, find jobs and become productive citizens. Dr. Neblett opened his practice in Owensboro in 1930, and for the next 24 years, he was the only black doctor in town. During his first day on the job, a black youth died from a gunshot wound, which prompted Hattie Neblett to open the family’s basement as a community center to give the African American youth a place to learn, play and grow in a safe environment. By 1940, the couple raised money to buy a building to help the youth and the H.L. Neblett Center, named for Hattie, at 801 West 5th Street in Owensboro was on its way to a permanent home. The Nebletts opened their home and hearts to needy children during a time of segregation and separation of the races. They wanted African American children to have the opportunity to study, exercise and learn culture and history in a safe environment. Today, the H.L. Neblett Center continues to serve children of and adults of all races. Hattie taught children music as served many years as director and president of the center. While her husband helped raised money and tended to the medical needs of the black community, she tended to the youth who needed guidance and support. The Nebletts in 1978 received the Jane Adams Medal from the National Federation of Settlements and Neighborhood Centers for opening their recreation center.
Russellville, Ky. (1906-1983). Alice Dunnigan rose from a small, segregated school in Russellville to participating in the heights of political power. As a journalist, she covered – and influenced – presidents from Harry Truman to Lyndon Johnson and encouraged them to end segregation and support equal opportunity in education, employment and housing. She attended Kentucky State University and was a public school teacher from 1924-1942. She began her journalism career after World War II at the Associated Negro Press, where she headed the Washington Bureau. Her reports were carried in 112 newspapers and read by thousands of people across the country. She was the first African American woman accredited to cover the State Department and the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1948, she was the first black to cover a presidential tour when she accompanied President Truman. She later called on President Truman to integrate military schools as well as the Armed forces, and the president agreed. Although she suffered many indignities because of her race and gender as a pioneering reporter, Dunnigan never flinched and fought to help the oppressed. In 1951, she was the first woman selected as Best All-Around Newsman by the Capital Press Club. In 1961, President Kennedy appointed her to the Committee of Equal Employment Opportunity, which allowed her to meet with labor and business officials to promote equality in hiring across the country. She also fought for rural Kentucky by demanding that officials deliver mail, water lines and electricity to areas that had been undeveloped. She reported on the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and received an award from the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee for her courage. She reported on human rights issues in South America, Africa and Haiti. One supporter said, “Her passion and talent in writing allowed her to fight and expose injustice throughout the world.’’
Covington, Ky., (1943-): Ms. Bennie Doggett spent more than a decade as a social worker for the William Martin Northern Kentucky Community Center in Covington, where she helped the homeless find housing, the unemployed find jobs and students graduate from high school. She established a program at the community center that brought suburban white students to inner-city Covington to work with African American youth. She worked with police to rid the East side of Covington of drug trafficking while at the same time demanding that the officers respect the residents that they serve. Ms. Doggett owned a clothing boutique in Covington and served on numerous boards to provide bridges between blacks and whites in Northern Kentucky. Ms. Doggett lobbied Covington City Commissioners for 17 years to add Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s name to 12th Street and her goal was achieved in 2007. She helped found the OASIS Center in Covington to help residents with housing, education and employment. She is currently working with Covington officials to ensure that a $17 million federal grant to tear down the Jacob Price housing complex doesn’t permanently displace hundreds of residents who have called the Eastside their home for generations. Doggett was named an Outstanding Woman of Northern Kentucky in 1992 and has served on the Vision 2015 committee to shape the future of the region. She was honored by the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights for her achievements during a Woman’s History Month program in 2009.
Louisville, Ky. (1947-2009): Paul Bather was a political, business and civil leader who served two terms in the Ky. House of representatives (2000 and 2002) and was a member of the Louisville Board of Aldermen from 1986-2000. As a political leader, he sought to give voice to those who would not normally be heard. As a state representative, he championed legislation to protect low-income communities from environmental pollution and worked with the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville to establish the Kentucky E-health Network to provide quality healthcare to thousands of indigent Kentuckians. As an alderman in Louisville, Bather supported the Fairness Ordinance to expand civil rights protections in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation. He worked to improve police and community relations and helped establish a sister city program in Africa with Tamale in Ghana. As president of the Bank of Louisville from 1990-97, he helped many small and minority-owned businesses have access to capital. As the treasurer of Jefferson County from 1980-86, he was responsible for more than $100 million in receipts and helped expand opportunities for minority-owned investment managers to provide services to county government. He worked on faith-based programs to help abused and neglected children and recovering substance abusers. He worked to help former felons become productive members of society.
Louisville, Ky. (1939- ): Nancy Demartra is a retired teacher from Jefferson County who grew up in Graves County when Kentucky was segregated and black children had to attend a one-room frame school with tattered books and no bathroom while their white counterparts attended new schools that had running water and heat. Demartra said her mother and grandfather read to her about civil rights leaders and instilled a sense of dignity that she always maintained. She and another student helped integrate Murray State University in the 1950s. At Murray State, Demartra and five white students developed a plan to desegregate nearby restaurants that refused to serve blacks – all of the students would order food. And if the restaurant would refuse Demartra’s money, all of the students would leave without paying. She also fought to integrate the dorm rooms at Murray State. She spent 15 years on the Jefferson County Teachers Association Board, where for fair treatment teachers and students. She founded “Moms on a Mission,’’ to help low-income mothers whose children had been placed in foster care without justification. She has taught her students about civil and human rights and encouraged them to pursue their dreams in whatever field they choose. She is now retired from teaching, but she retains her passion for human rights. This year, she wrote a letter to President Obama demanding that the United States help Haiti after millions of people suffered from a devastating earthquake. The President replied that America stands with Haiti and its people.
Louisville, Ky. (1846-1921): Nathaniel R. Harper became the first black lawyer, judge, and notary in Kentucky after moving to Louisville in 1870. Judge Harper was born in Indianapolis, Ind., and grew up in Detroit, Mich., where he attended school and studied law. In 1871, he was one of the first two blacks licensed to practice in Kentucky. In 1878, he became the first black notary in the state, and in 1885, he became the first black to preside as a judge in the Louisville city courts. Harper fought for the rights of blacks to serve on state juries and founded a law school that was eventually absorbed into the Central Law School. In 1895, Louisville Republican leaders chose Judge Harper as their candidate for a state house seat in, but state officials denied that request and named a white candidate instead. The New York Freeman newspaper said Judge Harper’s term on the bench “was brief…but dignified. This is the first time in the history of Kentucky, certainly of Louisville, that a colored judiciary ever sat upon the bench.’’
Harold (Pee Wee) Reese
Louisville, Ky. (1918-1999): Pee Wee Reese was an All-Star shortstop for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers who won a World Series Championship in 1955. But he is perhaps best known for his groundbreaking friendship, leadership and support of teammate Jackie Robinson and other African Americans when Robinson broke the color line in Major League baseball in 1947. Reese, a native of Meade County, Ky., refused to sign a petition that other white players had circulated to protest Robinson’s historic achievement. Later, during a game in Cincinnati, Reese quieted the crowd that was jeering Robinson by putting his arm on Robinson’s shoulder to show his support for his teammate. That gesture has since been immortalized in a statue that is on display in Brooklyn. Reese became captain of the Dodgers and was a clubhouse leader who welcomed African American players Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe and Joe Black. As a child, Reese’s father Carl Reese took Pee Wee to a tree in Brandenburg, Ky., where a black man had been lynched in 1902. Carl Reese told his son that no one deserved to be treated the way that blacks had been treated and that Harold should treat all people with respect. The lesson took hold when Pee Wee met Jackie Robinson. During his funeral in 1999, Robinson’s widow Rachel Robinson said of Reese, “Pee Wee used all of his leadership skills and sensitivity to bring the team together. Pee Wee was more than a friend. Pee Wee was a good man.’’
Judge Ernesto Scorsone
Lexington, Ky. (1952- ): As a lawyer, state representative and senator, Judge Ernesto Scorsone is known to promote human rights, expand minority hiring and help close the achievement gap for Kentucky students. He earned his law degree from the University Of Kentucky College Of Law in 1976. He was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1984, where he served 12 years. He was subsequently elected to the Kentucky Senate, where he also served 12 years. He was appointed to Fayette Circuit Court by Gov. Steve Beshear in 2008. During his legal and political career, Judge Scorsone has fought to extend civil rights protections based on sexual orientation. He successfully oversaw a state law to expand hate crimes to include sexual orientation. He helped draft an ordinance for the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government to grant protections in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation. He helped draft a gubernatorial order to protect state workers from job bias based on sexual orientation. He has sought to protect women against gender bias at work and has sponsored legislation promoting minority hiring of local school superintendents. He has championed legislation to close the achievement gap for minority students and has fought for health care reform to protect people with disabilities.
Lee B. Thomas Jr.
Louisville, Ky. (1926- ): Leo Thomas, whose family founded the American Saw and Tool Company and Vermont American Corp., used his standing as a prominent business leader to march in the 1960s with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and demand equal rights for all, regardless of color. Thomas was the CEO of Vermont American for 24 years and the company’s revenue grew from $9 million to $450 million. After Vermont American was taken over by another company, Thomas bought another company, Universal Woods. But his supporters say Thomas is most proud of his work as a founding member of the Board of Interfaith Paths to Peace in Louisville and supporting civil rights laws to end segregation in public accommodations. He refused to allow his company to do business with companies that allowed segregation and he hired and promoted many African Americans and other minorities. He has served on the Board of Trustees of the Lincoln Foundation in Louisville for more than 50 years. In 2004, the Louisville Urban League presented its first Arthur M. Walters Champion of Diversity Award to Thomas and his wife Joan, a medical doctor who practiced in Louisville’s West End for 21 years. Thomas is a founder of the board of the Kentucky Civil Liberties Union and has served on the board of the National Center for Family Literacy. He has received the Jewish Community’s Ottenheimer Award for Community Service.
Porter G. Peeples
Lexington, Ky. (1945-): P. G. Peeples has spent most of his life as the executive director of the Lexington Urban League, where he has overseen programs for clerical training, open housing, including rehabbing and financing housing, community development and training in jails and prisons. He has been involved with a community radio station and chairs the Equity Commission that monitors the public schools in Fayette County. Peeples grew up in Lynch in Eastern Kentucky. During the early 1960s, he was one of about 50 black students at the University of Kentucky. He became the education director at the Lexington Urban League shortly after his graduation from UK and was named executive director shortly after joining the organization – the youngest Urban League director in the country at that time. His advocacy for education and his support of students led the Fayette County Schools to establish an award in his honor in 2003. Peeples has been honored by a Lexington Television station as “An Everyday Hero.’’ He was named to the University of Kentucky Alumni Hall of Fame in 2004. He was a featured participant in the KET Documentary, “Living the Story,’’ which detailed the Civil Rights struggle in Kentucky.
Prospect, Ky. (1951-): Marsha Weinstein has spent most of her life fighting for health, safety, education and economic empowerment for women and girls. In 1992, Ms Weinstein began her four-year term as executive director of the Kentucky Commission on Women. But she has been active in women’s rights issues since she moved to Kentucky in 1980. She has testified before the General Assembly on the need for domestic violence centers and helped found Kentucky Women Advocates in 1986 and the Court Appointed Special Advocates, which protects the rights of children in court, in 1987. She is a co-founder of the Alliance for Girls, and has served on the boards of Kentucky Youth Advocates and the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights. Ms Weinstein has fought to help many African American youth obtain their GEDs and construction work through YouthBuild Louisville. She has lobbied a governor to pardon 21 women who were imprisoned after defending themselves from domestic abuse. Ms. Weinstein was honored in 2007 by the Center for Women and Families as “someone who has contributed time, effort and leadership toward the elimination of domestic violence, sexual violence and economic hardship in our community.’’ One supporter said Ms. Weinstein has fought for civil rights by “helping to eliminate barriers in our community and on the national scene as well.’’
Gracie M. Lewis
Louisville, Ky., (1948- ): Gracie Lewis, an officer with the Kentucky Alliance against Racist and Political Repression in Louisville, has spent a lifetime promoting fairness and equality in employment, housing, education and criminal justice. In early 2007, she helped lead a large contingent of Louisville activists to Washington, D.C., where they implored the U.S. Supreme Court to allow Jefferson County to continue its voluntary integration policy in its public schools. Lewis has helped win jobs and better working conditions as a union leader for the American Federation of Government Employees; she pushed for the creation of a police review board in Louisville and fought for affirmative action programs in Louisville to ensure that minorities are represented in employment. She has rallied for environment protection and more green space in Louisville and more affordable and safe housing for low-income people.
Sister Pat Reno
Shelbyville, Ky. (1938- ): Sister Pat Reno is the executive director of Centro Latino of Shelbyville, where she provides food, clothing and counseling to low-income and new residents in Shelby County. Centro Latino offers English classes to the Latin community and helps residents obtain their GED. She works with the Mexican Consulate in Indianapolis to make learning programs available to adults. She provides translation for Latinos and several times has helped workers obtain payment when they were denied by their employers. She has helped local police gain trust with the Latin community, and has provided referrals for health care, housing, and attorneys for those in need. She has coordinated accounting for two HUD grants to build apartment buildings for low-income and disabled residents. She helps abused women obtain protective orders and helps children obtain transportation to attend school and work. One supporter said Sister Pat “has been a wonderful role model for many people over the years.’’
Maysville, Ky., (1955- ): Terry Cunningham helped re-charter the Maysville-Mason County NAACP in 2004. As the local NAACP president, he helped bring the state NAACP convention to Maysville in 2009, where he introduced many state Civil Rights leaders to local business, political, educational and religious leaders in his hometown. He persuaded the Maysville City Commission to revive the Maysville Human Rights Commission. He was the first African American elected the Maysville Board of Education and later became board president, where he helped establish a relationship with the Maysville Community and Technical College to encourage youth to attend college. Cunningham also chartered buses for students in Mason County to attend special programs by the Kentucky Human Rights Commission that encouraged youth to become lawyers, judges, firefighters and police officers. He has fought for better police and community relations and inspired the police chief to seek diversity training for his officers. Cunningham served six years in the U.S. Army and spent time in Panama. He has received the Army Commendation Medal for Meritorious Service and was a union steward for Elco-Textron. He worked to close the achievement gap for minority students as a member of the National Black Caucus of School Board Members.
Curlee Brown Sr.
Paducah, Ky., (1909-1976): Curlee Brown was the longtime president of the Paducah branch of the NAACP and served as a vice president of the Kentucky NAACP for many years. He helped with integration plans in the McCracken County School District after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision and fought for the integration of movie theaters and other public accommodations in Paducah during the 1950s. He was a president of the Carpenters Union Local 1912 and was a board member of the local Boys Club. His work to help children, workers and people of color is celebrated every year by the Kentucky NAACP, which annual hands out its Curlee Brown Award to outstanding members.
Monticello, Ky. (1960-): Joe Cowan is the disability coordinator and instructional specialist at Somerset Community College. Mr. Cowan helps students with disabilities gain access to the college. He also teaches English as a second language which helps many migrant students earn their General Education Diplomas. Cowan, who uses a wheelchair, received his undergraduate degree in Social Work from the University of Kentucky in 1995. He earned his graduate degree in vocational rehabilitation from UK in 2001. He was a Dean’s list student at UK and was inducted into the Chi Sigma Iota International Honor Society. He teaches Sunday school and occasionally preaches at Sunday morning services. He has served on the Human Development Institute Advisory Council for the University Centers for Excellence at UK for eight years. Throughout his life, he has fought for the inclusion of people with physical and mental disabilities in schools, colleges and the workplace. He has used his sense of humor to get those without disabilities to understand the challenges of those who have them. One colleague wrote of him: “I have found Mr. Cowan to be an outstanding humanitarian. He always treats others with respect and courtesy, and, by that example, he shows others how to better their lives.’’
Augusta, Ky. (1934- ): Nick Clooney is an award-winning broadcaster and print journalist who anchored the evening news at WKRC Television (Channel 12) in Cincinnati from 1976-1984 and 1986 and 1988. As a broadcaster, he covered such events as the 1977 Beverly Hills Supper Club fire in Southgate that killed 165 people, the frozen winters of 1977 and 1978 and city hall in both Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. He has also been a news anchor in Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Buffalo. He championed the cause of diversity in the newsroom and mentored minority journalists on his staff. Like his sister, actress and singer Rosemary Clooney, he supported civil rights as a youth in Maysville and encouraged his own children to become human rights activists. He traveled to the Darfur region of Africa several times the last few years with his son George Clooney and wrote columns for The Cincinnati Post encouraging an end to the war and famine in Africa. Nick Clooney created a special exhibit from his trips to Darfur that was displayed during the summer of 2006 at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. He also appeared on many television and radio shows to discuss the famine in Darfur and ways people can bring relief to Africa.
Louisville, Ky. (1934- ): Robert Cunningham, originally from Trigg County, Ky., has spent his life fighting for justice in the workplace, housing, public accommodations and access to finances. During the 1970s, he helped form the Black Workers Coalition to challenge workplace racism and access to jobs that were denied to blacks and other minorities. He later joined the Kentucky Branch of the National Alliance against Racism and Political Repression where he fought for prison reform, economic justice, and school equity and against the death penalty. Cunningham, a worker for the Louisville Water Company, has used his voice to bring blacks and whites and opposed people together to create a better and just society that would benefit all. He spoke in favor of the fairness ordinance in Louisville that expanded civil rights to include sexual orientation as a protected class. He has shared his wealth of knowledge and experience by teaching younger generations of the importance of human rights. As the coordinator of the Kentucky Alliance Youth Program, he helped young people create the Civil Rights mural under the West Broadway overpass at 32nd and Broadway Streets in Louisville.
Wesley Earl Acton
Utica, Ky., (1937- ): Wesley Acton is an educator, Owensboro NAACP leader, co-founder and organizer of the Owensboro Human Relations Commission. He received the Owensboro Human Relations Award in 1989 for his long-time commitment to civic affairs and education. He has been active throughout his life in integrating schools, teaching positions, stores and businesses. He also led efforts in recent years to clean, maintain and upgrade cemeteries for African Americans in his region.
Leona T. Hargraves
Covington, Ky., (1906-1976): Leona Hargraves was an educator during segregation in Covington Public Schools. She inspired her students to participate in civil rights marches and other activities. She was born in Ontario, Canada and earned a bachelor's of science degree in elementary education from the University of Cincinnati. She helped many children after school and taught them about art, African American history and social studies. She inspired many to pursue their dreams. One student later became the publisher of her own newspaper in Covington. A park in Covington where Hargraves taught many students during her free time was re-named posthumously in her honor in 1981. A bust in her likeness was unveiled at the park in 2003. One of her students holds an annual program at the park in Hargraves' honor to give students school supplies and encourage them to know their history and pursue their dreams as Hargraves would encourage them to do.
Louisville, Ky.: Ann Wagner, a lifelong member of the NAACP, has taught, counseled and parented hundreds of boys and girls through the years as Youth Council Advisor of the Kentucky NAACP. She took youth on field trips to the Louisville-Jefferson County Board of Aldermen and the Jefferson County Board of Education to learn how government is operated. She helped young people raise money to attend regional and national NAACP conferences. She encouraged children to complete their education, find jobs and become productive members of society. She served many years on the Louisville NAACP Board of Directors and was president of the Kentucky NAACP Women’s Auxiliary. In 1979, when the National NAACP held its annual conference in Louisville, Executive Director Benjamin L. Hooks adopted Wagner’s suggestion to open the gathering with a religious service. The organization has continued the tradition ever since. Wagner retired as NAACP Youth Council Advisor in 1999 and many of the youth she guided came from around the world to salute her. She has also marched for justice with the National Council of Negro Women, the Justice Resource Center in Louisville and Black Women for Justice. She received the National Leadership Volunteer Award from President Clinton in 1999.
Norbert J. Ryan
Versailles, Ky. (1946- ): Norbert Ryan earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Therapeutic Recreation from Eastern Kentucky University in 1976 and has devoted his life to helping people with disabilities. He has been the Kentucky Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator since 2001. His office provides training and technical assistance to state government, agencies and programs regarding the Disabilities Act and its effect on employment, programs, services and facilities. Ryan works to ensure that people with disabilities are treated fairly in employment, housing and public accommodations. He advocated for parents and children with significant disabilities when he worked at the Child Development Center of the Bluegrass from 1976-1991 in Danville. In 1980 and 1981, he coordinated the United Cerebral Palsy Telethon. He worked as director of Therapeutic Recreation at Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital in Lexington, where he helped many children and adults with disabilities. One supporter said that Ryan has an engaging, full-time job, but is often asked to serve on many charity and agency boards because of his knowledge, compassion and commitment to helping people with disabilities.
Rev. Walter L. Johnson
Campbellsville, Ky., (1929- ): Reverend Walter Johnson led three churches – Mt. Vernon, Pleasant Run and Jacob Grove Baptist. He has been a long-time member of the Campbellsville Human Rights Commission and has been in the forefront of civil rights and integration movements in Campbellsville and Taylor County. He fought for the integration of African American residents into the Campbellsville Housing Authority; purveyed upon the Campbellsville Human Rights Commission to help blacks get hired as teachers, bus drivers and other positions in the Taylor County School District; and led the charge to integrate the public swimming pool in Campbellsville. He insisted that the Campbellsville school district integrate its cheerleading squad and has faced many threats because of his activism.