Commission on Human Rights
New Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame Inductees
The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights Saturday inducted 19 members to the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame. Approximately 150 people attended the 2007 inductions ceremony and civil rights celebration, which was held in the afternoon at the Northern Kentucky University Greaves Concert Hall in Highland Heights, Ky.
Judges selected the inductees from a pool of 57 candidates nominated this year by people throughout Kentucky. The event also included a presentation of the Abraham Lincoln Award to commemorate the president from Hodgenville who led the nation in a war to end slavery. A special award was given also to outgoing state Human Rights Commission Chair Priscilla Johnson for her service to the commission for the last eight years. Governor Fletcher appointed seven commissioners last week to replace Ms. Johnson and other commissioners whose terms had expired.
The new inductees:
The late Hal Thurmond and Elizabeth “Bettye’’ Thurmond. Both from Hopkinsville, Hal Thurmond founded the Hopkinsville Human Relations Commission for which Elizabeth became executive director. The couple is known for helping to integrate housing, lunch counters and public schools in Christian County.
William English Walling. The late Mr. Walling of Louisville was a co-founder of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and also a founder of the National Women’s Trade Union League.
Dr. William “Bill’’ Turner. A new state human rights commissioner appointed by Gov. Ernie Fletcher last week, the Lexington resident is a lifelong educator and was the interim president of Kentucky State University, a historically black college. He helped found the Black Students Union at University of Kentucky in 1968, and the Black Mountain Improvement Association to help minorities and low-income people have greater access to higher education.
Alice T. Shimfessel. The late Covington native was instrumental in breaking racial barriers in Covington from the 1940s through the time of her death in 1983. She fought against segregated movie theaters and restaurants in Covington and for integrated schools.
Rosella French Porterfield. The late resident of Elsmere and Erlanger was a teacher of black children. She worked with officials to integrate schools after segregation in her region.
Dr. Gertrude W. Coleman. The late Louisville native was president of the Black Women for Political Action. She also fought to integrate restaurants, housing and stores. She fought for the fair treatment of black students.
Pamela Mullins. The Covington native was the first black person elected to the Covington Board of Education and the second elected to the Covington City Commission. She sponsored the ordinance that created the Covington Human Rights Commission of which she is currently a member.
Carla Wallace of Prospect. She has worked for civil rights for most of her life. She has fought for job equity for minorities and she recently helped endow the chair for Race, Gender, Class and Sexuality at the University of Louisville.
Rev. William H. Sheppard. The late Louisville native was pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Louisville from 1912 until his death in 1926. He traveled to the Congo as a missionary and later fought for civil rights at home. The Sheppard Square Housing project in Smoketown of Louisville is named for him.
Dr. Donald E. Sands of Lexington, a retired professor from the University of Kentucky, was president of the Central Kentucky Civil Liberties Union where he increased membership, and fought for Hispanic people and against racial and ethnic profiling.
Rev. Henry Wise Jones. The late Louisville native was the pastor of two historic churches renowned for their fight for civil fights. He fought for equality in education and organized voting drives in the 1930s.
Gerry Gordon-Brown of Louisville is an advocate for people with disabilities and for civil rights. She helps minorities and people with disabilities register to vote. She transports people with disabilities to the voting polls.
Isaiah Smith of Covington was a longtime member of the NAACP and helped found the Northern Kentucky Community Center. He helped black candidates run for political office in Northern Kentucky and fought for minority hiring.
Jack Moreland of Cold Spring. He is the superintendent of Covington Independent Schools and was the superintendent of Dayton Kentucky Schools when he helped file the lawsuit that equalized funding for poor school districts in Kentucky. He helped open the Family Resource Center, which helps students obtain clothing and other special needs to attend school. He also supported the creation of the Covington Schools NAACP chapter at Holmes High School.
Dr. Harry Eugene Fields. The late Danville and then Owensboro resident was the chair of the Owensboro Human Relations Commission. As an educator he fought for the hiring of minority teachers. He helped bring peace during times of racial unrest.
Tom Moffett of Louisville. He is a longtime human rights activist and member of the Kentucky Alliance against Racist and Political Oppression. He is a writer and historian who has sought to educate others about oppression and discrimination.
Ron Billings. The late Louisville native was a disability rights advocate who fought for the inclusion of disability as a protected class in the Kentucky Civil Rights Act.
Suzy Post of Louisville led the Metro Housing Coalition, served as president of the Kentucky chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, chaired the Kentucky Pro-Equal Rights Amendment Alliance, and has been a member of the NAACP Education Committee.
The judges who selected the inductees are from many regions in the state and represent a wide variety of careers, backgrounds and interests. Toni Levy, a certified public accountant from Louisville, tabulated the judges’ ballots for KCHR. The judges selected the inductees based on the following criteria from information provided in written form by the nominators:
1. Provided exemplary leadership and achievement toward Kentucky’s progress in the areas of civil rights such as race, color, national origin, sex, religion, disability, and age.
2. Advocated for civil rights through actions and deeds in Kentucky;
3. And, served as role models and beacons in the struggle to eliminate discrimination, prejudice and barriers of equality in Kentucky.
4. Also, nominated candidates could be either living or deceased; their contributions may cover a wide range of civil rights issues in present or past eras.
The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights established the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2000 during the state government agency's 40th anniversary. This year marks the fifth set of inductions. The new members join the ranks of 64 previous inductees. There were 22 inaugural inductees in 2000, 16 inductees in 2001, 14 inductees in 2003, and 14 inductees in 2005. Since 2001, inductions occur bi-annually.
The KCHR is the state government agency that enforces The Kentucky Civil Rights Act and the policies of federal civil rights laws for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. It receives, initiates, investigates, conciliates and rules upon jurisdictional complaints. The KCHR has jurisdiction in housing, employment, public accommodations, financial transactions, and private clubs. The Kentucky Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status in housing, disability, age (40 or over) in employment, and smoking status in employment. Complaints not dismissed, settled or conciliated go to administrative hearing where commission decisions have the authority of a court of law.