Each year, the Spirit of King Award Ceremony honors the lifetime achievements of local citizens who pursue human rights and equality in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The award ceremony is sponsored by the Kingsley Association, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the New Pittsburgh Courier and Port Authority of Allegheny County.
Spirit of King had its genesis in 1986 when Elmer McClung, director of health and recreation at the Kingsley Association, had the idea to plant a pink dogwood tree – symbolizing eternal life – in the parklet adjacent to the East Liberty Station of Port Authority's Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway.
From then, the parklet became a site to honor distinguished citizens. In 1987, a plaque commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was placed in the parklet. In 1988, the parklet was dedicated in the name of Wilhelmina Byrd Brown, a civil rights activist from Schenley Heights who dedicated 50 years of her life to public service.
In 1989, the Spirit of King Award was established by the Kingsley Association, Port Authority and the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Wilhelmina Byrd Brown became the first recipient.
In 1990, another plaque was dedicated to include the names of those chosen to receive the Spirit of King Award.
To date, the award has honored 38 individuals for their achievements and contributions to society.
Wilhelmina Byrd Brown was the first recipient of the Spirit of King Award. Ms. Brown dedicated 50 years of her life to public service, participating in dozens of community boards and organizations, most notably the YWCA, the Community Chest (forerunner of the United Way) and the United Service Organization.
Matthew Moore, Sr. (1922-1985) dedicated his life to achieving racial equality for minorities, serving as the first vice president of the Pittsburgh branch of the NAACP and a board member of the Pennsylvania branch of the NAACP, among other positions.
James McCoy, Jr. (1919-1978) was a tireless worker for human rights. Mr. McCoy was founder of the United Negro Protest Committee, an important contingent in the local civil rights movement, and Freedom House Enterprises, a nonprofit organization designed to establish minority-owned businesses in the Pittsburgh area.
Margaret L. Dobbins Milliones (1939-1978) was the first African-American woman elected to the City of Pittsburgh School Board. Ms. Milliones worked with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during her lifetime and also served as chairperson for the Black Women's Forum, which organized local women to address community issues.
Mary Elizabeth Goode Dudley (1912-1964), better known by her radio name, Mary Dee, became the first African-American woman radio announcer in Western Pennsylvania in 1948. In 1958, the Homestead native became the first African-American woman to become a member of American Women in Radio and Television.
Hall of Fame baseball player Roberto Clemente (1934-1972) starred with the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1954 to 1972, winning numerous honors during his career, including National League MVP in 1966 and 12 Gold Glove awards. He was tragically killed in a plane crash en route to Nicaragua to deliver aid to earthquake victims, and is the namesake of Major League Baseball’s Roberto Clemente Award, which is presented to players who give back to their communities.
Josh Gibson (1911-1947) was a Negro League baseball player with the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords. An inspiration to many African-American athletes, Mr. Gibson was often referred to as the “black Babe Ruth” and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.
Mary Cardwell Dawson (1894-1962) founded the National Negro Opera Company in 1941 to help African-American singers and musicians achieve their professional goals. She also developed the Cardwell School of Music in Homewood in 1926, which produced award-winning choirs that performed at World's Fairs in Chicago and New York.
Robert L. Vann (1887-1940) founded the Pittsburgh Courier in 1910 and was national director of Negro Publicity for the presidential campaigns of Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover.
John Brewer, Sr. (1917-1987) became the first African-American principal in the City of Pittsburgh School District in 1954 and was twice honored as an Outstanding Educator of Pittsburgh.
Daisy E. Lampkin (1883-1965) fought for civil rights on the national scene as vice president of the Pittsburgh Courier, field secretary of the NAACP and chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, Inc. Locally, she served on the Board of Directors of the Urban League of Pittsburgh.
Oliver Livingstone Johnson (1891-1971) became the first African-American prosecuting attorney in the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office in 1942 and later practiced before the United States Supreme Court.
Oliver Wendell Mason was one of the first African-Americans hired by the Pittsburgh Police Department in 1944, eventually serving as a detective. During his career of more than 20 years, Mr. Mason played an important role in reducing juvenile delinquency and gang violence in the region.
Louis Mason, Jr. (1915-1984) served as director of the Industrial Relations Department of the Urban League of Pittsburgh, executive director of the Mayor's Commission on Human Relations, deputy director of the Fair Employment Practices Commission and as president of Pittsburgh City Council.
Frankie Pace (1905-1989) was a tireless civic worker who in 1942 helped form a neighborhood group that later became the Citizens Committee for Hill District Renewal. She also served on the Board of Directors of the Urban League of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh branch of the NAACP.
Dr. Oswald Jerry Nickens (1921-1995) was the first African-American physician to join the staff at both UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital and West Penn Hospital. Dr. Nickens was also a founding member of the New World National Bank, the first local bank owned by African-Americans, and the Central Medical Pavilion.
Hazel Garland (1913-1988) became the first American woman to serve as editor of a nationally circulated newspaper chain when she was named to the post at the Pittsburgh Courier in 1972. She was named Editor of the Year by the National Newspaper Publishers Association in 1974 and received a National Headliner Award in 1975 from Women in Communications.
Dr. Alma Johnson Illery (1900-1972) was a national civil rights pioneer. She founded Camp Achievement in Fayette County as a retreat for inner-city children. Dr. Illery also single-handedly urged Congress to establish January 5 as George Washington Carver Day. A small community hospital in Homewood was renamed the Alma Illery Medical Center in her honor.
Dr. James A. Stewart (1921-1994) was a pioneer in the field of medicine. While on staff at Mercy Hospital in 1974, he received the Fred C. Kluth Award for Outstanding Achievement in Public Health. Dr. Stewart originated the idea of a public health facility, and became medical director of the Homewood-Brushton Neighborhood Health Center. He later formed Primary Health Care Services.
Dr. Selma Hortense Burke (1900-1995) was one of the 20th century’s finest African-American artists. In 1943, Dr. Burke was asked to create a portrait-sculpture of President Franklin D. Roosevelt that is now on display at the Recorder of Deeds Building in Washington, DC. That work is credited as the inspiration used in designing the Roosevelt dime. Her other notable pieces include “Falling Angel,” and a bronze statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1940, she founded the Selma Burke School of Sculpture in New York City, and later created the Selma Burke Art Center in Pittsburgh, which would eventually become the Kingsley Center.
Charles Henry Kindle (1927-1993) was a passionate fighter for equality and justice around the world. Mr. Kindle is believed to have chaired the first African Affairs Committee of any NAACP branch in the country. He actively lobbied to free Nelson Mandela, and was a champion for the betterment of African-American workers. Mr. Kindle served as president of the Penn Hills branch of the NAACP, and was instrumental in the construction of a baseball field there, which was dedicated and named in his honor in 1996.
William Clarence "Billy" Eckstine (1914-1993) was founder of The Billy Eckstine Orchestra, one of the first big bands to play the bebop style of jazz. Mr. Eckstine’s band introduced a number of legendary jazz artists to the world, including Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Wardell Gray and Sarah Vaughn. In 1945, he sold more than two million records with “Cottage for Sale” and his rendition of “Prisoner of Love.” His successful ballads include “Everything I Have is Yours,” “ Blue Moon,” “Caravan,” “My Foolish Heart,” “I Apologize” and his last hit, “Something More.”
George W. Gaines, Sr. (d. 1953) always dreamed of being a business owner. His interest in mortuary science led him to begin working for Jeannie Morris, owner of the Morris Mortuary in Philadelphia, who inspired him to follow his dreams. Mr. Gaines graduated from Mortuary Science School with high honors at age 15, and in 1919 opened what was to become the largest funeral home in the Pittsburgh area. He introduced the concept of a lead car and flower car in a funeral procession, individual family parlors and on-site casket selection.
Florence Reizenstein (1901-1970), a longtime advocate for social justice and educational reform, was instrumental in the establishment of several organizations that advanced human rights. Mrs. Reizenstein was a founding member and commissioner of the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations, as well founder and vice-president of the Negro Educational Emergency Drive (NEED) and the first president of the United Jewish Foundation’s Women’s Division. She was also a member of the NAACP, the Urban League, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, and the United Nations Association of Pittsburgh, among several other affiliations and accomplishments. The former Reizenstein Middle School in East Liberty/Shadyside was named after her.
Rev. Elmer Louis Williams (1931-1990) became one of Pittsburgh’s most respected religious leaders, combining ministry with social activism to address the needs of the African-American community. Under his leadership, the Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church purchased the Dr. J.C. Hairston Center and 28 homes near the church to provide low-cost rentals to residents – an area now known as Elmer L. Williams Square. Rev. Williams helped shape desegregation plans as a member of the Pittsburgh School Board and was an instructor at several local universities. He also served on the University of Pittsburgh’s Board of Trustees and as executive director of Pittsburgh Opportunities Industrialization Centers, Inc., and held leadership positions in many local and statewide religious organizations.
Everett Emory Utterback, Esq. (1906-1992) overcame humble beginnings to achieve a successful law career and many firsts at the University of Pittsburgh. Mr. Utterback came to Pittsburgh on an athletic scholarship for track and field. After graduating from Pitt, Mr. Utterback worked fulltime while taking evening classes at Duquesne University’s School of Law. After obtaining his law degree, he practiced within the county and state court system and years later became a senior partner in the law firm of Utterback, Brown and Harper. Mr. Utterback’s athletic and academic career was as distinguished as his professional career. At Pitt he became the first African-American to captain a varsity team and receive the university’s Lettermen of Distinction honor in 1964. Mr. Utterback was also the first African-American to sit on the university’s Board of Trustees, and was involved in many professional organizations in the Pittsburgh area. Mr. Utterback will always be remembered within Western Pennsylvania’s African-American community as a distinguished lawyer and an inspirational leader who helped others overcome life’s hurdles.
Dr. Eugene Lloyd Youngue, Jr. (1914-2002) became an active and well-respected member of the medical community while breaking down racial barriers in the healthcare industry. Dr. Youngue attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania for his undergraduate studies, followed by Howard University Medical School for post-graduate work in psychiatry. Following a two-year tour of duty in Italy with the United States Army, he took advantage an opportunity to further study psychiatry at Washington University’s Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis. Several years later, Dr. Youngue studied under world-renowned psychiatrist Dr. Karl Menninger at the Menninger Psychiatric Institute and with respected neurologist Dr. Francis Forrester at Georgetown University. In 1950, Dr. Youngue came to Pittsburgh to work at the Veterans Hospital in Oakland. Despite his impressive experience, Dr. Youngue faced racial discrimination and worked tirelessly to bring ethnic and racial equality to the healthcare industry. He devoted much of his life to serving and educating others, and emphasized the importance of mentoring future African-American healthcare professionals. Dr. Youngue also authored more than 50 award-winning educational articles based on personal medical experiences and belonged to many professional organizations in and around the region. At the end of his life, Dr. Youngue’s efforts came full circle; the nurse who cared for him before he passed away was someone the doctor had mentored for years.
At a young age, Robert E. Williams (1907-1964) earned the nickname "Pappy" because of his maturity and caring spirit. That wisdom and compassion led him into a pioneering and dynamic political career in Pittsburgh that lasted more than three decades. In 1931, Mr. Williams was appointed to his first political position as deputy constable of Pittsburgh’s 5th Ward. He held this position for three years before his appointment to constable in 1934. He would later open his own private detective agency. Years of hard work and dedication earned Mr. Williams many notable distinctions. He became the first African-American detective in Pittsburgh (1945), the first African-American appointed as a magistrate in Pittsburgh (1946) and the first African-American in the state to be elected as a Democratic ward chairman (1947). During his tenure on the executive committee for the Allegheny County Democratic Party, Mr. Williams played an important role in several local, state and presidential elections and helped other African-Americans in Pittsburgh attain political office. Additionally, he was credited with helping to appoint the first African-American police lieutenant, patrol car officer and fire captain. Robert "Pappy" Williams lived by one philosophy:"You are your brother’s keeper." It was this philosophy that made him a loving husband to his wife, Alberta, a caring father to his two children and a dedicated political leader.
Following the 1971 Attica Prison riot that left 39 inmates dead, Mamie H. Lee (1938-1984) began a prison reform movement in Pittsburgh called Vibrations. Supporters lobbied for fair and ethical treatment of inmates in Western Penitentiary and prisons throughout the state. As a result of her work, WYEP-FM launched a radio program called Vibrations II, which discussed the problems in the American criminal justice system and how these problems adversely affected African-Americans and other disadvantaged members of society. Ms. Lee was later asked to serve as president of the WYEP Board of Directors. Soon thereafter, Ms. Lee began a new career with Meals on Wheels, helping homebound individuals receive nutritious meals. She was quickly promoted to director and in 1982 became the first African-American to be appointed president of the national Meals on Wheels program.
Richard F. Jones, Esq. (1899-1983) used his gifts as a trial lawyer to obtain recognition of the civil rights of all citizens. Mr. Jones was a prominent Pittsburgh attorney, graduating at the top of his law school class and becoming the first African-American to be inducted into the Order of the Coif, a national honorary legal fraternity. Mr. Jones also served on the boards of numerous organizations, including the Pittsburgh Housing Authority, YMCA of Pittsburgh, Irene Kaufmann Settlement House, Pittsburgh Board of Education and the Pittsburgh branch of the NAACP. While serving as president of the Pittsburgh branch of the NAACP, Mr. Jones was actively engaged in the successful suit to open Highland Park’s swimming pool to all citizens. Mr. Jones was instrumental in other milestone events for Pittsburgh’s African-American community, including the hiring of African-American teachers in Pittsburgh Public Schools and the hiring of African-American workers in defense industries and government following World War II. He and a long-time friend, Homer S. Brown, established the law firm of Brown and Jones and continued their practice for more than 26 years.
Frank E. Bolden (1912-2003) grew up Washington, PA and attended the University of Pittsburgh. Upon graduation, he joined the staff of the Pittsburgh Courier where he would work for the next 27 years. During that time, Mr. Bolden became one of the first two African-American accredited World War II correspondents, and was assigned to cover the activation of the 93rd and 92nd Infantry Divisions at Fort Huachuca, AZ. In 1962, Mr. Bolden left Pittsburgh to take a position with the New York Times before joining the National Broadcasting Company as a news reporter. He later returned to Pittsburgh and was hired by the Pittsburgh Board of Education as the associate director of Information Services and Community Relations, working to promote the system’s desegregation plan. Following his retirement from the Pittsburgh Public Schools in 1978, he became the senior archivist for the Honorable K. Leroy Irvis, Speaker of the House, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Mr. Bolden received numerous awards throughout his career for his work in journalism.
Charles “Teenie” Harris (1908-1998) grew up in the Hill District, developing a strong interest in photography as a young man. After buying his first professional camera, Mr. Harris accepted a freelance position as a photographer for the Washington, DC-based Flash! magazine in 1929 and then in 1938, he opened his own photography studio on Centre Avenue in the Hill District. In 1936, Mr. Harris began freelancing for the Pittsburgh Courier, later accepting a full-time position as staff photographer in 1941. During his career, Mr. Harris took more than 80,000 photos, capturing the city of Pittsburgh as well as a number of celebrities and dignitaries, including President John F. Kennedy, Joe Louis, Roberto Clemente, Duke Ellington and Lena Horne. Today his negatives are stored in the Teenie Harris Archives of Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Art.
Bishop Charles H. Foggie (1912-2000) was a leader in Pittsburgh’s A.M.E. church and a tireless advocate for equality, holding a number of distinguished roles throughout his life. Among his many achievements, Foggie served as president of the Pittsburgh branch of the NAACP, president/commissioner of the Board of the Pittsburgh Housing Authority, chairman of the Department of Cultural and Racial Relations (Pittsburgh Council of Churches) and as an executive board member of NEED (Negro Education Emergency Drive). During his life, Rev. Foggie developed friendships with national civil rights leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks and U.S. Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. He also served on boards with presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, labored for racial equality with senators Robert Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey, and took part in a Papal Mass with Pope John Paul II in October 1979. On June 13, 1986, Congress paid tribute to his leadership by flying a flag over the U.S. Capitol in his honor.
Jake Milliones, Ph.D. (1940-1993) was a psychologist and professor who made history when he became the Pittsburgh School Board’s first African-American president in 1983. As president, he advocating the hiring of African-American teachers, insisted on strong performance standards for both students and faculty, and sought administrative and staff accountability during a crucial period of desegregation in the schools. In 1989, Dr. Milliones was elected to the Pittsburgh City Council, where he worked to revitalize underserved communities, championing the Crawford Square development in the Hill District and creating the Freedom Corner monument. His commitment to social justice went beyond Pittsburgh. Dr. Milliones was a key member of Pittsburghers Against Apartheid and crusaded against United States investments in South Africa until apartheid was ended. In return for his tireless dedication to human rights, Dr. Milliones had the honor of welcoming Nelson Mandela during a rare visit to the Pittsburgh region.
Byrd Rowlette Brown (1929-2001): Living up to the standards established by two prominent African-American leaders like the Honorable Homer and Wilhelmina Byrd Brown is difficult, but when they are your parents it can be even more difficult. Yet Byrd Rowlette Brown not only lived up to those standards, he built his own legacy as a man who would stand up and fight against social injustice and discrimination.
Born in Pittsburgh’s upper Hill District, Byrd Brown attended Pittsburgh Public Schools. Through the years, he succeeded academically and athletically and began to exhibit the qualities of leadership that would define his adult life. He was the first African-American quarterback to lead the Schenley High School football team. He graduated from Schenley in 1947 and received an academic scholarship to Yale University where he earned degrees in Liberal Arts and in Law.
Following college, Mr. Brown served in the United States Army from 1954-56. After receiving an honorable discharge, he returned to Pittsburgh to practice law in the firm of Utterback and Brown.
Mr. Brown worked untiringly for social justice. In 1958, he was elected to the first of six bi-annual terms as President of the Pittsburgh Branch of the NAACP. He co-founded the United Negro Protest Committee, a committee dedicated to breaking down racial barriers and injustices that often existed in corporations, government agencies and trade unions. In the late 1960s, he encouraged young African-Americans to join The Black Construction Coalition. This group protested the lack of African-Americans working in Pittsburgh’s construction industry. As a result of his work, the Pittsburgh Plan was established to create training programs for African-Americans which would lead to their admission into trade unions.
Despite his popularity in the African-American community, Mr. Brown made an unsuccessful run to become Mayor of Pittsburgh. But his determination to “right” Pittsburgh never wavered. He always found time to serve on legal and civic boards and committees, including the Lawyers Advisory Committee, US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the Disciplinary Board, Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, the National Bar Association, the American Bar Association, the American Bar Foundation and the Academy of Trial Lawyers. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Pittsburgh Foundation.
Malvin R. Goode (1908-1995): When Jackie Robinson first put on a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform on April 15, 1947, he helped break the color barrier for African-Americans in Major League Baseball. Years later he would help pave the way for African-Americans such as Mal Goode to overcome racial discrimination in their chosen careers.
Malvin Russell Goode was born in White Plains, Virginia. At a young age, he and his family moved to Homestead, PA, where his father took a job in the steel mill. Mr. Goode worked as a janitor in the Homestead Works of United States Steel at night while attending the University of Pittsburgh by day. He continued that job upon graduating in 1931. Later Mr. Goode went to work as a probation officer for Pittsburgh’s juvenile court. He then took a position with the Centre Avenue YMCA, followed by a management position with the Pittsburgh Housing Authority.
In 1948, he became a reporter for the Pittsburgh Courier, the leading newspaper for the African-American community. While still employed with the Courier, he developed an interest in broadcasting. KQV radio in Pittsburgh was the first to hire Mr. Goode. There he hosted two 15-minute news programs each week. In 1952, WHOD gave him an opportunity to do a daily radio news show with his sister, Mary Dee, a pioneering deejay.
Mr. Goode’s big break came in 1962 when he was hired by ABC-TV News at the recommendation of his close friend and baseball legend, Jackie Robinson. Mr. Robinson was an activist for African-American equality and openly expressed his dissatisfaction at the lack of minorities in TV journalism. ABC selected Mr. Goode from nearly 40 candidates to be its first African-American reporter.
As a full-time news correspondent, he quickly made a name for himself. Assigned to the network’s bureau at the United Nations, he spent two decades covering major news stories. Just a few months after taking the job, he earned the respect of viewers from his reporting on the Cuban Missile Crisis. Later, Mr. Goode would also cover significant news stories including the assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., the 1964 and 1968 Republican and Democratic National Conventions, and major civil rights events.
Mr. Goode’s work inspired many young African-Americans to become journalists. He welcomed and mentored those who followed in his footsteps, including Ed Bradley, Max Robinson, Carol Simpson, Bernard Shaw and many others. In later years, he and several of his African-American colleagues traveled to the countries of Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia to teach journalism and inspire others.
Mr. Goode was a distinguished reporter who tackled all news assignments with professionalism and dignity. He received numerous prestigious awards and memberships throughout his life, including Alpha Phi Alpha’s Man of the Year award in 1964, the Mary McLeod Bethune Award from Bethune-Cookman College, a Polish Government Award through the United Nations in 1972 and the Michelle Clark Award from Columbia University’s School of Journalism in 1974. President Jimmy Carter also honored Mal Goode and his wife, Mary, at the White House. Mr. Goode was the first African-American member of the Association of Radio and TV News Directors and later was elected its president. He also served as president of the United Nations Correspondents Association. He held membership with the New York 100 Black Men Club and served as a Board member for the NAACP. He was a prolific orator, frequently speaking for local NAACP chapter dinners throughout the United States and as an inspirational speaker at dozens of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Dr. Edna Beatrice Chappell McKenzie (1923-2005) tackled social injustice even in the face of violence and intimidation. Her intellect and determination enabled her to overcome racial discrimination and succeed as a reporter, educator, historian, author and advocate for social change. In the 1940s, she joined the Pittsburgh Courier and became the only female reporter employed at the Courier. Her career as a journalist advanced quickly after completing a popular series of articles about discrimination.
Years later, Dr. McKenzie left the Courier to enroll at the University of Pittsburgh. She later accepted a teaching position at the Community College of Allegheny County. For nearly a quarter century, she served as chairperson of a department that she established: Black, Minority, and Ethnic Studies. She served on several prestigious boards and committees, including the board of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, the Committee on Need Analysis, the Higher Education Council of the Pennsylvania Board of Education, the Pennsylvania Conference on Blacks in Higher Education and on the boards of Cheyney University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pittsburgh. In addition, she authored articles for numerous local, state and national publications as well as two books, Freedom in the Midst of a Slave Society and Selected Essays on Contemporary African-American Issues.
Dr. McKenzie died on June 26, 2005, but will always be remembered for her tireless enthusiasm, knowledge and engaging skills of persuasion in all she set out to achieve.
Monsignor Charles Owen Rice (1908-2005) was one of the most influential religious figures in Western Pennsylvania history. He used his positions as a Roman Catholic priest, a radio commentator and a newspaper columnist to support union workers, fight racism, reprimand the comfortable and champion the poor, the homeless and the imprisoned.
In addition to performing his duties as a priest, Msgr. Rice quickly established himself as an energetic presence against social injustice. During the Great Depression, he helped establish the Catholic Radical Alliance to reform and remold society. He also became a social activist in the American labor movement, joining labor rallies and picket lines throughout the region to show support for union workers. Msgr. Rice published weekly articles in the Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper for more than 60 years. For more than 40 years, he also hosted radio programs on WWSW and WJAS, sharing his views on the civil rights, women’s rights and anti-war movements. He became a member of the NAACP, and supported African-American workers and demanded better job opportunities for them in construction trade unions. In 1967, he walked arm-in-arm with Martin Luther King, Jr. to the United Nations building to protest the Vietnam War, and later spoke at the March on the Pentagon protest rally.
Msgr. Rice died on November 15, 2005 at the age of 96. Throughout his lifetime, Msgr. Rice consistently articulated a Catholic vision of social justice and responsibility. He will be remembered as the most influential labor priest of the Cold War era who made his mark on the American labor movement as profoundly as any other person in this century.
Born in Chicago, Illinois on December 17, 1927, Dr. Barbara Ann Sizemore overcame childhood segregation in school to excel as a student. She attended Northwestern University and the University of Chicago where she received a master’s degree in elementary education and a doctorate in educational administration.
In 1954, Dr. Sizemore began her career as an educator – one of the few professions open to African-American women at the time. She taught in the Chicago Public School system from 1947 to 1962 before being hired as an elementary school principal and high school principal in outlying school districts. She especially embraced disadvantaged students and worked hard to help African-American students from low-income backgrounds succeed in school.
In 1972, Dr. Sizemore was hired as the first African-American woman to serve as superintendent of schools in Washington, DC. As superintendent, she developed a reputation for being a brilliant educator and fierce advocate for community-controlled schools. In 1975, Dr. Sizemore left Washington, DC to come to Pittsburgh. She taught at the University of Pittsburgh for more than a decade and conducted groundbreaking research on the relationship between low-income African-American children and education. She also served as the interim chairperson of the Department of Black Community, Research and Education.
After returning to Chicago in 1992, Dr. Sizemore became Dean of the School of Education at DePaul University. There, she established the School Achievement Structure program to help more African-American students achieve higher scores on standardized tests through improved curriculums, student placement and instruction.
Dr. Sizemore also wrote several books including “The Ruptured Diamond” and “An Abashing Anomaly.”
Dr. Sizemore passed away on July 24, 2004 but her legacy certainly will live on. Following her death, the Barbara A. Sizemore Distinguished Professorship in Urban Education was established at Duquesne University to prepare future educators with an opportunity to share her enthusiasm for teaching.
Rev. LeRoy Patrick
: During Pittsburgh’s civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, Rev. LeRoy Patrick became a prominent activist. As a respected clergyman, Rev. Patrick used his position to gain equality for African-Americans in the fields of education, employment and housing.
One of Rev. Patrick’s top priorities was helping children. So in the summer of 1951, when several African-American youths were being harassed for trying to swim in a “whites-only” public swimming pool, Rev. Patrick took charge. He helped organize a group of youths to march behind him to the local pool. As a unified group, Rev. Patrick and the youths jumped into the pool and began to swim. Before long, most city pools became integrated for children of all races – a historic achievement led by a man who himself couldn’t swim. But his social activism did not stop there. During the 1960s, he sat at lunch counters and picketed numerous high profile events where social injustice prevailed.
Rev. Patrick even challenged the Pittsburgh Public Schools with a series of protests and demonstrations that called for racial integration, better quality education and racially balanced teaching curriculums. In 1976, Rev. Patrick was appointed president of the Pittsburgh School Board. He used his influence to get elected to other boards and committees that also shared his beliefs. He served on the boards of the Pittsburgh NAACP, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, chaired the Allegheny County Council on Civil Rights, the Allegheny County Committee for Fair Housing Practices and the Pennsylvania Negro Democratic Committee. As a strong supporter of political campaigns, Rev. Patrick backed the presidential campaigns of Jesse Jackson and Shirley Chisholm. Locally, he also supported former Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh during his two terms in office.
The youngest of three children, Rev. Patrick was born on November 17, 1915 in Charleston, SC. In his early teens, his family relocated to Philadelphia and he later attended Lincoln University. After graduation in 1939, he enrolled at Union Theological Seminary in New York City and earned a double master’s degree in Divinity and Sacred Theology. He then returned to Lincoln University to teach Greek, Hebrew, Latin and the Old Testament from 1943-1949.
For the next three decades, Rev. Patrick presided over the Bethesda Presbyterian Church in Homewood and helped run the church’s Bethesda Center, a social service organization providing recreation, employment, family development and spiritual outreach to the local community. Rev. LeRoy Patrick died on January 12, 2006. He will be remembered as “a bona fide hero in the civil rights movement” who fought tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of others.
: Ironically, the complex life and career of Frederick August Kittle, Jr. – better known as August Wilson – were influenced by three simple letters: A, E and “the four Bs.”
In the 10th grade, Mr. Wilson's teacher accused him of plagiarizing a paper because it was written so well. “My teacher said he was going to give me either an A+ or an E,” Mr. Wilson recounted.
The teacher told Mr. Wilson to prove that he wrote the paper. Mr. Wilson refused. He didn’t believe he needed to defend his writing ability, so the teacher gave him an E grade. Mr. Wilson responded by quitting school. This event helped to shape his future, giving him the determination to show the world that he was an incredibly talented writer.
Mr. Wilson also was influenced by “the four Bs”– blues music, Argentine novelist and poet Jorge Luis Borges, playwright Amiri Baraka and artist Romare Bearden.
Born April 27, 1945, Mr. Wilson and his five siblings were raised by their mother in a small two-room apartment on Bedford Avenue in the Hill District. In 1959, he attended Central Catholic High School, where he was the only African-American in his class. Threats and abuse caused Mr. Wilson to enroll at Connelly Vocational High School, but he didn't find the curriculum challenging and eventually transferred to Gladstone High School.
After serving in the United States Army, Mr. Wilson returned to Pittsburgh and worked a number of odd jobs. He enjoyed observing people in his neighborhood, many of whom would become characters in his writings.
In 1968, Mr. Wilson and a close friend co-founded the Black Horizons Theatre in the Hill District. Although Mr. Wilson began his career as a talented poet, he soon focused on writing plays. Mr. Wilson is perhaps best known for the Pittsburgh Cycle, a series of ten plays depicting African-American heritage during the 20th century. Each play is set in a different decade.
, The Piano Lesson
, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
earned Mr. Wilson accolades including two Pulitzer Prizes, a Tony Award and numerous New York Drama Critics Circle Awards. Mr. Wilson once said that his plays “offer white Americans a different way to look at black Americans.”
August Wilson passed away on October 2, 2005 in Seattle, Washington, leaving behind his wife, Constanza Romero, their daughter, Azula Carmen Wilson, and a legacy that will live on forever.
In the years following his death, the Virginia Theatre on Broadway in New York City was renamed the August Wilson Theatre in his honor. The August Wilson Center for African American Culture opened in Downtown Pittsburgh in 2006 as a tribute to his lifetime of literary achievements, and his childhood home was declared a historic landmark by the state in 2007.
K. Leroy Irvis
was a dedicated public servant and who worked tirelessly to enrich the lives of Pennsylvania citizens. Throughout his political career, his constituents and colleagues recognized him for his outstanding service and ardor.
Representative Irvis was first elected to represent the 19th Legislative District of Pittsburgh, PA in 1958, and was re-elected to this seat for fifteen consecutive terms.
While in office, his colleagues within the House of Representatives bestowed several noteworthy honors on him including electing him Democratic Caucus Chairman–making him the first African-American elected to a leadership position. Later, he also served as the Majority Caucus Chairman, Minority Whip and Majority Leader.
On May 23, 1977 Representative Irvis was unanimously elected to serve as Speaker of the House–an honor he shared with Benjamin Franklin who was the only other person ever unanimously elected to that position. He regained the Speaker position on January 4, 1983 and remained in this position until he retired on November 30, 1988.
Fulfilling his leadership obligations did not hamper Irvis’ ability to promote key pieces of legislation. He sponsored over 1,600 pieces of legislation addressing his concerns for education, civil rights, health, consumer protection, prison reform, housing and governmental reform. His most noted achievements include the sponsorship and passage of legislation creating the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Equal Opportunity Program; the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency; and the Minority Business Development Authority. Irvis also introduced the idea of community-based higher education system in the Commonwealth and has been called “the father” of the present-day Community College System.
His legislative efforts also considered the efficiency and accountability of The House. Such reforms include creation of the House Ethics Committee, the Lobbyist Registration Act, Legislative Audit Advisory Committee, and the House Bipartisan Management Committee.
Eventually, Irvis’ legislative interests lead to his selection as a delegate to the 1967-1968 Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention. He also served as delegate to the Democratic National Conventions in 1968, 1972 and 1980. At the 1980 Democratic National Convention, Irvis served as Vice Chairman of the Pennsylvania Delegation and as Convention Co-Chairman, again a first for an African-American. Irvis was elected to serve as a member of the Democratic National Committee in 1982.
Speaker Irvis was able to achieve these political accomplishments because of his strong family connections and belief in education.
He was born on December 27, 1916 to Francis H. and Harriet Ten Broeck Cantine Irvis, in Saugerties, New York. He credited his parents with instilling in him and his siblings an appreciation for education. As a result, he graduated summa cum laude from New York State Teachers College (now the University of the State of New York at Albany, S.U.N.Y., at Albany). In 1939, he earned his Masters Degree in English Literature from the University of New York at Albany.
Irvis then attended the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. In 1969, his law degree was converted into a Juris Doctorate.
After graduating from law school, Irvis served as law clerk to Judge Anne X. Alpern and Judge Loran Lewis. In 1957, he was appointed Assistant District Attorney for Allegheny County and held that position for six years.
Many organizations have honored Irvis for his public service, including: the NAACP, the Conference on Black Basic Education, the University of Pennsylvania and the Pittsburgh Junior Chamber of Commerce. The University awarded him the “Distinguished Alumnus Award for Political Leadership”, honoring his work as a political leader. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate in Public Affairs from his university, S. U. N. Y. at Albany and received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Law from Lincoln University of Pennsylvania.
Irvis’ civic involvements included: membership on the Boards of the United Black Front, Community Action Pittsburgh, Neighborhood Assistance Advisory Board, Three Rivers Improvement and Development, Greater Pittsburgh Business Development Corporation, the Post-Gazette Dapper Dan Club, the Bidwell Cultural and Training Center and WQED Public Television. He was also a life member of NAACP, a Trustee of the University of Pittsburgh and a member of the University of Pittsburgh Medical School Advisory Committee.
A devoted wood sculptor, painter and published poet, K. Leroy Irvis actively participated in and supported the arts. His wood sculptures have been displayed in exhibits throughout the country and also for two years throughout Europe.
Irvis was also an avid model airplane enthusiast since childhood. He designed, built and flew the radio-controlled airplanes and even started his own club for others who shared his same interest.
K. Leroy Irvis died on March 16, 2006. Irvis was married to the former Cathryn L. Edwards. Speaker and Mrs. Irvis are the parents of a son, Reginald D. Irvis and a daughter, Sherri L. Irvis-Hill. They have four grandchildren.
’s career in radio spanned more than 30 years. But it wasn’t the length of his career, it was his exceptional accomplishments that distinguished his career in radio. As a result of his accomplishments, Mr. Little received many national and local awards.
He was recognized by the United States House of Representatives in 1998 for his superior work as a radio journalist. The Thomas Merton Center honored Mr. Little with the New People Justice Award. The Alleghenians LTD presented Mr. Little with its Community Services and Communications Award. He also received the 2003 Professional Man of the Year Award from the Pittsburgh Club of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs.
These awards are especially impressive for a man who always preferred to stay behind the scenes and never put himself ahead of any news story he covered. The one thing that remained constant throughout Mr. Little’s career was his desire to give listeners a full, unedited account of the topic being discussed.
Mr. Little’s interest in radio started while he was in high school attending Pittsburgh Public Schools.
In the late 1960s, Mr. Little began his radio career in Pittsburgh at a start-up station called the Hill City Youth Municipality radio station. Later he became a DJ at radio stations in Kansas City and St. Louis.
After returning to Pittsburgh, he worked at WAMO-AM, WAMO-FM, WQED TV and KQV radio. At KQV radio, Mr. Little hosted his nightly show which mixed hit music and talk.
In 1972, Mr. Little was hired by WDUQ-FM at Duquesne University. There, he became a prominent radio journalist. His show brought current social issues such as African-American struggles for equality to the forefront on public radio and provided a minority voice on these issues.
Over the years, Mr. Little produced and hosted a number of radio shows including: Window into the Community, Community Perspective and Pittsburgh Perspective before finally hosting a show bearing his name, The Anderson Little Report.
The Anderson Little Report aired each Sunday on WDUQ and focused on topics like jobs, education and other public affairs issues. Each year, Mr. Little hosted a series of special programs during Black History Month which centered on topics such as military segregation during World War II and the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords baseball teams.
Sadly, just two months after retiring from WDUQ, Mr. Anderson passed away on June 4, 2006 at the age of 66.
Described by President Barack Obama as the “Godmother of the American Civil Rights Movement,” Dorothy I. Height is best remembered for her work as a civil rights and women’s rights activist. She devoted her life to helping African American women overcome issues with illiteracy, unemployment and voter awareness.
As a youth, Ms. Height’s family moved to Rankin, PA where she grew up and graduated from Rankin High School.
She was accepted into Barnard College in 1929, but upon arriving for her first day of class, she was denied entry because the school had a strict policy to only permit two African American students per school year. This incident only made her stronger and more determined to fight for civil rights.
Ms. Height was later accepted into New York University and earned her undergraduate degree and master’s degree in education and psychology. She continued her studies at Columbia University and the New York School of Social Work.
Upon entering the workforce, Ms. Height worked as a case worker for the New York City Welfare Department before joining the National Council of Negro Women. Years later, she accepted a position on the national staff of the YWCA.
Ms. Height continued to fight for equal rights and was later named president of the National Council of Negro Women, a position she held for more than four decades.
In 1963, Height helped organize the famed March on Washington during which she stood close to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
At the pinnacle of the civil rights movement, Ms. Height organized “Wednesdays in Mississippi”, a series of regular meetings that brought together African Americans and white women in order to create a productive discussion of issues they faced.
National respect for Ms. Height continued to grow. During the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration, Ms. Height helped persuade the president to desegregate schools, and years later helped convince President Lyndon B. Johnson to appoint African American women to positions in government. She was also nominated chairperson for the Executive Committee of the Leadership on Civil Rights, the largest civil rights organization in the United States.
Ms. Height’s achievements certainly did not go unrecognized. She received a Presidential Medal of Freedom and a Congressional Gold Medal, a Presidential Citizens Medal, a Spingarn Medal from the NAACP and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Freedom from Want Award.
Other honors include Ms. Height’s induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993 and being enshrined on The Extra Mile Memorial in Washington D.C. in 2005. Google even featured a sketch of Ms. Height on its site in celebration of the 102nd anniversary of her birthday in 2014.
Her memoirs, Open Wide The Freedom Gates, were later made into a musical entitled, If This Hat Could Talk, which debuted nationwide in 2005.
When Ms. Height died on April 20, 2010, at the age of 98, President Barack Obama ordered all flags to be flown at half-mast in her memory. The President also attended Ms. Height’s funeral and delivered her eulogy.
During his tearful 13-minute tribute to Ms. Height, the president praised her for “devoting her life to those struggling for equality . . . witnessing every march and milestone along the way.”
The president continued, “she too, deserves a place in our history books.
She too, deserves a place of honor in America’s memory.”
Curtis Walker always believed he could make a difference in the lives of young men and women. It was no surprise then that he had a long and very successful career in education–first as a teacher, then as a top administrator for Pittsburgh Public Schools.
Walker graduated from Aliquippa High School and went on to attend the University of Pittsburgh where he earned his Bachelor of Arts, Masters of Education and Doctor in Education Administration degrees.
In 1958, Dr. Walker began teaching in the Aliquippa School District. He taught all levels from elementary to senior high school. A decade later, he was promoted to assistant principal of Aliquippa Junior High School before becoming the assistant superintendent of Aliquippa School District.
Throughout his career, Dr. Walker instilled the importance of advanced degrees and education in all of his students. Many of his students grew up to become educators. Others went on to careers as physicians, attorneys, engineers, successful business persons, and leaders in their communities.
In 1970, Dr. Walker left Aliquippa School District and headed back to the University of Pittsburgh, this time as a teacher.
After receiving his doctorate in 1972, Dr. Walker became the first Director of the Consultative Resources Center on School Desegregation and Conflict at the University of Pittsburgh, the first university desegregation center in the North. He also received a faculty appointment as an assistant professor and adjunct associate professor in the School of Education’s Department of Educational Administration.
Dr. Walker left the university in 1975 for an opportunity to serve as the Deputy Superintendent, Associate Superintendent and Executive Officer of the Pittsburgh School District’s Equity, Compliance and Community Relations Department. His main duties were overseeing district expectations for minority and female participation in the offices of facilities and purchasing.
Some of Dr. Walker’s proudest career achievements include serving as the founding member of the Urban Emphasis Committee; spearheading the development of an in-school Learning for Life program that taught life skills to more than 3,000 area youths; and his involvement in the Boy Scouts of America Scoutreach Program where he was able to teach the same life lessons he learned as a scout to thousands of urban youths.
Dr. Walker is credited with organizing the Pittsburgh Chapter of the United Negro College Fund.
As an active member of the community, Dr. Walker also belonged to several national, state and local professional and social organizations, including the American Association of School Administrators, National and Greater Pittsburgh Alliance of Black School Educators, Board of Directors of the Tyler Youth Group, Conference of Black Basic Educators, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., the FROGS, President of the Pittsburgh Pan-Hellenic Association, Hand In Hand, Inc., the Emanons, and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Rho Boule.
Dr. Walker passed away on October 8, 2006 at the age of 73. He is survived by his wife, Margie, who he had courted since the two met back in the seventh grade, and their three daughters, Cara, Curtistine, and Anita.