Saturday, February 23, 2019

D'Jaris Hinton Watson (1928-1989)

From the New York Recorder, November 27, 1965.

   Columbia, North Carolina native D'Jaris Hinton Watson attained prominence in government service in both Pennsylvania and New York City, with administrative work under one Philadelphia mayor and three mayors of New York City. A member of the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, Watson was also an alternate delegate to the Democratic National Convention of 1964, earning her a place here on the site. Born D'Jaris Hinton in South Carolina on November 2, 1928, she would graduate from the Talladega College in the class of 1948 and went on to study at the Atlanta University of Social Work, where she earned her master's degree.
  A resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the early 1950s, D'Jaris Hinton began her career in government service in the administration of  Joseph S. Clark, who served as Mayor of Philadephia from 1952-56. Hinton would hold the post of public information specialist under Clark and in July 1956 married in New York City to James Lopez Watson (1922-2001). A notable figure in his own right, Watson was a veteran of WWII  who in 1954 became one of the first African-Americans elected to the New York state senate. Serving until 1963, Watson later was a civil judge in New York City and in 1966 was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson as a judge on the U.S. Customs Court. He would serve on the bench until his death (having attained senior status in 1991) and is remarked to have been the first African-American federal judge to "receive assignments in the South." The couple were wed for three decades and would have two children, Karen and Kris, as well as a son from her previous marriage, Norman Jenkins.

From the Pittsburgh Courier, July 28, 1956.

  Following their marriage, the Watson's resided in Manhattan and in the late 1950s, D'Jaris Watson served as an advisor to mayor Robert S. Wagner, being a member of the Citizen's Committee for the Children of New York City, and in November 1963 was named by Wagner to the twelve member New York City Advisory Board of Public Welfare. Watson's prominence in city social work and civil rights causes would later be brought to the attention of President John F. Kennedy, who selected her to serve on his Equal Employment Opportunity Committee in 1963. After Kennedy's assassination in November of that year, Watson was reappointed to that committee by President Lyndon Johnson, and in December 1963 rode with him to the United Nations building where he gave an address.
  In 1964 D'Jaris Watson served as an alternate delegate on the New York delegation to the Democratic National Convention held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Further honors came Watsons's way with her appointment to several New York City administrative committees, those being the New York City Youth Board, the executive committee of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, and from 1975-76 was a member the mayor's committee on the Judiciary, being appointed by Mayor Abraham Beame. Stricken with cancer in the late 1980s, D'Jaris Hinton Watson died in November 1989 at age 61. She was survived by her husband and children and a burial location for her remains unknown at this time.

Judge James L. Watson and D'Jaris Watson, from Jet Magazine, April 1966.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Dervey Augusta Lomax (1923-2008)

From Ebony Magazine, 1975.

  Our series of Black History month profiles continues with a look at the life of Dervey Augusta Lomax, who in 1973 became the first African-American elected as Mayor of College Park, Maryland. Born in Berwyn, Maryland on December 20, 1923, Lomax was the son of Charles and Etelka Johnson Lomax. A student in the Lakeland, Maryland schools, Dervey A. Lomax was a veteran of WWII, being stationed in the Pacific Theater from 1943-46. Serving at Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, and Okinawa, Lomax became familiar with early military electronics during his service and after his return from duty was hired by the U.S. Naval Department in 1948. His three-decade-long tenure with the navy saw him become a supervising electronic technician with the Naval Electronic Systems Security Engineering Center.
   Dervey Lomax married in 1953 to Thelma Lifsey, to whom he was wed for over five decades. The couple would later have two sons, Gregory (born 1954) and Elston Warren (1956-2012). Following their marriage, Lomax and his wife were residents of Lakeland and in 1957 he entered local politics, winning election to the College Park city council. He would serve several terms in that body (1957-65, 1967-73 and 1979-89), a total of twenty-seven years, and his long tenure on that board saw a "successful urban renewal program for Lakeland, which includes the College Park Community Center and the Paint Branch Elementary School." 
  In the early 1960s, he and his wife Thelma began the fight to see their son Gregory attend a largely white elementary school in the area. After being denied admission, the Lomax's and the local NAACP chapter sought the desegregation of area schools and, following a plea to the state board of education, the Lomax's saw their son enrolled at the College Park Elementary School. The couple's second son Elston would go on to attend that school in the mid 1960s, and, following his death in 2008, Dervey Lomax was memorialized for his untiring efforts to integrate schools in Prince George's County.
   In 1973 Dervey Lomax was elected as Mayor of College Park, Maryland, a noteworthy election at the time. As the first African-American to serve at that city's mayor (having been incorporated as a city in 1945), Lomax's victory over a white incumbent (William R. Reading) also saw him enter into the mayoralty of a majority white city. He would serve one two-year term and was defeated for reelection in 1975 by St. Clair "Skeeter" Reeves (1925-2000).
  After leaving the mayor's office Lomax won reelection to the College Park City Council in 1979 and was active in several fraternal groups, including the Elks Lodge and the College Park Boys Club, and was president of the Prince George's County Boys Club. Sources also detail Lomax being an avid bowler and was a devoted follower of the University of Maryland, College Park's basketball and football teams. Lomax remained active in the political life of his city well into the twilight of his life, and in the 2008 election year was active locally as a booster for the presidential campaign of then-candidate Barack Obama.
  Dervey Augusta Lomax died at age 84 on June 8, 2008. He was survived by his wife Thelma and his two sons and was interred at the Maryland Veteran's Cemetery in Cheltenham, Maryland. Following his passing Lomax was honored with a historical marker detailing his accomplishments, located on the Lake Artemesia Trial in College Park. 

Monday, February 18, 2019

Silver Throne Edward Pinkney (1914-1992)

From Ebony magazine, November 1975.

   Longtime Florida educator Silver Throne Edward Pinkney etched his name into history in 1975 when he was elected as Mayor of Eustis, Florida, becoming the first African-American to be awarded that distinction. The principal of several schools in the Eustis, Leesburg and Kissimmee areas, Pinkney would subsequently be elected to two further terms as mayor following his first term in office. Born on October 18, 1914, little information could be located on Pinkney's formative years. As most sources record his name under the initials "S.T.E.", a bit of digging had to be done to find out what those initials stood for. Thankfully, Ancestry.com fielded a listing for "Silver Throne Edward Pinkney" in the 1992 Florida death index, partially putting to rest the mystery! Despite this finding, a listing for a "Silvier Thorn Edward Pinkney" (you'll notice the spelling variation there) was found in the 1977 Profiles of Black Mayors, and is presumed to be a spelling error on the part of the compilers.
  A student at Florida A & M University, Pinkney earned his bachelor of science degree from that school and later went on to receive his master's degree in administration and supervision from Tennessee A & I University. Recorded under the name "S.T. Pinkney" in the Florida Marriage index, Pinkney first married in May 1936 to Janie Webb, and the couple would later divorce in Manatee, Florida in 1947. He would later remarry to Helen Ponder, who survived him upon his death in 1992.
  For decades prior to his mayoralty, S.T.E. Pinkney was heavily involved in Florida education, and prior to his removal to central Florida in 1952 had served as assistant principal for the Douglas High School in Live Oak. Following his resettlement, Pinkney went on to hold the post of principal at the Kissimmee High School, the Carver Heights High School of Leesburg, the J.R.E. Lee High School in Wildwood, and the Eustis Vocational School. He would continue to be a prominent face in Lake County educational circles until his retirement in 1982 and gained further distinction in county civic affairs, being a past president of the Lake County Investment Corporation, a vice president of the Lake County Community Chamber of Commerce, and was a member of the Waterman Medical Center's board of directors.

S.T.E. Pinkney, from the Orlando Sentinel,  September 12, 1960.

    S.T.E. Pinkney didn't enter Florida politics until he was nearly sixty, being appointed to the Eustis City Commission by Florida Governor Reuben Askew in 1974. Pinkney's appointment had been occasioned by the death of Walter Simmons, the first African-American to serve on that commission since the reconstruction period. In 1975 Pinkney was elected as Mayor of Eustis, being the black man elected to that office. He would serve a one year term and was elected to two further terms as mayor in 1979 and 1984, with his service being noted as "most effective in getting low-income housing, paved streets and street lighting in the black community". 
  In addition to his mayoralty, Pinkney would continue service on the Eustis City Commission for fourteen years, losing his reelection bid in November 1988. The following year he was honored with a bronze monument at Eustis' Ferran Park, and in February 1990 received further honors from the city in connection with Eustis' first Black History month program. Pinkney's final years were marred by kidney failure, requiring dialysis. He died in Eustis on May 8, 1992, aged 77, and was survived by his wife Helen and children Shamayne, Brigitte, Sylvia and Fred. He was later interred at the Greenwood Cemetery in Eustis.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Phale Dophis Hale Sr. (1914-2009)

From Jet Magazine, November 1983.

  Ohio based clergyman, politician and civil rights leader Phale Dophis Hale achieved much in his near 95 years, being a Morehouse College graduate, Baptist minister, a seven-term state representative, and chairman of the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. From humble beginnings in Mississippi Hale rose to become one of the leading African-American religious and political leaders in the Buckeye State. One of twelve children born to Mississippi sharecroppers Church and Lee Ellen Hale, Phale Dophis Hale was born in Starksville on July 16, 1914.
  Bestowed the curious names Phale Dophis upon his birth, Hale's formative years were spent in the state in which he was born, and was a student at the Greenwood Colored High School. Following his graduation in 1933, Hale and a friend left Mississippi on foot to seek a new life, and after being taught how to ride the rails by hoboes, Hale found himself in Chicago seeking employment. He would later find work via the aid of a brother-in-law at a Buffalo, New York steel mill, and with this income and money lent from relatives enrolled at Morehouse College in the 1930s.
  Hale continued study at Morehouse through the late 1930s and after encountering tuition problems returned to steel mill work in Buffalo. He would return to Morehouse sometime later and would graduate in the class of 1940. During his time there became a friend of the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. (1899-1984) and developed friendships with two of his sons, Martin Luther King Jr. and Alvin D. King. Hale's friendship with the future civil rights icon would see King be a guest pastor on two occasions at the same church Hale ministered at in Columbus, and he would also spend the night at the Hale home during his stays in the city.
  After turning his attention to religious work Phale Hale took his first ministry in LaGrange, Georgia in 1940, holding the pastorate of that town's First Baptist Church. In the same year as Hale's settlement in LaGrange, that town was the site of the murder of Austin Callaway, a black youth suspected in the assault of a white woman. Forcibly taken from his cell and shot multiple times by several white assailants, Callaway died of his wounds on September 9, 1940. In the wake of this lynching, Phale Hale "undertook investigations into the lynchings of blacks" and founded an NAACP chapter in the community. Hale would take further action by issuing a call for national NAACP leaders to do their own investigation into lynchings that had occurred. During his Georgia residency, Phale Hale married in August 1943 to Cleo Ingram (1922-2013), a Spelman college student. The couple's sixty-five year marriage saw the births of four children, Phale Dolphis Jr. (1946-2009), Janice Ellen (1948-2017), Marna and Hilton Ingram.

Phale Hale as he appeared in the Lima News, April 22, 1967.

  After five years in LaGrange Phale Hale and his wife removed to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where Hale would accept the pastorate of the Union Baptist Church. Like LaGrange, Hale would see widespread racism in the city, and would also found another NAACP chapter here. He is also noted as having led an early lunch counter sit-in in the city. His pastorship in Fort Wayne extended until 1950, and two years prior he earned his doctor of divinity degree from Gammon Theological Seminary and Chapel Theological School.
  In 1950 Phale Hale and his family removed to Columbus, Ohio, where Hale would enter into a forty-three-year pastorship at the Union Baptist Church. Shortly after his arrival, he would become president of the Franklin County NAACP chapter, and his time in that post (1950-1960) saw new employment opportunities for blacks open up in the city, as he:
"Placed the first Black teller in a bank in Columbus, Ohio, placed the first Black Highway Patrolman on the highways of the State of Ohio, and was responsible for the appointment of the first Black professor on the faculty of the Ohio State University."
 Over and decade and a half following his resettlement in Columbus, Phale D. Hale made his first move onto the Ohio political stage, announcing his candidacy for the Ohio House of Representatives from the 31st legislative district in 1966. He would win election that November and continued to win reelection to the next seven Ohio legislative terms, retiring undefeated at the end of the 1980 house session. Hale's fourteen year tenure in the house saw him chair the house committee on Welfare during the 1973-74 session and was also chair of the Human Resources committee. A founding member of the Black Elected Democrats of Ohio (now the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus) in 1967, Hale also served that group as its coordinator for the clergy. Hale's legislative service also saw him named as deputy director of the Democratic National Committee and continued service as a member of the American Baptist Theological Seminary (having been in office since 1957.)

Hale during his senate tenure.

  Following his retirement from the legislature in 1980 Phale Hale continued prominence in his state, being appointed  as chairman of the Ohio Civil Rights Commission that year. He would serve until 1985, and continued to be socially active well into his later years, being the president of Columbus' Operation PUSH, a board member of the Mid Ohio Health Planning Federation and the Ohio Council of Churches, a member of the Columbus Area Anti Poverty Council, and for thirty-two years (1960-1992) served as director of the Ohio Baptist General Convention's Social Action Commission.
  In 1995, the then 81 year old Hale was reappointed to the Democratic National Committee by then President Bill Clinton, and in 1993 retired from his pastorship at Union Baptist Church. He and his wife Cleo celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary in 2003 and were feted with a family celebration in Columbus. After nearly six decades of distinction in his adopted city of Columbus, Phale Dophis Hale died on May 29, 2009, two months short of his 95th birthday. He was survived by his wife Cleo, who, following her death at age 91 in 2013, was interred alongside him at the Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus.

Phale and Cleo Hale in September 2003, from Jet Magazine.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Andronicus Jacobs (1899-1997)

Andronicus Jacobs (in suit, tie, and hat), courtesy of www.carriacou1968.com

  Every so often a political figure enters my purview that is so obscure even my usual newspaper archive haunts fail to yield any pertinent information. One of those instances involves the following man, Andronicus Jacobs, a black immigrant to New York from Grenada who in 1952 became the American-Labor candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from the 16th congressional district. For many years active in the affairs of black dockworkers on the New York waterfront, Jacobs was also a candidate for Manhattan Borough President in 1953. Despite these candidacies, Jacobs remains a man of mystery, with little information available on his life and career, odd when one considers he lived to be nearly 100 years old! 
  Despite the dearth of information and photographs of Jacobs, information has been found (via the webpage www.carriacou1968.com) which details that he was born on the Grenadian island of Carriacou on February 22, 1899. Nothing is known of his life or education in the country of his birth, excepting that he had at least one brother, Theodolph. By 1921 both Andronicus and Theodolph were residing in Cuylersville, New York, and their residence here saw them active in the Universal Negro Improvement Association founded by Marcus Moziah Garvey, donating money to that organization's African Redemption Fund.
  In the years following his resettlement in the Empire State,  Jacobs worked as a longshoreman, and as such became a leading figure in the fight against black discrimination on the New York docks. Along with his cousin Cleophas Jacobs (the president of the segregated Local #968 of the International Longshoreman's Association), Jacobs saw black longshoremen denied the same benefits accorded to white dock workers, and in March 1949 Andronicus himself led a contingent of several hundred workers from Local #968 in a "march on the waterfront." This march was followed by a Jacobs-led sit-in in June 1949 at the offices of Joe Ryan, then president of the International Longshoreman's Association. For a period of five hours, Jacobs and a number of other workers held the office, until a physical confrontation erupted between them and pro-Ryan men, resulting in the "Negro unionists" being forced from their position and out "into the nearest corridor." Though painted as Communists by Ryan and other ILA officials, Andronicus Jacobs and his fellow longshoreman's acts of defiance saw Joseph Ryan forced from his position as ILA president, and the creation of the New York Waterfront Commission in August 1953. 
  In 1952 Andronicus Jacobs was put forward as the American Labor Party's candidate for U.S. Representative from New York's 16th district. One of three candidates vying to oust prominent black Democrat Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Jacobs polled a distant fourth on election day, garnering 2, 547 votes to Powell's winning total of 75,562. In the year following this defeat, Jacobs entered into the race for Manhattan Borough President, again the candidate of the American Labor Party. One of five candidates running for that post, Jacobs placed fourth with 16, 828 votes, well behind winning candidate Hulan Edwin Jack's winning total of 215, 645. With his victory, Hulan Jack (then a sitting U.S. Representative), became the first African-American elected to that office.

From the New York Age, 1953.

  Little information could be located on Andronicus Jacob's life after his 1953 candidacy for borough president. By 1967 he had removed back to Carriacou, Grenada, as is recorded as having been selected as parliamentary secretary. Nothing more could be found on his life after 1968, excepting notice of his death on December 20, 1997, at the age of 98. A burial location for him also remains unknown at this time.

You Can Help!

  With Andronicus Jacobs being one of the most obscure figures I've profiled in quite some time, a "You Can Help" segment is necessary! If you know of any further information on Jacobs' life and career or have a photograph of him to contribute, please don't hesitate to contact me at this site's Facebook page link, which can be accessed via the above right side of this page.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Horatius Holipheal Coleman (1892-1969)

  Portrait from Jet Magazine, April 14, 1966.

   Horatius Holipheal Coleman was for over sixty years a Baptist minister, thirty-six of which were spent in the pastorate of Detroit, Michigan's Greater Macedonian Baptist Church. A founding organizer of the Progressive National Baptist Convention and a close friend of the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. (1899-1984), Coleman had fleeting involvement in politics in 1950 when he sought the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives from Michigan's 1st congressional district. 
   Born in Sandersville, Georgia on February 22, 1892, Coleman was first called to the ministry at age fourteen and would attend both the Georgia Baptist College and Morehouse College. By 1920 he had married to Mamie Jordan and, along with a daughter, Juanita (born 1914), is recorded in that year's census as a resident of Atlanta, where he was employed as a construction company plasterer. In 1924 Coleman and his family removed to Detroit, and in that year took the pastorate of the Greater Institutional Baptist Church. He served in that role for eight years and after leaving that pastorate, joined the New Bethel Baptist Church as its pastor for one year.
   In 1933 Horatius H. Coleman accepted the pastorate of the Greater Macedonian Baptist Church, where he would serve until his death thirty-six years later. His lengthy tenure with that church saw him garner the title "the Dean of Baptist Ministers" from his fellow clergymen and is remarked as having:
"Worked constantly for civic and social improvement; and his wisdom was relied upon widely among his people in political affairs for governmental progress."
  Three years following his joining the Greater Macedonia Baptist Church, Coleman traveled to Atlanta, Georgia as a guest evangelist to lead a revival at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. Attending this revival were Coleman's friend and fellow Baptist pastor Martin Luther King Sr. (then president of the Atlanta Baptist Minister's Union) and the latter's seven-year-old son, Martin Luther King Jr. During Coleman's services at the revival, the future civil rights icon was baptized at Ebenezer Baptist Church on May 3, 1936
   Following his services in Atlanta, Coleman returned to his pastorship in Detroit and in 1938 welcomed the birth of a son, Horatius Holipheal Jr. The 1940s saw Coleman active in YMCA work and in 1950 made his first and only foray into the political field, becoming a Democratic candidate for U.S. Representative from Michigan. Hoping to represent that state's first congressional district, Coleman was one of seven candidates vying for the nomination in that year's Democratic primary, which also included incumbent representative George Sadowski (1903-1961). When the votes were tallied on September 12, 1950, Horatius Coleman placed third, polling 5,897 votes. While he may have lost that election, Coleman saw George Sadowski also go down to defeat, being bested by Thaddeus M. Machrowicz. Machrowicz would later go on to win the general election that November and served in Congress until his resignation in 1961.


From the Detroit Free Press, September 15, 1950.

  In the years following his brief flirtation with politics Horatius Coleman continued in his Detroit pastorate and was also called as a guest pastor on several occasions. In November 1959 he led an eight-day revival at Indianapolis' 25th Street Baptist Church, and in 1961 aided in the organization of the Progressive National Baptist Convention. Six years prior to his death Coleman realized a lifelong goal to visit the Holy Land and in 1966-67 participated in the Greater Macedonian Baptist Church's Ebony subscription drives that brought in several thousand dollars in donations. 
  Horatius Holipheal Coleman died in Detroit on December 13, 1969, at age 77, and public service continued in his family with his paternal great-grandson Kendrick B. Meek (born 1966), a four-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Florida and a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2010.

From the Indianapolis Recorder, November 7, 1959.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Anak Thomas Atwater (1872-1949)

Portrait from the History of the American Negro and His Institutions, Georgia edition, 1917.

  A leading black newspaper publisher during the early 20th century, Anak Thomas Atwater was the founder of the Rome Enterprise, the first black newspaper to be published in that city. A teacher and principal prior to his time in the publishing field, Atwater was also active in Republican circles in Floyd County, being the secretary of the county Republican executive committee and was a six-time delegate to the Republican National Convention from Georgia. A son of D.C. Atwater and the former Amanda Ragland, Anak Thomas Atwater was born in Upson County, Georgia on August 21, 1872. 
  Sharing a first name with a biblical figure whose name is shared with the Anakim, a race of giants who inhabited Canaan, young Anak T. Atwater traveled with his itinerant minister father during his formative years, and following a period of work and accumulating income enrolled at the Atlanta University in 1891. His time here extended until 1898, during which time he "completed the grammar and college preparatory courses", as well as other classes. After the completion of his studies, Atwater relocated to Danville, New York to take a teaching course, but remained here only briefly, returning to Georgia in 1899.
  Following his return to Georgia Atwater continued his burgeoning career in education, taking the position of principal of the East Rome Industrial School. His stewardship of that school later saw the erection of a "large two story school building", a feat accomplished "without one dollar from any public fund." He remained in that post until 1904 when he decided to enter into newspaper publishing, establishing the Rome Enterprise, acknowledged as the first African-American newspaper in the city. Atwater would run the paper out of a publishing office at his home, and when not delivering his papers directly, was aided by older children in the neighborhood, who delivered them for him. Anak T. Atwater married in June 1906 to Callie Bryant (born 1883) and following her death in 1927 he remarried to Ada A. Smith. Atwater would have at least one son, Horace, born in 1930.

Anak T. Atwater, from the "Sons of Allen", 1903.

  By 1919 the Rome Enterprise had a circulation of over 2,000 readers, and in addition to his newspaper Atwater made substantial inroads into other aspects of Rome, Georgia life, dabbling in insurance and real estate, and in 1910 held the post of census enumerator for the city's first and sixth wards. Remarked as one of Rome's leading black Republicans, Atwater served as the secretary of the Floyd County Republican Committee and in 1912 first served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention, supporting Theodore Roosevelt. Following his service at that convention, Atwater would be named as an alternate delegate from Georgia to five further Republican National Conventions, those being the 1916 and 1920 conventions in Chicago, 1924 (held in Cleveland), 1932 (held in Chicago) and 1948 (held in Philadelphia.)
  A longstanding member of the African Methodist Episcopal church, Anak Atwater was for many years a Sunday school superintendent and in 1904 and 1908 was a representative from the North Georgia Conference to the Methodist General Conferences in Chicago and Norfolk, Virginia. Anak T. Atwater died in Rome on December 22, 1949, aged 77 and was survived by his wife Ada, who died in Detroit in 1956. Both were interred at the Myrtle Hill Cemetery in that city.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Scholley Pace Alexander (1902-1974)

Portrait courtesy of www.legis.state.pa.us.

   A prominent Philadelphia, Pennsylvania real estate broker and one-term Democratic state representative, Scholley Pace Alexander was also a U.S. Army veteran and member of the Philadelphia Housing Association for several years. The son of former slaves Hilliard Boone and Martha Alexander (both natives of Virginia), Scholley Pace Alexander was born in Philadephia on June 8, 1902. In addition to the man profiled here, the Alexander family would also boast Raymond Pace Alexander (1897-1974), a noted civil rights leader, lawyer, and jurist. A defense attorney who gained wide distinction for his defense of six black defendants in the Trenton Six re-trial of 1951, Raymond Alexander was later elected to the Philadelphia City Council and in 1959 was appointed as a judge on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, becoming the first African-American to serve in that capacity.
  Scholley P. Alexander attended the Temple University High School in Philadelphia in 1920 and married in Manhattan on March 26, 1923, to Ethel B. Watson, to whom he was wed until her death from a heart attack in August 1955. Following his marriage, Alexander became the business manager for Harlem: A Forum of Negro Life in 1928, and by the early 1930s  was employed as a clerk in his brother's law office. Sources also detail that Scholley Alexander had earned a law degree by 1934, as he is listed as an attorney in the August 8th edition of the Pittsburgh Courier.
  The 1936 election year saw Scholley Alexander made his first foray into Pennsylvania politics, announcing his candidacy for the state house of representatives from Philadelphia's 7th ward. In a special assembly election held that April, Alexander was defeated (3,639 votes to 1,311) by another black attorney, former Philadelphia city councilman Richard A. Cooper
  In the years following this legislative defeat, Scholley Alexander gained prominence as a realtor in Philadelphia, work that later saw him become a member of the Philadelphia Housing Commission and the Citizens Committee on City Planning. In 1950 he launched another candidacy for the Pennsylvania legislature but was dealt another loss that November, being defeated by Republican Lewis Meade Mintess, 4,924 votes to 3, 662.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov. 5, 1952.

   Alexander's political fortunes changed in 1952 when he successfully won a seat in the Pennsylvania house of representatives, besting the man who had defeated him two years previously, Lewis M. Mintess. Serving during the 1953-55 session, Alexander (along with several other Philadelphia Democrats) introduced house resolution in May 1953 asking the U.S. House of Representatives to "support the U.N.'s human rights covenant". Alexander wasn't a candidate for renomination in November 1954 and at the conclusion of his term was appointed by Governor George M. Leader as a workmen's compensation referee for the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, serving from 1955-56.
  The later years of Scholley Alexander's life saw him gain local distinction as a patron of the arts, with he and his second wife Marian's Philadelphia home playing host to the "Expressing the Feminine Mystique In Art", an all-female art showing which benefitted the Student Welfare Council. Alexander died in Philadelphia in February 1974, aged 71, and a burial location for both he and his wife Marian remains unknown at this time.

Scholley P. Alexander as he appeared in Jet Magazine, February 1964.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Luska Joseph Twyman (1913-1988)

Portrait from Jet magazine, November 22, 1973.

  With February being Black History month, the Strangest Names in American History begins a month-long look at several unusually named African-American political figures, the first of whom is Luska Joseph Twyman, a World War II veteran and educator who etched his name into the history books in 1968 when he became the first African-American to serve as mayor of a Kentucky city. Being appointed as mayor of the city of Glasgow, Twyman would win a term of his own the following year and was continually reelected to that office until retiring in 1986. The son of Edward and Elza Twyman, Luska Joseph Twyman was born in Hiseville, Kentucky on May 19, 1913.
   A student in schools local to Barren County, Kentucky, Twyman graduated from the Mayo-Underwood High School in Frankfort. He would go on to attend the University of Kentucky (graduating in 1939 with his bachelor's degree) and started his career in education at the all-black Oak Grove school. Luska Twyman married on December 10, 1943, to Gladys W. Woodson (1912-1986), to whom he was wed for over forty years. The couple would remain childless.
  Twyman would put his teaching career on hold during the Second World War, serving in the Philippines. His time in that country saw him as a special agent "throughout the military base from Leyte Gulf to Manila" until 1946. At the conclusion of his service, he returned to Kentucky, and in 1947 took the reigns as school principal of the Glasgow Training School, an all-black school in Barren County. This school would undergo a name change in 1950, being renamed in honor of civil rights leader and future United Nations ambassador Ralph Johnson Bunche. 
   Luska J.Twyman would continue as principal of the Ralph J. Bunche School following its name change and his stewardship of that school over the next two decades saw it become the first state-accredited, twelve-year school for African-Americans in Barren County. Twyman's efforts toward integration of Kentucky schools saw the Bunche school's 10th, 11th, and 12th grades be merged with the Glasgow High School in 1963 and shortly thereafter the Bunche school "was converted to a sixth grade center." Twyman assumed the post of assistant principal of the Glasgow High School in 1964 (serving until 1975) and would also serve as principal of the Bunche Center well into the twilight of his life. 
  After a number of years of prominence in Glasgow, Luska Twyman made his first foray into city political life with his election to the Glasgow City Council, his victory marking the first time an African-American had been elected to political office in Barren County. Twyman would serve on the council until 1968 when in that year Mayor Robert Lessenberry resigned. Twyman was subsequently elected to fill the vacant mayoral chair by his fellow councilmembers and took office as the first black mayor in Kentucky history. Despite his history-making achievement, Twyman remained nonplussed, remarking that "if the (mayorship) came my way, I would accept it. But not solicit it." The new mayor would also make light of the meager pay of the office, and his "multiple duties" in addition to his service as principal of the Bunche Center.

Twyman during his mayoralty.

   After winning a term of his own as mayor in 1969, Twyman was continually reelected to that office by wide margins, retiring from office in 1986 at age 73. His near twenty-year tenure as mayor saw a number of city improvements, including the expansion of low-income housing, and was "instrumental in the employment advances of Negro personnel in the area, taking personal interest in seeking employment upgrading." In addition to his time as mayor Twyman also was named to several civic organizations, including the  Kentucky Education Association, the Municipal Housing Commission, the Barren County Chamber of Commerce, Rotary International, and the Area Development Council. Further honors were accorded to Twyman at the national level with his appointment to the Advisory Council of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and beginning in 1978 was a member of the Kentucky Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights. 
   Twyman continued prominence in state educational affairs during his term, serving as chairman of the University of Kentucky's Board of Regents in 1980 and was a trustee for that institution, as well as the Simmon's Bible College in Louisville. Two years following his retirement as mayor Luska Joseph Twyman died in Glasgow on January 26, 1988, aged 74. He had been predeceased by his wife Gladys in 1986 and both were interred at the Bearwallow Baptist Cemetery in Hart County. Kentucky.