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Notable Kentucky African Americans Database

<Construction, Contractors, Builders>

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Arnett, Charles H.
Birth Year : 1858
Born in Henderson, KY, Arnett was an ordained minister, owned a contracting business, and built seven churches (two in Sebree, KY) and a number of homes in Kentucky. For more see Who's Who of the Colored Race, 1915.
Subjects: Businesses, Construction, Contractors, Builders, Religion & Church Work
Geographic Region: Henderson, Henderson County, Kentucky / Sebree, Webster County, Kentucky

Brooks, Thomas L.
Birth Year : 1861
Death Year : 1923
Brooks, born in Virginia, was the son of Maria and Thomas Brooks, according to his death certificate. He lived most of his life in Kentucky, and was a noted contractor in Eastern Kentucky. Brooks moved to Frankfort in 1881, where he was a highly sought after carpenter and contractor. His projects there included over half of the residence in the exclusive Watson Court area, the Columbia Theater, the auditorium and trades building at Kentucky Normal and Industrial Institute for Colored Persons [now Kentucky State University], the Odd Fellows Building for African Americans, and the Baptist Church. Brooks was the secretary of the Capital City Lodge of the Odd Fellows, a member of the Knights of Pythias, a member of the United Brothers of Friendship, and was Grand Master of the B. M. C. He was the husband of Mary L. Hocker Brooks, and the couple shared their home on Blanton Street with Mary's parents and two nieces. Thomas L. Brooks is buried in Frankfort, his funeral was handled by Thomas K. Robb. For more see "Prominent business man," Baltimore Afro-American, 12/12/1914, p.5; and the Thomas L. Brooks entry in Who's Who of the Colored Race edited by F. L. Mather, 1915.
Subjects: Construction, Contractors, Builders, Migration West, Fraternal Organizations, Carpenters
Geographic Region: Virginia / Frankfort, Franklin County, Kentucky

Burks, Juanita P.
Birth Year : 1920
Juanita P. Farley Burks is the daughter of Donna and Allen Farley of Crittenden County, KY. Ms. Burks is head of J. P. Burks Construction, Inc., a Louisville, KY, glass company she started in 1980. She is one of the leading African American women entrepreneurs in Kentucky, having served on President Carter's board of energy and, in the 1970s, was nominated by Kentucky Governor Julian Carroll to go to Washington, D.C. to help develop a federal energy policy. Burks attended Kentucky State College in the early 1940s and took business courses at the University of Louisville. In 1974, she borrowed money (for the first and last time) through a $6,000 home loan to start her first company, City Plaza, a personnel recruitment service. Burks' glass company was formed in 1980; she won a contract to install glass in the downtown Louisville Galleria, where her company put the floors down and installed $4.5 million worth of glass. Burks had worked as a maid and elevator operator in that same building when she first came to Louisville in 1942, earning $17 per week. In 1983, Burks was named Woman of Achievement, and, in 1996, Kentucky Entrepreneur of the Year. Juanita P. Burks is the mother of Ishmon Burks, Jr. For more see M. Green, "83-year-old loves business," Courier-Journal, 10/01/2003; and C. Carlton, "Faith & fashion," Courier-Journal, 04/16/2006, Arts section, p.1I.
Subjects: Businesses, Construction, Contractors, Builders, Mothers, Appointments by U.S. Presidents/Services for U.S. Presidents
Geographic Region: Crittenden County, Kentucky / Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Coleman, John A., Sr.
Birth Year : 1869
Death Year : 1936
John A. Coleman, a community leader born in Centerville, KY, was the son of George and Ann Sharp Coleman. He was a builder, a school teacher, and a musician. According to author and musician Bill Coleman, his uncle John built his own house and many of the homes in what was then an all African American community known as Centerville. John Coleman was first in the community to have electricity in his home. Though he is listed in the Census as a laborer, John Coleman also served as a teacher in the Centerville Colored School, which was a one room structure that served students in grades 1-8. The school was mentioned in a 50 year survey that was completed and published by Dr. C. H. Parrish in 1926. The Centerville School held classes about five months out of the year, the same as many of the common schools founded after the Civil War in small African American communities in Kentucky. In addition to being a school teacher, John Coleman was a musician; he and two of his brothers were members of a local music group. John Coleman played the cornet, Ernest Coleman played the tuba, and Robert Henry Coleman (Bill Coleman's father) played the snare drum. According to the U.S. Federal Census, the Coleman family had been in Centerville at least since the end of slavery (and probably before that). John Coleman and his wife, Kitty [or Kittie] Bachelor Coleman, were still living in Centerville in 1930; they were the parents of four children: Mattie Coleman Hersey, Ida B. Coleman, John A. Coleman Jr., and Cora M. Coleman. For more see Dr. C. H. Parrish, "A fifty year survey," Proceedings of the Kentucky Negro Educational Association, April 21-24, 1926, pp. 23-24 [available full-text in the Kentucky Digital Library]; and Trumpet Story, by Bill Coleman.
Subjects: Civic Leaders, Construction, Contractors, Builders, Education and Educators, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers
Geographic Region: Centerville, Bourbon County, Kentucky

Committee on Negro Housing [Robert H. Hogan]
Start Year : 1931
In April 1931, Robert Hogan was appointed to the Committee on Negro Housing of the President's Conference on Home Building and Home Ownership, by President Hoover and R. P. Lamont, the Secretary of Commerce. The committee was chaired by Nannie H. Burroughs. The conference was held December 2-5, 1931, in Washington, D.C. Hogan, born 1883 in Georgia, was a contractor who lived on Fifth Street in Lexington, KY. He was one of 1,000 representative citizens from 48 states who participated in the conference. The Committee on Negro Housing, formed prior to the conference meeting, had been given the directive to advise the conference on the housing needs of Negroes. The committee had been created due to the Great Migration of Negroes from the south to northern cities. After four years of privately-funded research, the findings were published in 1932 in Negro Housing: Report of the Committee of Negro Housing. For more see "Lexington man named to Hoover committee," Lexington Leader, 04/10/1931, p. 20; "Committee on Negro Housing" in Organizing Black America, by N. Mjagkij"; and the Statement announcing the White House Conference on Home Building and Home Ownership, September 15, 1931," in the American Presidency Project [available online].
Subjects: Construction, Contractors, Builders, Appointments by U.S. Presidents/Services for U.S. Presidents, Housing, Fair Housing, Open Housing, Housing Agencies
Geographic Region: Georgia / Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky / United States

Gamble, Joseph Dunbar
Birth Year : 1926
Death Year : 2005
Gamble, born in Browder, KY, the son of Bessie Breckner Gamble. The family moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, when Joseph was a child. Around 1960, Gamble and his mother, Bessie, were on their way to a church revival in Phoenix, Arizona, when their car broke down in New Mexico. Gamble liked the area so much that he went back to Fort Wayne, packed up his family, and moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1961. He became the first African American licensed contractor in the city, sole owner of Abdullah Construction from 1967-1986, incorporating the company as Gamble, Gamble, Gamble, and Gamble Construction Company in 1986. Joseph Gamble was also president of the Albuquerque branch of the NAACP from 1962-1966, advocating for fair housing legislation. He was founder and director of the Albuquerque Afro-American Cultural Center. In 1999 he was awarded the Carnis Salisbury Humanitarian Award. For more see L. Jojola, "Contractor was Noted Civil Rights Activist," Albuquerque Journal, 06/23/2005, Obituaries section, p. D13.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Construction, Contractors, Builders, Historians, Migration North, Migration West, NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), Housing, Fair Housing, Open Housing, Housing Agencies, Community Centers and Cultural Centers
Geographic Region: Browder, Muhlenberg County, Kentucky / Fort Wayne, Indiana / Albuquerque, New Mexico

Magowan, James E.
Birth Year : 1870
Death Year : 1933
The following information comes from the James E. Magowan archival file at the Montgomery County Historical Society and Museum in Mt. Sterling, KY. James E. Magowan was a successful businessman and a community leader. He was born in Montgomery County, the son of Amanda and John Wesley Magowan, and a brother of John, Noah, Susan, and Emily Magowan. The family lived in Smithville, KY. James Magowan, his brothers, and sister, Susan, all attended the Academy at Berea. As an adult, James Magowan was a real estate agent, loans and collecting agent, notary public, carpenter, contractor, and owner of the Magowan Theater and the colored skating rink in Mt. Sterling. James Magowan developed the Lincoln View Cemetery next to Olive Hill Cemetery in Smithville. The Lincoln View Cemetery opened on April 1, 1929, with James Magowan as president, his son, Jesse E., 1st vice president, and his wife, Lizzie, his daughter, Sarah, and his son-in-law and daughter, Watson D. Banks and Estella Magowan Banks, board members. James Magowan established a subdivision for African Americans next to the cemetery, and he owned and managed the waterline to the homes, charging a monthly fee for the service. He established the Mt. Sterling Colored Fair Association in 1909. He was owner of the James E. Magowan Grocery Store, which was located within the J. E. Magowan Hall (built in 1914) at the corner of East Locust and Fox Streets. James Magowan leased-out the grocery store and other space within the building. Additional information about James E. Magowan comes from "Achievements of the late James E. Magowan" on pp. 23-24 in Montgomery County Kentucky Bicentennial, 1774-1974, by S. A. Harris. James E. Magowan was a school teacher for six years. He led the effort to extend the gas line into Smithville, and in 1915 he was president of the organization that had a sidewalk completed from the city limits of Mt. Sterling to the entrance of Olive Hill Cemetery. James Avenue in Mt. Sterling was named in his honor. James E. Magowan is buried in the Lincoln View Cemetery in Mt. Sterling, KY.
Subjects: Bankers, Banks, Finance, Financial Advisors, Businesses, Civic Leaders, Communities, Construction, Contractors, Builders, Education and Educators, Colored Fairs & Black Expos, Undertakers, Cemeteries, Coroners, & Obituaries, Carpenters, Realtors, Real Estate Brokers, Real Estate Investments, Notary Public, Skating Rinks, Theater: Companies, Education, Exhibitions, Performers, and Performances in Kentucky
Geographic Region: Mount Sterling and Smithville, Montgomery County, Kentucky

Meeks, Florian, Jr.
Birth Year : 1922
Death Year : 2014
Florian Meeks, Jr. was born in Owenton, KY, the son of Florian Sr. and Martha L. Meeks. The family of six lived on E. Adair Street, according to the 1930 U.S. Federal Census. Florian Jr. was educated in a one room school house in Owen County and attended high school at Lincoln Institute in Simpsonville, KY. In 1943 he became a member of one of the first platoons of African American Marines at Montford Point, a segregated basic training facility at Camp Lejeune, NC, for African Americans. The facility had been established after President Roosevelt signed a directive in 1942 that allowed African Americans to be recruited into the U.S. Marine Corps. Meeks served active duty with the Second Casual Company, HQ BN MPC, in World War II in the Pacific Area from 1944 through 1946. He received an Honorable Discharge, and enrolled at Tuskegee Institute [now Tuskegee University]. While at Tuskegee, he returned to Louisville and married Eloise Kline in 1948, and two years later he graduated with a Bachelors of Science Degree. Florian Meeks next enlisted in the U.S. Army and attained the rank of First Lieutenant, Infantry. He served active duty with the 160th Infantry, and the 40th Infantry Division on Heartbreak Ridge during the Korean War. Meeks received a Combat Infantry Badge for exemplary performance of duty in ground combat against the enemy. He received an Honorable Discharge from the Army in 1957, and began a career with the United States Postal Service. He also founded Meeks Home Improvement and Construction Company. In 2012, Florian Meeks, Jr. and other Montford Marines were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor. Florian Meeks is the father of Renelda (Meeks) Higgins Walker, Florian Meeks III, KY House Member Reginald Meeks, Michael Meeks, and Kenneth Meeks. Florian Meeks, Jr. passed away January 13, 2014. This entry was submitted by Michael L. Meeks. For more see HR 149 and SR 153, and House Resolution 2447 (112 United States Congress).

See photo image of Florian Meeks, Jr. at MyHeritage website.
Subjects: Construction, Contractors, Builders, Military & Veterans, Postal Service
Geographic Region: Owenton, Owen County, Kentucky / Camp Lejeune, North Carolina / Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Slave Built Building (Lexington,KY)
When the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ) moved into their new office in downtown Lexington, KY, in 2000, the organization wanted the building to be recognized as a standing memorial to slave-built architecture. The 200-year-old building was constructed by slaves owned by Kentucky Legislator Henry Clay. Along the baseboard in the front entrance of the building is a gap that gives a view of the bars and the dirt floor in the small cramped basement, where the slaves may have been kept. For more see "Slave-built building will stand as a memorial," The Associated Press State & Local Wire, 09/27/2000; M. Ku, "Goal is a memorial honoring enslaved artisans," Lexington Herald-Leader, 09/27/2000, College & Region section, p. B1; and contact NCCJ at 112 North Upper Street, Lexington, KY, (859) 255-6999.
Subjects: Architects, Construction, Contractors, Builders
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Tandy, Henry A.
Birth Year : 1853
Death Year : 1918
Tandy was a contractor and builder from Lexington, KY. Along with his business partner, Albert Byrd, he did the brick work on the Lexington courthouse in 1898. At that time the courthouse was one of the largest in the U.S. At the turn of the century, Tandy was thought to have been the richest African American in Kentucky. He was the father of Vertner Tandy and the husband of Emma Brice Tandy, born 1855 in KY. The Tandy family lived at 190 West Main Street, next door to the Maj. B. G. Thomas/Margaret Pryor home. Henry Tandy was born in Estill County, KY. The names of his parents were listed as unknown at the time of his death. He was buried in Greenwood Cemetry in Lexington, KY, according to his death certificate. For more see Evidences of Progress Among Colored People, by G. F. Richings, at the Documenting the American South website; Biographical Sketches of Prominent Negro Men and Women of Kentucky, by W. D. Johnson; "Henry Tandy," Lexington Herald-Leader, 02/16/2005, p. C1; Tandy displays in the Isaac Scott Hathaway Museum; and N.[H.] A. Tandy, "Contracting and building," Records of the National Negro Business League, Part 1 Annual Conference Proceedings and Organizational Records, 1900-1919, 3rd Annual Convention, Richmond, Virginia, August 25-27, 1902, reel 1, frames 256-257.
Subjects: Businesses, Construction, Contractors, Builders, Fathers, Negro Business League
Geographic Region: Estill County, Kentucky / Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Vena, Cyrus, Jr.
Birth Year : 1829
Death Year : 1918
Vena was a carpenter, contractor and builder and also one of the first African American city council members in Xenia, OH, serving two terms. Vena was born in North Middletown, KY; he is listed as a free person in the 1840 U. S. Federal Census. He married Sarah J. Warnell in 1849 prior to the couple's move to Xenia, where Vena built a number of noted buildings. The couple had had seven children when they left Ohio and moved the entire family to Los Angeles, CA. Vena was head janitor in the LA Hall of Justice for 30 years. For more see p. 135 in The Negro Trail Blazers of California, by D. L. Beasley.
Subjects: Construction, Contractors, Builders, Migration North, Migration West, Politicians, Politics, Appointments & Elections, Carpenters
Geographic Region: North Middletown, Bourbon County, Kentucky / Xenia, Ohio / Los Angeles, California

Washington, Edith Stubblefield
Birth Year : 1948
Edith Stubblefield Washington was born in Almo, KY. She grew up in Toledo, OH, and spent summers with relatives in Kentucky. She is a Certified Construction Specifier. In 1997 Washington was named the first African American woman Fellow of the Construction Specifications Institute, becoming in June 2003 its first African American woman president. She has been active in the construction industry for more than 30 years and has owned and operated her own consulting firm, Stubblefield Group, Inc., since 1994. She is a specifications consultant for architectural and engineering firms in the United States and abroad. For more see L. Deen, "Edith Washington: from carpenter's helper to head of the CSI," BlackEngineer.com, 02/05/04; and Who's Who Among African Americans, vols. 11-17.
Subjects: Construction, Contractors, Builders, Migration North, Carpenters
Geographic Region: Almo, Calloway County, Kentucky / Toledo, Ohio

 

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