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Aikens, Julia E. Jackson
Start Year : 1901
End Year : 1993
In 1959, Julia Aikens became the first African American switchboard operator at the U.S. Post Office in South Bend, Indiana. Born in Hancock County, KY, she was married to Arthur Aikens; the couple moved to South Bend, IN, in 1946. Julia Aikens was a graduate of Knox Beauty College and Grigg's Business School in Chicago. She had owned a beauty shop. Aikens also served as a WAAC and a WAC during World War II, enlisting March 23, 1943, in Columbus, OH. For more see the Julia Aikens' entry in The Black Women in the Middle West Project, by D. C. Hine, et al.; and the Julia E. Aikens Collection at the Northern Indiana Historical Society.
Subjects: Cosmetologists, Beauty Shops, Hairdressers, Beauty Supplies, Migration North, Military & Veterans, Postal Service, Women's Groups and Organizations, Women's Army Corps (WACs)
Geographic Region: Hancock County, Kentucky / South Bend, Indiana

Alexander, Kelvin E.
Birth Year : 1969
Kelvin Alexander was born in Clinton, KY, the son of Mildred Alexander. He now lives in Bowling Green, KY, where he is serving a second term as vice president of the American Postal Workers Union Local 453, the first African American to serve in that position. Alexander is a graduate of Hickman County High School and Western Kentucky University, where he earned a B.A. in mass communication and minored in public administration. He is a member of the Oakland Mount Zion Baptist Church in Oakland, KY, and will soon be a deacon. He is also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. Kelvin and his wife Diana are the parents of William Alexander. Information submitted by Mildred C. and Kelvin E. Alexander.
Subjects: Kentucky African American Churches, Postal Service, Ministers, Pastors, Preachers, Religion & Church Work, Fraternal Organizations, Union Organizations
Geographic Region: Clinton, Hickman County, Kentucky / Oakland and Bowling Green, Warren County, Kentucky

Ayers, Rhoda R.
In 1976, Ayers became the first African American member of the Newport, KY, Independent Board of Education. During that year, she was also one of two African American women on a local school board in Kentucky. Ayers was employed by the U.S. Postal Service. For more see "17 blacks are local school board members," in 1978 Kentucky Directory of Black Elected Officials, Fifth Report, by the Commission on Human Rights, p. 26.
Subjects: Politicians, Politics, Appointments & Elections, Postal Service, Board of Education
Geographic Region: Newport, Campbell County, Kentucky

Beckwith, Anna M. Logan
Birth Year : 1884
Death Year : 1964
Mrs. Anna M. Logan Beckwith was a pharmacist in Cincinnati, OH. In 1928, she purchased the Peerless Pharmacy, located on Alms and Chapel Streets. Beckwith was considered a leading member of the Colored citizens in Cincinnati and is mentioned in Negro Employment in Retail Trade: a study of racial policies in the department store, drugstore, and supermarket industries, by Bloom, Fletcher, and Perry. Beckwith is also included in The Negro in the Drugstore Industry, by F. M. Fletcher. Anna Beckwith was born in Berea, KY, the daughter of Elijah and Amanda Logan. The family of six is listed in the 1900 U.S. Federal Census; Elijah Logan was a widower. Anna Logan moved to Cincinnati in 1903. She was the wife of Carl Beckwith, a mail carrier (1881-1971) from West Virginia. In 1910 the Beckwith family lived at 5304 Central Avenue in Madisonville, OH, [source: William's Hamilton County Directory for 1909-10]. The household included Anna, Carl, their daughter, and Anna's brother, Phocia [or Foshen] Logan (b. 1882 in KY), a barber who owned his own shop [source: 1910 U.S. Federal Census]. By 1920, the Beckwiths had a second daughter and the family lived in Cincinnati, OH. Anna Beckwith was still managing her drugstore in 1930 [source: U.S. Federal Census], and the family had moved to Wyoming, OH. Anna and Carl Beckwith are listed in William's Hamilton County (Ohio) Directory for the years 1939-1944, but there is no mention of the pharmacy. Anna Beckwith was a graduate of Berea College. For more see Cincinnati's Colored Citizens, by W. P. Dabney.
Subjects: Barbers, Migration North, Postal Service, Pharmacists, Pharmacies
Geographic Region: Berea, Madison County, Kentucky / Cincinnati, Ohio

Benjamin, R. C. O.
Birth Year : 1855
Death Year : 1900
Robert Charles O'Hara Benjamin was shot in the back and died in Lexington, KY, in 1900. He was killed at the Irishtown Precinct by Michael Moynahan, a Democrat precinct worker. The shooting occurred after Benjamin objected to African Americans being harassed while attempting to register to vote. When the case went to court, Moynahan claimed self-defense, and the case was dismissed. Benjamin had become a U.S. citizen in the 1870s; he was born in St. Kitts and had come to New York in 1869. He had lived in a number of locations in the U.S., and he came to be considered wealthy. For a brief period, Benjamin taught school in Kentucky and studied law. He was a journalist, author, lawyer (the first African American lawyer in Los Angeles), educator, civil rights activist, public speaker, and poet, and he had been a postal worker in New York City. In addition to being a journalist, Benjamin also edited and owned some of the newspapers where he was employed. Between 1855-1894, he authored at least six books and a number of other publications, including Benjamin's Pocket History of the American Negro, The Zion Methodist, Poetic Gems, Don't: a Book for Girls; and the public address The Negro Problem, and the Method of its Solution. In 1897, Benjamin returned to Kentucky with his wife, Lula M. Robinson, and their two children. Benjamin was editor of the Lexington Standard newspaper. The first bust that Isaac S. Hathaway sculpted was that of R. C. O. Benjamin. For more information see Robert Charles O'Hara Benjamin, by G. C. Wright in the American National Biography Online (subscription database); and "R. C. O. Benjamin," Negro History Bulletin, vol. 5, issue 4 (January 1942), pp. 92-93.

See sketch of R. C. O. Benjamin in the New York Public LIbrary Digital Gallery online.

See photo image of R. C. O. Benjamin and family in Explore UK.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Authors, Education and Educators, Journalists, Newspapers, Magazines, Book Publishers, Music Publishers, Voting Rights, Lawyers, Poets, Postal Service
Geographic Region: St. Kitts, West Indies / Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Blythe, Henry L.
Birth Year : 1942
In 2012, Henry L. Blythe received the Outstanding Citizen Award from the Mayfield Human Rights Commission. He had served as chair of the commission and was described as a tireless champion of civil rights in Mayfield, KY. His recognition included 23 years of service in the U.S. Air Force, where he received the Humanitarian Service Medal for his performance during the Iranian hostage rescue attempt. In 1984, after his retirement from the military, Henry L. Blythe was employed in the U.S. Postal Service. In 1991, he became the postmaster of Dexter, KY, and was one of the two African American postmasters in western Kentucky. He was also one of the 10 African American postmasters in the state of Kentucky. He was postmaster in Boaz, KY, when he retired from the U.S. Postal Service in 2007. Also in 2007, Governor Ernie Fletcher appointed him to a one year term to the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights. Three years later, Henry L. Blythe was nominated for the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame. Henry L. Blythe was born in Graves County, KY. For more see the press release "Governor Fletcher Appoints Members to the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights," 09/21/2007 at the website; and "Former Boaz Postmaster Named Outstanding Citizen," 02/27/2012, at West Kentucky
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Military & Veterans, Postal Service, Kentucky Commission on Human Rights
Geographic Region: Mayfield & Boaz, Graves County, Kentucky / Dexter, Calloway County, Kentucky /

Brooks, Jonathan H.
Birth Year : 1904
Death Year : 1945
Johnathan H. Brooks was born in Lexington, KY. He attended Jackson College [now Jackson State University] in Mississippi, Lincoln University, and Tougaloo College, also in Mississippi. In addition to being a poet, he was also a postal clerk, minister, and teacher. In a local contest, he won first prize for his first short story, "The Bible in the Cornfield." He was author of The Resurrection and Other Poems, published posthumously. His work has appeared in anthologies and other publications. For more see Black American Writers Past and Present: a biographical and bibliographical dictionary, by Rush, Myers, & Arta.
Subjects: Authors, Education and Educators, Poets, Postal Service, Ministers, Pastors, Preachers, Religion & Church Work
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Chappell, Roy M.
Birth Year : 1921
Death Year : 2002
Roy M. Chappell, a Tuskegee Airman, was born in Williamsburg, KY. Chappell attended high school in Monroe, Michigan; he was the only African American in his graduating class. He next attended Kentucky State College [now Kentucky State University] where he majored in chemistry; he left school his junior year to join the service during World War II. His aviation career began when he was a volunteer with the 477th Bombardment Group, and he later served at Godman Field at Fort Knox, KY. He participated in the Freedman Field Mutiny when 104 African American officers protested for equal treatment in the military. After his military service, Chappell settled in Chicago. He graduated from Roosevelt College [now Roosevelt University] and taught elementary school for 30 years; he was also a post office supervisor. The Roy M. Chappell Community Education Center at Kentucky State University was named in his honor. A historical marker, honoring Roy M. Chappell, is at the Briar Creek Park on South Second Street in Williamsburg, KY [note from Laurel West, Williamsburg City Council Member]. For more see HR1074 92 General Assembly and Roy Chappell Biography in The History Makers.
Subjects: Aviators, Education and Educators, Migration North, Military & Veterans, Postal Service, Community Centers and Cultural Centers
Geographic Region: Williamsburg, Whitley County, Kentucky / Monroe, Michigan / Chicago, Illinois

Clay, John T.
Birth Year : 1859
Death Year : 1934
John T. Clay was a jockey who was injured riding War Jig on the Kentucky Association Track; the injuries ended his riding career, but he then became a successful trainer and was described as a wealthy man who owned real estate [source: "The Negro jockey on the American turf," The Freeman, 11/11/1905, p. 6]. He had ridden for Major Barak G. Thomas and was one of the persons named in Thomas' will [source: "Fortune for former slave," New York Times, 05/22/1906, p. 1]. In 1907, Clay partnered with Lewis McClanahan for the building of the Colored Skating Rink in Lexington, KY [see NKAA entry Colored Skating Rink and Summer Palm Garden]. John T. Clay is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Lexington, KY. He was the son of Harry Clay; his mother's maiden name was Reese, according to Kentucky Death Certificate File #5998, Registered #234. He was the husband of Caddie Clay and the father of John and Barak Clay. In 1900, the family lived on Constitution Street in Lexington [source: U.S. Federal Census]. John T. Clay was employed by the U.S. Post Office as a rural mail carrier, according to the 1910 Census and his death certificate. By 1920, the family lived on East Second Street, and in 1930, John T. Clay was a widower [sources: U.S. Federal Census].
Subjects: Businesses, Jockeys, Horsemen, Horse Breeders, Trainers, Betting, & The Derby, Postal Service, Skating Rinks
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Coe, James R. "Jimmy" [Jimmy Cole]
Birth Year : 1921
Death Year : 2004
James R. Coe was born in Tompkinsville, KY, but grew up in Indianapolis, where he spent his entire music career. He could play a number of instruments, but performed most often on the baritone and tenor saxophone. He also studied the clarinet. Coe played and recorded with Jay McShann's band as a replacement for Charlie Parker. He also recorded with other groups, sometimes under the name Jimmy Cole. He used his birth name 'Coe' with his own groups: Jimmy Coe and His Orchestra, and Jimmy Coe and His Gay Cats of Rhythm. He served in the U.S. Army, 1943-1945 and played in the 415th Band. By the mid 1960s, Coe was teaching music in the Indianapolis public schools and also was working for the Marion County juvenile courts and the U.S. Postal Service. For more see The Jimmy Coe Discography, a Clemson University website; and J. Harvey, "Jimmy Coe , well-known jazz musician and band leader, dies," The Indianapolis Star, 02/28/2004, City State section, p. B01. 

Subjects: Education and Educators, Migration North, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Postal Service
Geographic Region: Tompkinsville, Monroe County, Kentucky / Indianapolis, Indiana

Coleman, Robert Alfonzo
Birth Year : 1932
Robert A. Coleman, a civil rights activist, was born in Hopkinsville, KY. He was a postal carrier in Paducah, KY, and the first African American president of the Paducah Local of the National Association of Letter Carriers. He was also the first to chair the executive board of the state association. Coleman was a city commissioner in Paducah beginning in 1973 and also served as mayor pro tem for six years. He is a 32-Degree Mason and past Master of Stone Square Lodge #5. He is also a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. In 2005, Coleman was inducted into the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights Hall of Fame. In 2009, the Blackburn Park in Paducah, KY, was renamed the Robert Coleman Park. For more see Who's Who Among African Americans, 1975-2006; and the Robert A. Coleman interview [text and audio] in the Kentucky Historical Society, Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky, Oral History Project.

See photo image and additional information on Robert A. Coleman at Hall of Fame 2005, a Kentucky Commission on Human Rights website.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Military & Veterans, Politicians, Politics, Appointments & Elections, Postal Service, Fraternal Organizations, Union Organizations
Geographic Region: Hopkinsville, Christian County, Kentucky / Paducah, McCracken County, Kentucky

Gibson, William H., Sr.
Birth Year : 1829
Death Year : 1906
Gibson, the son of Amelia and Philip Gibson, was born free in Baltimore, MD, and moved to Louisville, KY, in 1847. He was a schoolteacher who helped found the United Brothers of Friendship and the Colored Orphan's Home. He was also president of the Colored Musical Association. Gibson wrote History of the United Brothers of Friendship and Sisters of the Mysterious Ten, published in 1897; the book contains a career sketch of Gibson. For eight months, Gibson served as an appointed mail agent under the administration of President Grant. For more see The Encyclopedia of Louisville, ed. by J. E. Kleber; and L. M. Gibson, "William Henry Gibson," Negro History Bulletin, vol. 11, issue 9 (June 1948), p. 199.
See photo image of William H. Gibson, Sr. on p. 102 in The Sons of Allen by H. Talbert.
Subjects: Authors, Civic Leaders, Education and Educators, Postal Service, Orphans and Orphanages in Kentucky, Fraternal Organizations, Women's Groups and Organizations, Appointments by U.S. Presidents/Services for U.S. Presidents
Geographic Region: Baltimore, Maryland / Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Halliday, Thelma Dorothy Yancey
Birth Year : 1912
Death Year : 2005
Thelma Dorothy Yancey was one of the first African Americans in Kentucky to earn a library college degree. She was born in Great Falls, Montana on October 12, 1912 and moved to Lexington, KY after her father became ill. She attended Chandler School and Lincoln Institute in Kentucky. She later attended Kentucky Normal School for Colored Persons [now Kentucky State University] and went to Hampton Institute [now Hampton University] where she received her Bachelor's in Library Science in 1938. She was one of the school's first library graduates from Kentucky [source: Library Service to African Americans in Kentucky by R. F. Jones, p.83]. Prior to receiving her library degree, she was an assistant librarian at Kentucky State Industrial College [Kentucky State University], and read a paper, "Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind and the Negro," during the 1937 Annual KNEA Librarians' and Teacher-Librarians' Conference in Louisville, KY [source: Kentucky Negro Educational Association Journal, v.8, no.1, p.21]. Thelma Yancey was employed as a librarian in Pine Bluffs, Alabama. She was later librarian at Dunbar High School up to 1955 or 1956. She married Neil Lilburn Halliday Sr. (formerly of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) and had two children - Antoinette "Toni" and Neil Jr. Neil Halliday was a mail carrier in Lexington, KY. When her husband got a job with the US Postal Service in Washington, D.C., the family moved to D.C. Thelma D. Yancey Halliday was librarian at Anacostia High School and Cardoza High School in D.C. She was later employed by Howard University, where she was in the reference department under Maurice Thomas and head librarian Dr. Paul Reason. She later accepted a position setting up the library for the Small Business Development Center under Dr. Wilfred White, and the library became part of the Howard University School of Business. She received her Masters Degree in Library Science from Catholic University. She retired from Howard University, and remained an active member of the American Library Association after her retirement. She was a golden soror of Delta Sigma Theta. She was author of the annotated bibliography The Negro in Business and the title City Directories of Black Businesses: a list, and was editor of Against the Tide by Ann Heartwell Hunter, the book is a history of Kentucky and Kentucky State University. Thelma D. Yancey Halliday was the granddaughter of Jordan Carlisle Jackson Jr. and E. Belle Mitchell Jackson; the daughter of Charles H. Yancey and Minnie Carlisle Jackson Yancey; and the sister of Sadie Mae Yancey and Myrtle Yancey Mitchell. This entry was submitted by Toni H. Schooler, daughter of Thelma D. Yancey Halliday.
Subjects: Authors, Librarians, Library Collections, Libraries, Migration North, Postal Service, Migration East
Geographic Region: Great Falls, Montana / Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky / Washington, D.C.

Hoard, J. H. [Hoardsville, Oklahoma]
Birth Year : 1862
Reverend Hoard was born in Hopkinsville, KY, and in 1899 moved to Okmulgee, OK, to become pastor of the First Baptist Church. Okmulgee is 30 miles from Tulsa. Hoard was the husband of Clara Locke Hoard, with whom he had 11 children. Rev. Hoard was also pastor of the Union Baptist Church in Grayson, Oklahoma. He farmed his land next to the Henryetta gas and oil fields. He was chair of the Educational Board of the Oklahoma Baptist Convention, a member and moderator of the Southwest Creek and Seminole District Association, and the Hoardsville postmaster. Hoard had come to Oklahoma during the period author M. C. Hill describes as the "Great Black March Westward" that began in 1890 and peaked in 1910. Most came from eight southern states, including Kentucky. This was also the period when small all-Negro communities were developed, and there was an attempt to make Oklahoma an all Negro state. Hoardsville is usually not mentioned as one of the better known all-Negro communities. Hundreds of Negroes were arriving in Oklahoma each day, looking for utopia but finding that there were ongoing clashes between Negroes, Native Americans, and Whites. For more see "Reverend J. H. Hoard" in Who's Who Among the Colored Baptists of the United States, by S. W. Bacote; and M. C. Hill, "The All Negro Communities of Oklahoma," The Journal of Negro History, vol. 31, issue 3 (July 1946), pp. 254-268.
Subjects: Communities, Migration West, Postal Service, Ministers, Pastors, Preachers, Religion & Church Work
Geographic Region: Hopkinsville, Christian County, Kentucky / Okmulgee, Oklahoma

Holland, George W.
Birth Year : 1874
Death Year : 1929
George W. Holland was born in Ruddles Mills, KY. He taught school in Kentucky, then in 1895 moved to Springfield, OH, where he was employed as a postal clerk. George W. Holland later became head of the postal division of Crowell Publishing Company. [The Crowell Publishing Company, located in Springfield, OH, was owned by Lexington, KY, native John Stephen Crowell (1850-1921). In 1934, the company merged to become Crowell-Collier Publishing Company.] In addition to being an employee at the publishing company, George W. Holland was also president of the Colored Men's Council and Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of 1924. Maude Holland was the wife of George W. Holland, and she was deceased when George W. Holland was injured in a car accident on September 15, 1929 and died five days later [source: State of Ohio, Certificate of Death File #56683]. He is buried in the Ferncliff Cemetery in Springfield, OH. For more about George Holland see Chapter 9 of The History of Prince Hall Grand Lodge in Ohio, by C. H. Wesley. For more about the Crowell-Collier Publishing Company see the company records, 1931-1955 at New York Public Library.
Subjects: Civic Leaders, Education and Educators, Migration North, Postal Service, Fraternal Organizations
Geographic Region: Ruddles Mills, Bourbon County, Kentucky / Springfield, Ohio

Hueston, William C., Sr.
Birth Year : 1880
Death Year : 1961
Hueston was born in Lexington, KY, the son of Bettie H. Treacy; his family later moved to Kansas City, Kansas. He was a graduate of the University of Kansas and an active community leader in Kansas City. He also lived part-time in Gary, Indiana. He served as president of the National Negro Baseball League, beginning in 1927, after Rube Foster was committed to the Kankakee Asylum in Illinois. In Gary, Indiana, Hueston served as magistrate judge and helped establish the African American-owned Central State Bank. He was appointed by President Hoover to the National Memorial Commission for the building of the National Museum of African American History and Culture that was to have been built in 1929. He left Indiana in 1930 for Washington, D.C. to become Assistant Solicitor with the U.S. Post Office. For more see Who's Who in Colored America, 1933-37; The Josh Gibson Foundation website; Take up the Black Man's Burden: Kansas City's African American Communities, 1865-1939, by C. E. Coulter; M. Strimbu, "Library exhibit depicts Gary's rich, varied history," Post-Tribune, 07/24/1997, Gary Neighbors section, p. NB4; and "William C. Hueston, 81, Government Attorney," Washington Post, 11/27/1961, City Life section.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Bankers, Banks, Finance, Financial Advisors, Baseball, Civic Leaders, Lawyers, Migration North, Migration West, Politicians, Politics, Appointments & Elections, Postal Service, Judges, Appointments by U.S. Presidents/Services for U.S. Presidents
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky / Kansas City, Kansas / Gary, Indiana / Kankakee, Illinois / Washington, D.C.

Hughes, Brenda Lee Garner
Birth Year : 1947
Death Year : 1986

This entry was written and submitted by Dr. Sallie Powell, University of Kentucky.

Brenda Lee Garner Hughes was the first African American woman to officiate the Kentucky High School Athletic Association's "Sweet Sixteen" Girls' State Basketball Tournament. Born in Lexington, Kentucky, she was the only daughter of Mathew and Alice Garner. She graduated from Dunbar High School. As a divorced mother of Monique and Lucy Lee, Brenda worked for the U. S. Post Office and as a seasonal employee for the Lexington Division of Parks and Recreation where she learned to officiate basketball. She became the first woman to officiate the Lexington Senior Dirt Bowl basketball tournament. In 1995, she was posthumously inducted into the Dawahares Kentucky High School Athletic Association Sports Hall of Fame.

For more see:

Powell, Sallie L., "'It Is Hard To Be What You Have Had Seen': Brenda Hughes and The Black and White of the Zebra Shirt—Race and Gender in Kentucky High School Basketball," Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, Special Edition, Volume 109, No. 3 & 4, Summer and Autumn 2011, pp. 433-465.

See photo image of Brenda Hughes in UKnowledge.

Subjects: Basketball, Postal Service, Women's Groups and Organizations
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Hughes, Harriet
Birth Year : 1844
Death Year : 1901
Harriet Hughes was the wife of Thomas Hughes and the mother of 17 children. In 1870, the family lived in Flat Rock (Bo.Co.), KY, and later moved to Carlisle, KY. Harriet was a mail carrier for the route between Carlisle and Jackstown, KY, near the Bourbon County line. She was one of the first African American women mail carriers in Kentucky and the United States. She held the highest ranked government job among all other African American women in Carlisle and was well respected. There was a large attendance at her funeral: 63 carriages were in the procession to the cemetery. For more see "A Remarkable Colored Woman," The Bourbon News, 05/03/1901, p. 2.
Subjects: Postal Service
Geographic Region: Flat Rock, Bourbon County, Kentucky / Carlisle and Jackstown, Nicholas County, Kentucky

Hughes, James Nathaniel
Birth Year : 1871
Death Year : 1934
Hughes was born in Charlestown, Indiana. He was the father of Langston Hughes and the son of Emily Cushenberry and James H. Hughes. James H. was a former slave whose mother was a slave; her father was Silas Cushenberry, a Jewish slave trader from Clark County, KY. James H. Hughes' father was also a slave. He was the son of Sam Clay, a distiller from Henry County, KY. It is not known exactly when the Hughes family left Kentucky, where their four oldest children were born, but it is believed the family left prior to the Civil War. Their son, James Nathaniel Hughes, lived in Louisville for a brief period, where he passed the postal civil service exam but was not hired by the post office. He eventually moved on to Oklahoma, where he married Carrie Langston in the late 1890s. After their first child died in 1900 and Langston Hughes was born in 1902, James left his family. He settled in Mexico, never to return to the United States; he remarried, practiced law, and was a land owner. For more about the Hughes Family see Langston: My Cousin, by the Hughes Family Interest, Inc.; F. Berry, Langston Hughes, pp. 1-2; Langston Hughes of Kansas, by M. Scott [excerpt from Kansas History, vol. 3, issue 1 (Spring 1980), pp. 3-25]; The big sea: an autobiography, by L. Hughes; and The Life of Langston Hughes, vol. I: 1902-1941, by A. Rampersad. Additional information for this entry was provided by Marjol Collet, Director of the Langston Hughes Family Museum in Gary, Indiana.
Subjects: Fathers, Lawyers, Mothers, Postal Service, Migration Outside the U.S. and Canada, Mexico & Kentucky
Geographic Region: Charlestown, Indiana / Clark County, Kentucky / Henry County, Kentucky / Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / Oklahoma / Mexico

Jackson, James W. (police)
Birth Year : 1913
Death Year : 2006
Jackson was born in Arkansas and grew up in Paducah, KY. After graduating from Lincoln High School in 1933, he attended West Kentucky Industrial College [now West Kentucky Community and Technical College]. During World War II, he was a member of the 9th Cavalry and a mounted soldier in the 2nd Cavalry, deployed in Italy. In 1960, Jackson joined the Kansas City Police Department, the third African American reserve officer on the force; he retired in 1974. He also worked at the post office and retired from there in 1992 after 50 years of employment. For more see "James Warren Jackson," Kansas City Star, 02/10/2006, Obituary section, p. B4.
Subjects: Migration West, Military & Veterans, Corrections and Police, Postal Service, Migration East, Grade Schools & High Schools in Kentucky
Geographic Region: Arkansas / Paducah, McCracken County, Kentucky / Kansas City, Missouri

Jackson, Jordan C., Jr.
Birth Year : 1848
Death Year : 1918
Jordan C. Jackson, Jr. was born in Lexington, KY, the son of James Ann and Jordan C. Jackson, Sr. An attorney and an African American Republican leader in Kentucky, Jordan Jr. was the first African American undertaker in Lexington, along with his partner William M. Porter. Jackson eventually bought out Porter. Prior to getting into the undertaking business, Jackson was editor of the American Citizen newspaper. He also contracted with the federal government to carry mail from the train to the post office. He was chairman of the committee behind the creation of Douglass Park in Lexington, KY. He was married to Isabelle Mitchell Jackson and brother of John H. Jackson. For more see Biographical Sketches of Prominent Negro Men and Women of Kentucky, by W. D. Johnson; and Ante-bellum free Negroes as race leaders in Virginia and Kentucky during Reconstruction (thesis) by C. B. King, p. 136.

See photo image of Jordan C. Jackson, Jr. on page 513 in Evidences of Progress Among Colored People by G. F. Richings, at the UNC Documenting the American South website.
Subjects: Journalists, Newspapers, Magazines, Book Publishers, Music Publishers, Lawyers, Parks & Resorts, Politicians, Politics, Appointments & Elections, Postal Service, Undertakers, Cemeteries, Coroners, & Obituaries, Railroad, Railway, Trains
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Kentucky Colony in Washington D.C.
The term "Kentucky Colony" can be found in many sources in reference to a group of Kentuckians living in a particluar area outside the state of Kentucky. The term was also used to refer to the "Kentucky Colony" neighborhood in Washington, D.C. on 10th Street between R and S Streets. The residents were members of the "Kentucky Colony" organization, a networking, society and support group of African Americans from Kentucky who had migrated to Washington, D.C. [There was also a group of whites in Washington, D.C. who were from Kentucky and were referred to as a "Kentucky Colony."] It is not known exactly when the African American Kentucky Colony organized, but they existed in the late 1890s and beyond 1912. The members were fairly well off, and in 1909 were led by Louisville, KY, native H. P. Slaughter [source: see H.P. Slaughter in column "The Week in Society," Washington Bee, 08/07/1909, p.5]. Slaughter was employed by the Government Printing Office in Washington, D.C. Other male members of the Kentucky Colony included James H. Black, William L. Houston, William H. Davis, Shelby J. Davidson, W. H. Wright, Charles E. Payne, Oscar W. Miller, J. C. Vaughn Todd, Louis P. Todd, Leslie Garrison Davis, Alex Payne, and Eugene Jennings [source: "Our Kentucky Colony," Colored American, 08/23/1902, p.9]. The members socialized with one another, and assisted other African Americans of similar means who were coming from Kentucky to live in Washington, D.C. It was the Colored newspapers in Washington, D.C. that first used the term "Kentucky Colony" in print, referring to African Americans in Washington, D.C. "Bluegrass visitors," an article in the Colored American, 07/23/1898, p.7, reported that the group had entertained a delegation of educators from Kentucky who were in D.C. for a National Education Association Meeting. A reception was held for the visitors at the home of Mrs. Anna Weeden, at 1731 10th Street NW. Mrs. Weeden was a widow born 1864 in KY, she owned a boarding house and shared her home with her son Henry and her sister Francis Starks, both of whom were also born in Kentucky. Another article, "Addition to our Kentucky Colony," Colored American, 01/27/1900, p.3, announced the arrival of William H. Davis from Louisville, KY, and his successful passing of the civil service exam, his new job with the government, and his past employment experience. In the Washington Bee column, "The Week in Society," 08/17/1901, p.5, there was mention of the group having entertained a contingency of young women referred to as "charming school maidens of the old Bluegrass State." The Kentucky Colony also kept ties to family and friends in Kentucky. In 1908, the group presented a 24-piece silver set to the newlyweds Jeanette L. Steward and James H. Black who were married on April 15, 1908 at the home of the bride's parents, Mrs. and Mr. W. H. Steward [source: "Our Kentucky Colony give star present at the Black-Steward wedding in Falls City," Washington Bee, 05/02/1908, p.5]. Both Jeanette and James Black were born in Kentucky. James had lived in Washington, D.C. for a few years beginning in 1902 when he was employed at the Government Printing Office [source: "The territory on 10th Street..." in the column "City Paragraphs," Colored American, 05/10/1902, p.15]. After they married, the couple remained in Louisville where James was a post office clerk, his wife Jeanette owned a cafeteria, and they shared their home with school teachers Mary and Myrtle Black [source: 1930 U.S. Federal Census]. In 1912, several members of the Kentucky Colony were in Kentucky as reported in the Freeman, an Indiana newspaper, "Quite a number of the Kentucky Colony, of Washington, D.C., are in the city to cast their votes" [source: Lee L. Brown, "Everybody talking election," Freeman, 11/02/1912, p.8].
Subjects: Businesses, Communities, Migration North, Postal Service, Colonies, Colonization
Geographic Region: Kentucky / Washington, D.C.

Kirk, Andrew D. "Andy"
Birth Year : 1898
Death Year : 1992
Kirk was born in Newport, KY, and raised in Denver, CO. He was a mail carrier prior to joining George Morrision's jazz band in Denver, CO, in 1924. He organized his band, Andy Kirk and His Clouds of Joy, in Oklahoma City in 1929. Kirk's first recording was made in 1929, and he went on to acquire international fame. One of his more popular songs was Until the Real Thing Comes Along. He played in the major night clubs and ballrooms such as the Cotton Club in New York and the Tunetown Ballroom in St. Louis. Kirk died in New York according to the Social Security Death Index. For more see Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, 7th-8th eds., revised by N. Slonimsky. View images and listen to I Lost My Girl From Memphis - Andy Kirk and His Twelve Clouds of Joy on YouTube.

Subjects: Migration North, Migration West, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Postal Service
Geographic Region: Newport, Campbell County, Kentucky / Denver, Colorado / New York

Lewis, Meade Lux
Birth Year : 1905
Death Year : 1964
Lewis was a pianist and composer. He was born in Louisville, KY, and raised in Chicago. Meade was the son of Hattie and George Lewis. George was employed as a postal clerk and was also a Pullman Porter. Hattie and George were Kentucky natives, and according to the U.S. Federal Census, in 1920 the family was living in apartment 29, a rear unit on LaSalle Street in Chicago. Meade Lewis's first instrument was the violin, which he learned to play when he was 16 years old. He taught himself to play the piano and developed a boogie-woogie style. His best known work is Honky Tonk Train Blues, recorded in 1927. Boogie-woogie was still a new sound. To supplement his income, Lewis worked washing cars and driving a taxi. He played the piano at house parties, clubs, and after-hours joints. His fame is said to have begun in 1938 when Lewis performed in John Hammond's concert at Carnegie Hall. He is regarded as one of the three noted musicians of boogie-woogie. For more see the Meade Lux Lewis entry in the Afro-American Encyclopedia; and "Meade Lux Lewis pianist, is killed," New York Times, 06/08/1964, p. 18. A picture of Lewis and additional information are available in Men of Popular Music, by D. Ewen. View film with Meade Lux Lewis playing boogie woogie on YouTube.

Subjects: Fathers, Migration North, Mothers, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Postal Service, Pullman Porters, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / Chicago, Illinois

Madison, Clarence "Duke"
Birth Year : 1923
Death Year : 1997
Clarence "Duke" Madison was a recognized jazz saxophone player in Kentucky. He was born in Anderson, IN, the son of Roger and Beatrice Madison. Clarence Madison started playing the saxophone when he was eight years old, and as a teen he played with a number of bands. He performed and taught music, then enlisted in the U.S. Army on March 5, 1943 [source: U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records]. During his time in the service, Madison was a member of the military band. After serving in the Army, Madison continued playing with various bands, coming to Kentucky in the 1940s to play with the Jordan Embry Band in Richmond, KY. He later moved to Lexington, KY, where he played jazz at local clubs and events for 50 years and led the Duke Madison Trio. He was also employed as a postal worker. He was mentioned in the Insiders' Guide to Greater Lexington: and Kentucky Bluegrass, by R. Maslin and J. Walter. There are also several earlier articles in the Lexington Herald-Leader newspaper that cover Madison and his music. The Lexington Jazz Arts Foundation established the Annual Duke Madison Scholarship in honor of Clarence "Duke" Madison for his many years of providing music to the Lexington area. Clarence Madison was the husband of Anna M. Gaines Madison. For more see Kentucky Senate Resolution 13 (SR13), 12/19/1997; J. Hewlett, "Jazz musician played in area for 50 years," Lexington Herald-Leader, 05/14/1997, p. B1; and T. Carter, "New group seeking support for Jazz," Lexington Herald-Leader, 04/22/1990, p. J1.

Access Interview Read about the Clarence D. Madison oral history interview available at the University of Kentucky Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, item record in the SPOKE Database.
Subjects: Military & Veterans, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Postal Service, Migration South
Geographic Region: Anderson, Indiana / Richmond, Madison County, Kentucky / Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Magowan Brothers and the Reporter (Mt. Sterling, KY)
Start Year : 1904
End Year : 1913
The Reporter Newspaper

  • The Reporter newspaper was published in Mt. Sterling, KY, by the brothers John D. Magowan and Noah W. Magowan. It was the first newspaper owned and operated by African Americans in the city of Mt. Sterling; the Mt. Sterling Advocate newspaper ran an article welcoming The Reporter. The paper was recognized as a strong voice for the Negro in Kentucky, and in 1907 when the Negro Press Association, Kentucky was formed with 14 members, N. W. Magowan was named president. One of the goals of the association was to solidify the Negro vote in the upcoming presidential election. The Reporter took on the cause. The newspaper had been established in April of 1904 as a weekly publication with Noah W. Magowan as editor, Reverend W. H. Brown and Reverend J. W. Smith associate editors, and John D. Magowan manager. [The Magowan brothers are mentioned in many sources by their first and middle initials and last names.] In January of 1908, as president of the Negro Press Association, Kentucky, N. W. Magowan made a call to all Negro press members in Kentucky to meet at the Kentucky Standard newspaper office in Louisville to discuss the political situation in the state, in reference to the presidential election and the selection of Negro delegates to the National Republican Convention. In March of 1908, The Reporter ran an editorial against William H. Taft, from Cincinnati, OH, who was campaigning to become President of the United States. The editorial was described by fellow Negro editor, W. D. Johnson of the Lexington Standard, as "unmanly, unkind, and intended to rouse race feelings against Mr. Taft." Not only did the two editors disagree about Taft, but Magowan and Johnson were two of the Negro candidates for delegate-at-large to the Republican Convention. The other candidates were J. E. Wood, editor of the Torchlight in Danville; R. T. Berry, editor of the Kentucky Reporter in Owensboro; Dr. E. W. Lane of Maysville; W. J. Gaines, Grand Master of the U. B. of F. [United Brothers of Friendship] in Covington; W. H. Steward, editor of the American Baptist in Louisville; and Dr. E. E. Underwood, editor of the Bluegrass Bugle in Frankfort. W. D. Johnson was expected to be the selected delegate among the Negro candidates. During the election, J. D. Magowan was an election officer in Mt. Sterling. When Taft became President in 1909, W. D. Johnson was rewarded for his loyalty: he was assigned to the General Land Office in Washington, D.C. Just prior to his appointment, N. W. Magowan, who had been against Taft as a presidential candidate, wrote an editorial in the Lexington Leader proclaiming W. D. Johnson's support of Taft was a forward-thinking decision, and he championed Johnson's right to a political reward for his loyalty. Magowan's good words about Johnson in the Lexington Leader were not an indication that the Reporter had changed its mission; in 1909, a letter from Berea College President William G. Frost was published in The Reporter in response to the argument presented by Rev. Morris of the Centenary Methodist Church of Lexington, who had said "the old Berea College ought to have been turned over to the Negroes." N. W. Magowan had been among the Berea graduates who attended the 1908 meeting at Berea College, hoping to adopt resolutions that would give Negroes the opportunity to help establish a new colored college if the Supreme Court did not set aside the Day Law [source: "Colored graduates meet," Citizen, 04/09/1908, available full-text at Kentucky Digital Library - Newspapers].

The Move to Washington, D. C.

  • In 1910, N. W. Magowan left The Reporter newspaper to become a clerk for the Census Bureau [source: 1910 U.S. Federal Census], having received his appointment in April of 1910 [source: "Appointment at Washington," Mt. Sterling Advocate, 04/13/1910, p. 2]. W. D. Johnson had left the Lexington Standard newspaper and moved to Washington, D.C., and N. W. Magowan and his wife were regular guests at the Johnson home. The Reporter continued to be managed by J. D. Magowan until his death in 1913. His brother remained in Washington, D.C., and in January of 1915, N. W. Magowan delivered the principal address during the installation exercises of the Charles Sumner Post and Woman's Relief Corp. N. W. Magowan was a member of the Committee on Ways and Means of the National Emancipation Commemorative Society. By 1920, he was employed as a clerk at the post office and was elected president of the Post Office Relief Association. N. W. Magowan, his wife Mary, their son Paul (1911-1984), and a boarder all lived on Q Street [source: 1920 U.S. Federal Census].

Noah and Mary Magowan

  • Mary W. Magowan (1870-1940) was from Bourbon County, KY; she had been a school teacher in Mt. Sterling, and in 1904 she was the Grand Worthy Counselor of the Independent Order of Calanthe. Noah W. Magowan was born October 26, 1868 in Mt. Sterling, KY, the son of John Wesley Magowan and Amanda Jackson Magowan [source: History of the Anti-Separate Coach Movement in Kentucky, edited by Rev. S. E. Smith, p. 171, available full-text at Kentucky Digital Library - Books]. Noah Magowan was a Berea College graduate and is listed as a student on p. 8 in the Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Berea College, 1889-90 [available online at Google Books]. N. W. Magowan was also a teacher beginning in 1887, and in 1890 was a teacher at the Colored Western School in Paris, KY [source: "A Tribute," Bourbon News, 05/02/1902, p. 5, available full-text at Kentucky Digital Library - Newspapers]. In 1892, he was elected a member of the State Central Committee, a group established to defeat the Separate Coach Bill in Kentucky [trains]. N. W. Magowan was a notary public in Mt. Sterling in 1896; he is listed on p. 902 in the Journal of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Kentucky [available online at Google Books].

John D. and Mayner D. Magowan

  • John D. Magowan was born April 26, 1877 in Montgomery County, KY, and died July 15, 1913 [source: Certificate of Death]. He was one of at least five children of John Wesley Magowan (d. 1895), a Civil War veteran whose last name had been Brooks, and Amanda Trimble Jackson Magowan (d. 1925) [sources: 1880 U.S. Federal Census; Civil War Veterans Headstone Records; Kentucky Death Record]. The John W. Magowan family lived in Smithville, located in Montgomery County, KY. After he was married, John D. and his wife, Mayner D. Magowan (b. 1879 in KY), lived in Harts, also located in Montgomery County, KY [source: 1910 U.S. Federal Census]. In addition to being a newspaper printer and publisher, John D. Magowan was a member and officer of the Colored Knights of Pythias in Mt. Sterling.


  • "Dr. Frost," Lexington Leader, 02/28/1909, p. 16; "The Negroes in Kentucky...," American Baptist, 04/15/1904, p. 2; "The Reporter, The Mt. Sterling Advocate, 04/13/1904, p. 6; "Colored Notes," Lexington Leader, 07/15/1913, p. 9; "Colored Notes," Lexington Leader, 05/09/1904, p. 21; "Negro editor," Lexington Leader, 03/08/1908, p. 4; "Call to Negro editors," Lexington Leader, 01/12/1908, p. 10; "Negro pressmen," The Mt. Sterling Advocate, 01/15/1908, p. 7; "Mrs. Mary E. Magowan...," Freeman, 03/15/1940, p. 7; "The contest in Kentucky this week...," Freeman, 04/25/1908, p. 1; "Editor W. D. Johnson," Freeman, 03/12/1910, p. 1; "West Washington," Washington Bee, 01/30/1915, p. 4.; "Lincoln's birthday," Washington Bee, 02/20/1915, p. 1; "Election of officers," Washington Bee, 12/18/1915, p. 4; "Colored Knights of Pythias here," Paducah Evening Sun, 07/27/1909, p. 5; and "Election officers," Mt. Sterling Advocate, 10/06/1909, p. 8.


  • The dates for the Reporter are given as 1904-1915 in Bibliographic Checklist of African American Newspapers (2008), by B. K. Henritze, p. 58.
  • The following information was provided by Holly Hawkins, Montgomery County Historical Society: Amanda and John Wesley Magowan had five children, Noah William (1869-1945); James Edward (1870-1933); Susan Francis (b.1873); John D. (1877-1913); and Emily (b.1879). All of the sons and Susan attended the Academy at Berea. John D., James, and Noah are all buried in the Magowan Family plot in the Smithville cemetery.

Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Education and Educators, Journalists, Newspapers, Magazines, Book Publishers, Music Publishers, Migration North, Politicians, Politics, Appointments & Elections, Postal Service, Fraternal Organizations, Women's Groups and Organizations, Railroad, Railway, Trains, Notary Public
Geographic Region: Mount Sterling, Harts, and Smithville, all in Montgomery County, Kentucky / Washington, D. C.

Meaux, Fredrick C. and Bertha [Edythe Meaux Smith]
Fred Meaux was born around 1883 in Kentucky, and according to the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, he was living with his uncle, James Sausbury [or Sansbury], in Lebanon, KY. When he was 20 years old, he married Bertha, and the following year Fred visited the World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, enjoying the area so much that he and Bertha moved to St. Louis. In 1920, the family consisted of Fred, Bertha, and their five children. Fred Meaux was a postal carrier, one of the first African Americans to deliver mail in St. Louis. He was also an active member of the National Association of Letter Carriers and was a delegate at the 33rd Convention held in St. Louis. The Meaux's daughter, Edythe Meaux Smith (1917-2007), and her husband, Wayman Flynn Smith, Jr., were civil rights activists. Edythe, who was also a journalist and an educator, served as Deputy Director of the St. Louis Civil Rights Enforcement Agency, which handled discrimination complaints. For more see "Fred C. Meaux" and "F. C. Meaux" in The Postal Record, vol. 33, issue 1 (January 1920) [available full-text at Google Book Search]; and "Edythe Smith educator, civil rights activist," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 04/21/2007, News section, p. A16.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Education and Educators, Fathers, Journalists, Newspapers, Magazines, Book Publishers, Music Publishers, Migration West, Postal Service
Geographic Region: Lebanon, Marion County, Kentucky / St. Louis, Missouri

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

Merchant, Jesse, Sr.
Birth Year : 1878
Death Year : 1959
Born in Winchester, KY, Merchant was employed as a pharmacist at the U. S. Food Laboratory in Chicago in 1909 and later moved to the Department of Agriculture. He was also a civilian postmaster for the 10th U.S. Vol. Infantry in Lexington, KY, and Macon, GA, during the Spanish-American War. He was the son of Alpheus and Georgia A. Williams Merchant, and had attend high school in Lexington, KY. Merchant was a graduate of the Pharmacy College in Louisville, KY. He served as vice president of the Omaha Branch of the NAACP. Merchant was also a poet and is credited with composing "Back to My Old Kentucky Home" in 1906. He was the husband of Gladys Merchant and the couple had four children. The family lived on Wabash Street in Chicago, IL, according to the 1930 U.S. Federeal Census. Jesse Merchant, Sr. retired in 1950 from the federal alcohol tax unit, according to his obituary in the Chicago Daily Tribune, 05/08/1959. For more see the Jesse Merchant entry in Who's Who of the Colored Race, 1915 by F. L. Mather [available full view at Google Book Search].
Subjects: Medical Field, Health Care, Migration North, Poets, Postal Service, NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), Pharmacists, Pharmacies
Geographic Region: Winchester, Clark County, Kentucky / Chicago, Illinois

Moore, J. W.
Born in Louisville, KY, Moore was owner of a large grocery store and several houses in Paducah, KY. He was at one time a clerk in the Mileage Department of C. & O. & S. W. R. R. He was also a letter-carrier in Paducah; he may have been one of the first African American mail carriers in the city (prior to 1900). For more see Evidences of Progress Among Colored People, by G. F. Richings, p. 512, [online at the UNC Documenting the American South website].
Subjects: Businesses, Postal Service
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / Paducah, McCracken County, Kentucky

Neighbors, George and Bertha, and Jesse [Blue Grass Female Orchestra]
The Blue Grass Female Orchestra was was organized in Lexington, KY in 1905 by photographer G. W. Neighbors [sources: "Colored," Lexington Leader, 08/03/1905, p.2; and The Negro Population of Lexington in the Professions, Business, Education and Religion by L. Harris, pp.[8 & 9] in photocopy c.2 of title at UK Special Collections]. The group was also referred to as the Blue Grass Orchestra. In 1907, members of the orchestra were Alice Richardson, Ethel White, Estella Braxton, Mattie Hamilton, Mary B. Johnson, Bertha Neighbors, Mary Randolph, Gertrude Ferguson, Nellie Gibson, Mattie Sanders, Mary E. Mitchell, and Olive Thomas. Though they were referred to as girls and young ladies in the newspaper, half of the group members were married women. Mrs. Bertha Fortune Neighbors was the first cornetist in the orchestra and she was the wife of George W. Neighbors. Bertha was born in 1883 in Cave City, KY. She was the cornetist in the senior choir at Main Street Baptist Church in Lexington, and she had had many public performances, sometimes she and her husband performed as a duet. Neither Bertha nor George W. Neighbors were from Lexington, KY. George was born December 29, 1877, in Hardin County, KY, and in 1880 he lived in Glendale with his brother William and his grandmother Elizabeth Neighbors [source: 1880 U.S. Census; and George W. Neighbors' WWII Draft Registration Card]. George W. Neighbors was a self-taught photographer. He is listed as "George Neighbors (Neighbors Bros.)" in Caron's Directory of the City of Louisville for 1899, p.825. George and his brother Jesse R. Neighbors owned their photography business that was first located at 931. W. Walnut Street, and by 1901, the business was located at 912 W. Walnut; their business was located within their home according to Caron's Directory of the City of Louisville. Their father, John Neighbors, was listed as the photographer at 912 W. Walnut Street in 1903 [source: p.962 in Caron's Directory of the City of Louisville for 1903]. By 1904, Jesse Neighbors had taken over the photography business that lasted until at least 1933 when the business address was 1117 W. Walnut Street in Louisville [source: Caron's Louisville City Directory for 1933, p.1247]. His brother, George W. Neighbors, was married to Bertha Fortune by 1904 and had a photography business in Lexington, KY at his home, 1118 N. Broadway [source: p.472 in Lexington City Directory, 1904-1905]. In 1906, George Neighbors attended the Aristo School of Photography held in Louisville [source: The Negro Population of Lexington in the Professions, Business, Education and Religion by L. Harris]. In 1907, George and Bertha's son, George H. Neighbors, was born; the family lived on Chestnut Street in Lexington and Bertha's mother, Jennie Fortune, lived with the family [source: 1910 U.S. Census]. The family is last listed in the 1909 Lexington city directory; the Neighbors family left Lexington and were living in Chicago where George W. Neighbors owned his photography shop [source: 1920 U.S. Census]. George and Bertha's daughter Virginia was born in Chicago in 1912 [source: Cook County, Illinois, Birth Certificates Index, 1871-1922]. A second son, Harold, was born in 1919, and according to the 1920 census, there were also two boarders who lived with the family on Forest Avenue. In 1921, the couple suffered the loss of their stillborn son [source: Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1916-1947]. By 1930, George W. Neighbors' job was registration clerk at a post office in Chicago, the couple had a fourth child, John, and Bertha's mother, Jennie Fortune, still lived with the family [source: 1930 U.S. Census]. George W. Neighbors died in Chicago on April 29, 1949 [source: Cook County, Illinois Death Index, 1908-1988]. He was the son of John and Sallie Williams Neighbors [source: Neighbors Family Tree in]. Bertha Fortune Neighbors died April 19, 1955 in Chicago [source: Cook County, Illinois Death Index, 1908-1988]. Jesse R. Neighbors was born May 4, 1876 and died in Louisville on April 4, 1940 [source: Kentucky Certificate of Death Registrar's #1900]. George Neighbors and his brother Jesse Neighbors were among the first African Americans to own photography businesses in Kentucky.
Subjects: Businesses, Migration North, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Photographers, Photographs, Postal Service
Geographic Region: Glendale, Hardin County, Kentucky / Cave City, Barren County, Kentucky / Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky / Chicago, Illinois

Rhea, La Julia Ray
Birth Year : 1908
Death Year : 1992
La Julia Ray Rhea was born in Louisville, KY, the daughter of Sally and William Ray. She opened in the role of "Aida" in the Chicago Civic Opera Company during the regular season, the first African American to do so. Rhea studied at the National University of Music in Chicago. The National Negro Opera Company Collection is at the Library of Congress (see the Finding Aid [pdf]) and contains biographical material on La Julia Rhea. She married Henry J. Rhea (1896-1976) from Henderson, KY; the family lived in Chicago in 1930, where Henry was a letter carrier, according to the 1930 U.S. Federal Census. La Julia Ray Rhea died in Chicago in 1992. For more see Blacks in Opera. An encyclopedia of people and companies, 1873-1993, by E. L. Smith; Biography Index. A cumulative index to biographical material in books and magazines, vol. 16 (Sept. 1988-Aug. 1990); and the La Julia Rhea entry in The Black Women in the Middle West Project, by D. C. Hine, et al.

See photo image of La Julia Ray Rhea with P. L. Prattis at the Carnegie Museum of Art website.
Subjects: Migration North, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Postal Service
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / Henderson, Henderson County, Kentucky

Ross, Travus
Birth Year : 1848
Death Year : 1908
Travus Ross, from Kentucky, served as a body servant during the Civil War, first for Colonel Roberts and later for General Sherman. After the war, he was appointed to the Post Office Department in Washington, D.C., where he was a special messenger. He served under 17 postmaster generals. In 1901 his annual salary was increased to $1,000. Travus Ross died September 29, 1908 in Washington, D.C. [source: District of Columbia Deaths and Burials, rf #cn 182228]. He was thought to be 60 years old. For more see "Travus Ross," an article in the Special Issue to The New York Times, 09/30/1908, p. 7, and also in Every Where; an American Magazine of World-Wide Interest, vol. 23, issue 1 (September 1908), p. 173 [available full-text at Google Book Search].
Subjects: Migration North, Military & Veterans, Postal Service
Geographic Region: Kentucky / Washington, D.C.

Snowden, Leanna C. Holland and John B.
Leanna Snowden, born Leanna C. Holland in 1880 in Lexington, KY, was married to John B. Snowden, Jr. (1875-1944), one of the very few African American U.S. mail carriers in Kentucky. John Jr., also born in Lexington, KY, was the son of John Sr. and Ellen Buckner Snowden. He and Leanna were married in 1889. She was a teacher in the Lexington public schools for Negro children and also a community leader. Leanna was president of the Allen C. E. League and was an active member of several organizations connected to the St. Paul A.M.E. Church in Lexington. She was the first president of the City Federation of Women's Clubs in Lexington and the first vice-president of the State Clubs. John and Leanna had a daughter, Leland Weldon Snowden (1900-1921), who attended Kentucky Negro Industrial Institute [now Kentucky State University]. For more see Centennial Encyclopedia of the American Methodist Episcopal Church..., by Richard Allen and others, Philadelphia, PA (1816), at the Documenting the American South website. Birth and death dates for the Snowdens were found in the Kentucky Death Records and the U.S. Federal Census (1900-1930).

See photo image of Leanna C. Snowden on p.211 in the Centennial Encyclopaedia of the African Methodist Episcopal Church by R. R. Wright.
Subjects: Civic Leaders, Kentucky African American Churches, Postal Service, Women's Groups and Organizations, Association of Colored Women's Clubs
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Steward, William H.
Birth Year : 1847
Death Year : 1935
A former slave, William H. Steward was the first African American mailman in Louisville, KY. He was also founder of the American Baptist newspaper. Steward served as the acting president of State University [later Simmons University], 1905-1906. He was born in Brandenburg, KY, and educated in a Louisville school run by Rev. Henry Adams. He taught in Louisville and Frankfort and later worked for the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. Steward was also president of the National Negro Press Association. For more see the Kentucky Encyclopedia 2000; and The Fascinating Story of Black Kentuckians by A. A. Dunnigan.

See photo image of William H. Steward at
Subjects: Education and Educators, Journalists, Newspapers, Magazines, Book Publishers, Music Publishers, Postal Service
Geographic Region: Brandenburg, Meade County, Kentucky / Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / Frankfort, Franklin County, Kentucky

Thompson, Richard W.
Birth Year : 1865
Death Year : 1920
Richard W. Thompson was born in Brandenburg, KY, and moved to Indianapolis, IN, when he was a child. At the age of 15, he was the first African American page with the Indiana Legislature. He was hired by Bagby & Co. at the age of 17 and was later a bookkeeper for the secretary of the Marion County Board of Health. He was a mailman from 1888-1893; Thompson had finished first among a class of 75 persons taking the 1888 Marion County civil service examination. He would later become managing editor of the newspapers Freeman and Indianapolis World. Thompson left Indiana to become a government clerk with the Washington, D.C. Census Bureau, beginning in 1894; he was the first African American at that post. While in D.C., he was the managing editor of the Colored American magazine until 1903, then managed the the National Negro Press Bureau, a news service for African American newspapers. Thompson was an affiliate of Booker T. Washington; Washington subsidized the Press Bureau and influenced African American newspaper editors. In 1920, Richard Thompson died in Washington, D.C. at the Freedmen's Hospital. For more see The Booker T. Washington Papers, vol. 5 (1899-1900), p. 48 [available online by the University of Illinois Press]; Twentieth Century Negro Literature, Or, a Cyclopedia of Thought on the Vital Topics Relating to the American Negro, edited by D. W. Culp [available online from Project Gutenberg]; Slave and Freeman: the autobiography of George L. Knox, by G. L. Knox; and "R. W. Thompson dead," Baltimore Afro-American, 02/20/1920, p.1.

See photo image of Richard W. Thompson from Twentieth Century Negro Literature, at NYPL Digital Gallery.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Accountants, Bookkeepers, Certified Public Accountants, Stenographers, Journalists, Newspapers, Magazines, Book Publishers, Music Publishers, Migration North, Politicians, Politics, Appointments & Elections, Postal Service
Geographic Region: Brandenburg, Meade County, Kentucky / Indianapolis, Indiana / Washington, D.C.

Wilson, James Hembray, Sr. (musician/band director)
Birth Year : 1880
Death Year : 1961
Born in Nicholasville, KY, James Hembray Wilson was a noted band director and musician, he played the cornet. He was a faculty member at Alabama A&M College [now Alabama A & M University] 1903-1904, he took over the school band, succeeding W. C. Handy, the former band director. Wilson left the school to tour with Billy Kersands and the Georgia Minstrels. Wilson returned to the school in 1907 to remain there until his retirement in 1951. He had been a musician in Jacob Litt's 'In Old Kentucky' Company in 1896, bandmaster in Al Martin's Uncle Tom's Cabin from 1897-1899, cornetist in Mahara's Minstrels in 1899, and worked with many other groups. He became the first African American treasurer at Alabama A&M in 1947 and served as the first African American postmaster at the school from 1919-1942. The James Hembray Wilson Building, located on the Alabama A&M campus, houses the James Hembray Wilson State Black Archives Research Center and Museum. James Hembray Wilson was the son of Hester and Jacob Wilson, and the husband of Eveline Wilson. He graduated from high school in Cincinnati, OH, and from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. He died in Normal, Alabama on October 2, 1961 [source: Alabama, Deaths and Burials Index]. For more see Who's Who in Colored America, 1950; "New Acquisitions" on p.3 in the Newsletter of the Yale University Collection of Musical Instruments, Fall 2006, no.29 [online .pdf]; and Alabama A&M Wilson Building under the headline "Why is it named that" by D. Nilsson on p.6 in Pen & Brush, February 2003, vol.43, issue 4 (newsletter of the Huntsville/North Alabama Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication and others).
Subjects: Education and Educators, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Postal Service, Migration South, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers
Geographic Region: Nicholasville, Jessamine County, Kentucky / Huntsville and Normal, Alabama

Young, Laura R.
Birth Year : 1896
Death Year : 1962
Laura Ray Young was born in Lebanon, KY, the daughter of Richard and Ella Ray. She was a teacher at Lincoln Institute, the first African American Post Master in Kentucky and the second one in the U.S. She was the wife of Whitney M. Young, Sr and the mother of Eleanor Young, Arnita Young Boswell, and Whitney Young, Jr. For more see Who's Who in Colored America, 1933-37; and In Black and White. A guide to magazine articles, newspaper articles, and books concerning Black individuals and groups, 3rd ed., edited by M. M. Spradling.
Subjects: Mothers, Postal Service
Geographic Region: Lebanon, Marion County, Kentucky


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