From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Grace, Leonard [and Ridgewood at Louisville and Jefferson County Children's Home]

(born: 1916  -  died: 1941) 

The name Leonard Grace would probably have never been mentioned in the newspapers had he not died at a young age during a boxing match that resulted in his opponent being charged with manslaughter. In Kentucky, it was one of the first times that a boxer received the charge of manslaughter for an opponent's death in the boxing ring. Leonard Grace was a lightweight boxer between the ages of 19-25; his exact age is unknown because Leonard Grace had been a ward of the state and his age changed based on who was answering the question.

It was not too long after his eighteenth birthday, and a very brief professional boxing career, that Leonard Grace died on November 3, 1941 [source: Kentucky Certificate of Death Registrar's No.4804, the last name is misspelled "Gracen"]. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Louisville, KY. His death was due to a subdural hemorrhage pulmonary edema, the result of injuries received during a bout with lightweight boxer Tommy Parker [BoxRec] from Lexington, KY. Leonard Grace went down in the ring at Columbia Gymnasium, his managers could not revive him, and he was pronounced dead on arrival at the City Hospital in Louisville, KY. Tommy Parker was initially charged with manslaughter, but Leonard Grace's death was ruled an accident by a coroner's jury. 

According to Leonard Grace's incomplete boxing record at the BoxRec website, Leonard Grace had had very few fights, one of which he lost to Johnny Allen [BoxRec] in November of 1938, the fight was scored a KO (knockout). That fight had also taken place at the Columbia Gymnasium in Louisville, KY.

Little is known about Leonard Grace's personal life. He is listed in the 1930 U.S. Federal Census as a 14 year old ward of the Louisville and Jefferson County Children's Home. It is noted that he and his parents were born in Kentucky. The Louisville and Jefferson County Children's Home was a residential institution for dependent and delinquent children [source: "Ormsby Village-Ridgewood" by D. Morgan in The Encyclopedia of Louisville, editor J. E. Kleber, pp.678-679]. Children were placed in the home due to "neglect, ill treatment, delinquency, and undesirable home conditions," they became wards of the state [source: The WPA Guide to Kentucky by the Federal Writers' Project of the Work Projects Administration for the State of Kentucky, pp.349-350].

While at the home, Leonard Grace was a resident in the Ridgewood facility that housed the colored children; the building was located in Lyndon on LaGrange Road. In 1930, Lee B. Jett, Sr. was the superintendent of the home's colored facility, and he supervised 2 teachers, 2 employees, 3 matrons, maid Harriett Benny, and chef Fanny Arnold, all of whom cared for 105 wards and the superintendent's 2 children [source: 1930 U.S. Federal Census]. It is not known how long Leonard Grace was a ward of the Louisville and Jefferson County Children's Home. His parents' names are not known at this time. In 1930, there were 7 other African Americans in Louisville with the last name Grace, and they may or may not have been related. Havng been placed in the Children's Home, it was probably there that Leonard Grace was introduced to boxing, a sport for boys in many orphanages and homes for cildren. 

In 1940, Leonard Grace lived with John Gordon and Reachel Young, both from Tennessee [source: U.S. Federal Census]; all three lived on Magazine Street in Louisville. John Gordon worked with the WPA as a laborer building streets. The following year, Leonard Grace died. On Leonard Grace's death certificate, John Gordon was the informant and he wrote "unknown" in the space for parents. In 1941, as written on the death certificate, John Gordon and Leonard Grace both lived at 1415 S. Third Street in Louisville. Prior to his death, in 1939 Leonard Grace had been employed as a porter for the Taystee Bread Co. located at 1222 W. Liberty Street [source: p.668 in Caron's Louisville (Kentucky) City Directory 1939]. 

At the time of his death in 1941, Leonard Grace was said to be 20 years old on his death certificate; 21 years old according to the newspaper article announcing his death; 25 years old according to the 1930 U.S. Federal Census; and 19 years old according to the 1940 U.S. Federal Census.

For the announcement of Leonard Grace's death, see the last paragraph in the column "It Happened in Kentucky," Kentucky New Era, 11/04/1941, p.4; and the coroner's ruling in "Hit him too hard," Kentucky New Era, 11/18/1941, p.4. For a broader history of boxers who died in the ring, and additional sources, see "Boxing-related deaths" within chapter 2-Data Analysis in the title The Regulation of Boxing by R. G. Rogriguez.  

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Jefferson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Louisville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Grace, Leonard [and Ridgewood at Louisville and Jefferson County Children's Home],” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed April 19, 2024,

Last modified: 2022-02-03 23:32:41