Courier honors three legendary activists

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Adding a new component to their yearly list of 50 Men of Excellence, the New Pittsburgh Courier will honor three local legends. Receiving the 2010 Legacy Awards are Wendell Free­land, Robert Lavelle, post­­humously and Robert Pitts.

freeland
ROBERT LAVELLE, WENDELL FREELAND and ROBERT PITTS

Through more than 50 years as a civil rights attorney and leader in the Urban League, Freeland pressed the city schools on issues of hiring and achievement in the 1950s and was a lead attorney in the desegregation of Highland Park Pool. He is also well known for his time in the service as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American pilots who fought in World War II.

“Mr. Freeland is one of the smartest people I know and he is one of the most passionate people I know who stands up for justice for Black folks. Although he has achieved personal success he never tires at pushing justice for others,” said former honoree Robert Hill, vice chancellor for public affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. “During the Pittsburgh riots in the wake of the death of MLK he played an important role in getting those who were arrested out of jail from the Hill District. He also led the fight for equality for our Black military officers by forcing the integration of officer’s clubs And got arrested for doing so. It was pretty courageous because soldiers don’t protest let alone officers. You just don’t do that.”

As a Realtor and banker, Lavelle increased home ownership in the Hill District by 30 percent. He was also a leader in the NAACP and his church as well as the co-founder of the Citizens Committee for Hill District Renewal during the 1950s.

“Robert Lavelle was one of the great men of our time. He almost singlehandedly broke up the Jim Crow policies of the realty system through which Blacks were blocked out of buying homes. In addition, he was a real humanitarian who saved Dwelling House Savings from going under for about 50 years and he was an important force for God at Grace Memorial Presbyterian,” Hill said. “He was a great American and a fierce champion of freedom and equality. This community, indeed the nation, owes him a lot and our comfort in not having him immediately with us is he has surely gone to a better place.”

This year’s 50 Men of Excellence event will also recognize District 6 City Councilman Daniel Lavelle who is being honored on the same list as his grandfather, Robert Lavelle.

“It’s certainly an honor to be recognized for the work that you do. I was both surprised and proud,” Lavelle said. “As it relates to my grandfather, I know he would certainly also be proud to be acknowledged. One of his ongoing accomplishments was working with many African-Americans to acquire their first homes. He really did help build a population of African-Americans that would not otherwise have homes. I don’t feel he would see it as an award acknowledging just himself but also an award acknowledging what he believes in.”

In 1989 Pitts became the first African-American mayor in western Pennsylvania when he was elected to lead Wilkinsburg. He was active in the NAACP during the 1970s as he helped lead the fight to get Blacks jobs at the Volkswagen plant in New Stanton during the ’70s as well as making sure Blacks were part of the ownership of the first cable company in Pittsburgh. As the head of the then-powerful Labor and Industry Committee of the NAACP, he served as a chief negotiator in civil rights and employment issues. He also served as director of the Black Catholic Ministries, with the Catholic Diocese.

“Each one of them were personal mentors and heroes of mine,” said George Miles. “Wendell has been a personal mentor for the past 25 years I’ve known him. He introduced me to a lot of people in Pittsburgh. Bob Pitts, I’ve known from working with KDKA and him and me have done a lot of things together. And Mr. Lavelle was a good example of using his spirituality to make a difference.”

This year’s event will be held Sept. 30 in the West Club Lounge in Heinz Field at 6p.m. Tickets are $75.

Sponsorship and Advertising Opportunities are still available Call Stephan Broadus 412-481-8302 ext. 129 for rates and more information. To purchase tickets call Judi Owen or Bernadette West at 412-781-3486 or e-mail savethedate_pgh@yahoo.com

2010 Honorees

Robert Lavelle (Posthumously)

Robert Pitts

Wendell Freeland,  Esq.

Curtis Aiken – President, CEO and Founder, ProTech Compliance, Inc.

Kevin Amos – Radio personality and community activist

James J. Barnes, Esq. – Partner, Reed Smith

John Bettis – Senior Vice President of Special Projects, Urban Lending Solutions

T. Rashad Byrdsong – Founder and Executive Director, Community Empowerment Association

Kevin W. Cameron – Vice President, Enterprise Vendor Management, The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. and President, National Black MBA Association– Pittsburgh Chapter

Andrew Cheeseboro – Executive Director, Small Seeds Development, Inc.

John Clark – Founder and Principal, john j. CLARK & ASSOCIATES

Ryan Clark – Pittsburgh Steelers safety and community volunteer

Robin Cole – Former Pittsburgh Steelers Linebacker and Founder, Obediah Cole Foundation for Prostate Cancer

Clarence Curry – Senior Diversity Coordinator, Sports & Exhibition Authority

Eric Dickerson – Owner, Eric Dickerson Associates, LLC

Thomas Wesley Douglas – Artistic Director, Bach Choir of Pittsburgh; Faculty of the School of Drama and the School of Music, Carnegie Mellon University

Darnell Drewery – Vice President, The Darkins Group, Shyne Awards

Steven Evans M.D. – General Surgeon – UPMC Shadyside Hospital

Carlo Anton Fontenot – Senior Product Representative – Bayer MaterialScience

Edward Gainey – Coordinator of Economic Development, Office of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl; Chairman, Pittsburgh Democratic City Committee

Louis M. Gomez – Professor, School Of Education – University Of Pittsburgh

Harold Hayes – Reporter, KDKA – TV

Terrance Hayes –Professor of Creative Writing, Carnegie Mellon University

Neddie C. Hollis MSW, LCSW – Executive Director, Sickle Cell Society, Inc. – Murray-Irvis Genetic Disease Center

Sheldon Ingram – Reporter, WTAE-TV

Reed D. Kimbrough – Manager of Corporate Diversity Programs and Training for United States Steel Corporation

Elie Kihonia – President and CEO, Afrika Yetu

Robert Kindred – Manager, Corporate Tax, Giant Eagle

R. Daniel Lavelle – Councilman, city of Pittsburgh, District 6

Rev. Loran Mann – Founder and Pastor, Pentecostal Temple Church of God in Christ, WGBN Radio

Alex Matthews – Community Specialist, Highmark

Dwight Mayo – Owner, Transportation Solutions Inc.

A. Fulton Meachem, Jr. – Executive Director, Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh

Max Miller – Director, University of Pittsburgh Law School Innovative Practice Institute; managing director, Raise Your Spirits, LLC

Thomas A.
Motley – Retired – Past Pole- march, Pittsburgh Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Community Volunteer

Tony Norman – Associate Editor, Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Leon D. Pamphile PhD – Pastor, Founder and Executive Director, Functional Literacy Ministry of Haiti (FLM)

Darren K. Parr, Esq. -Shareholder- Goldberg, Persky and White, P.C Alan Perry – Founder and President –

Perry Insurance Group

James L. Rice, President, Rice Enterprises, LLC, owns 16 McDonalds franchises

Victor A. Roque – President and CEO, Hill House Association

William T. “Jack” Simmons – Director, Shuman Juvenile Detention Center

Winston Simmonds – Rail Operations/Engineering Officer at Port Authority of Allegheny County

Terry Smith – Athletic Director and head football coach – Gateway High School

Lynn Swann – Former Steelers Hall of Fame wide receiver, sportscaster, and politician

John Tate – Founder and Executive Director – Pittsburgh Power Basketball Club

Frank L. Torbert Jr. – President, FLT Trading, Inc.; treasurer, board member, National Council of Minorities in Energy

John M. Wallace Jr. PhD – Associate Professor, School of Social Work, University Of Pittsburgh

Louis E. Waller III – President, Waller Corporation, General Contractors

Rob Wilson–Vice President and Financial Advisor, Blazer

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