History of the Spirit of King Award

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The life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has served as a tremendous inspiration for millions throughout the world. King’s influence can be witnessed in the “Spirit of King Award Program” established in 1989 by the Kingsley Association, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Port Authority. In recognition of the significance of the life dedicated to the service of others, these organizations built a tradition based on acknowledging Pittsburgh area citizens who, like Dr. King, have advanced the cause of equality.

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BYRD R. BROWN

The Spirit of King Award is given annually in January during a program celebrated at the Kingsley Association. Led by Elmer McClung, the observance began with a simple tree planting in 1986. The Program has grown to include the establishment of the Wilhelmina Byrd Brown Parklet at that location, named for the first honoree. Subsequent honorees have included people from all walks of life representing diverse areas of human endeavor. Some have been well known to many, while others quietly dedicated their lives to helping others. Each shares the dedication of spirit and perseverance through practice to the ideals of freedom.

Since 1993, a committee representing the sponsors, names a new honoree each year, and the Spirit of King Award Plaque is rededicated. The public celebration has grown to be a multigenerational affair involving school children and elders in the community. In addition to paying tribute to the honoree, the “Spirit of King” is represented through song and art.

History of the Spirit of King Award

1986

Tree Planting along Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway

1987

Plaque installed at site of tree

1988

Parklet along Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway named after Wilhelmina Byrd Brown

1989

Spirit of King Award’s First Recipient ­Wilhelmina Byrd Brown

1990

Spirit of King Award’s Second Year Recipient Matthew Moore Sr.

1991

Spirit of King Award’s Third Year Recipient James McCoy Jr.

1992

Spirit of King Award’s Fourth Year Recipient Margaret Milliones

1993

Spirit of King Award’s Fifth Year Recipient Mary Elizabeth Goode Dudley

1994

Spirit of King Award’s Sixth Year Dual Recipients Roberto W. Clemente & Josh ­Gibson

1995

Spirit of King Award’s Seventh Year Recipient Mary Cardwell-­Dawson

1996

Spirit of King Award’s Eighth Year Dual Recipients John M. Brewer Sr. & Robert L. Vann

1997

Spirit of King Award’s Ninth Year Recipient Daisy E. Lampkin

1998

Spirit of King Award’s 10th Year Recipient Oliver Livingstone Johnson

1999

Spirit of King Award’s 11th Year Recipient ­Officer Oliver ­Wendell Mason

2000

Spirit of King Award’s 12th Year Dual Recipients Louis Mason Jr. & Frankie Pace

2001

Spirit of King Award’s 13th Year Dual Recipients Dr. Oswald Jerry ­Nickens & Hazel ­Garland

2002

Spirit of King Award’s 14th Year Dual Recipients Dr. Alma Johnson Illery & Dr. James A. Stewart

2003

Spirit of King Award’s 15th Year Dual Recipients Dr. Selma Hortense Burke & Charles H. Kindle

2004

Spirit of King Award’s 16th Year Dual Recipients Billy Eckstine & George W. Gaines Sr.

2005

Spirit of King Award’s 17th Year Dual Recipients Florence ­Silberstein ­Reizenstein & Rev. Elmer Louis Williams

2006

Spirit of King Award’s 18th Year Dual Recipients Everett Emory Utterback & Dr. ­Eugene Lloyd Youngue Jr.

2007

Spirit of King Award’s 19th Year ­Recipient Robert E. “Pappy” Williams

2008

Spirit of King Award’s 20th Year Dual Recipients Richard F. Jones, Esq. & Mamie H. Lee

2009

Spirit of King Award’s 21st Year Dual Recipients Frank E. Bolden & Charles ­“Teenie” Harris

2010

Spirit of King Award’s 22nd Year Dual Recipients Dr. Jake Milliones & Bishop Charles H. Foggie

2011

Spirit of King Award’s 23rd year Dual Recipients Byrd Brown & Mal Goode

Spirit of King ­Honorees

1989 Honoree Wilhelmina Byrd Brown’s life exemplified the work and ideals of King. She dedicated 50 years of her life to public service work, which included participation on dozens of community boards and organizations, most notably the YWCA, the Community Chest (forerunner of United Way) and the USO (United Service Organization). Through her work as an avid fundraiser for the United Negro College Fund, in her role as Secretary of the Board of Public Assistance, and through the distribution of scholarships from the Barr-Brown fund, she helped many Black individuals obtain a college education so that they could go on to successful careers.

1990 Honoree Matthew Moore Sr. was a civil and human rights activist.

1991 Honoree James C. McCoy Jr was a tireless worker for Human Rights. He was a leader in the United Steel Workers of America, The Pittsburgh Chapter of the NAACP and the Co-Founder and leader of the United Negro Protest Committee, one of the most important elements in the Pittsburgh Civil Rights Movement. McCoy was also a founder of Freedom House Ambulance Services, the first such service in the African-American community, and was the predecessor to the City of Pittsburgh Ambulance Service, which grew out of Freedom House Ambulance Service.

1992 Honoree Margaret L. Dobbins Milliones’ struggle for equal rights began in the early 1960s. She was active in civil rights struggles with the late Dr. King and she believed in his non-violent approach. Milliones actively struggled for rights for the poor, for the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project, and she conducted voter registration drives in Georgia and Mississippi.

1993 Honoree Mary Elizabeth Goode Dudley was educated in the Homestead public schools and attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. She attended the SiMann School of Radio Announcers in Pittsburgh and graduated with high honors. She began broadcasting from radio station WHOD in August of 1948, becoming the first Black woman radio announcer in western Pennsylvania. Her first program, “Moving Around with Mary Dee,” aired for four hours a day, Monday through Saturday. Her program was maintained on the air at station WHOD and won the Pittsburgh Courier Radio Pool in 1952. In 1956, Mary Dee left Pittsburgh and went to Baltimore to work at station WSID.

1994 Honoree Roberto W. Clemente for 18 years starred in the Pirates outfield, becoming one of the greatest players in baseball history.

1994 Honoree Josh Gibson, the legendary Negro Leagues baseball great, won home run crowns and his first batting title in 1938 with a magnificent .440 average. Credited with 962 home runs against all levels of competition in his 17-year career, he compiled a .379 lifetime batting average in the Negro Leagues.

1995 Honoree Mary Cardwell Dawson is best remembered as a musician, impresario, teacher and conductor. In 1926, she founded the interracial Cardwell School of Music in Homewood. She created the National Negro Opera Co.

1996 Honoree John M. Brewer Sr. became the first Black principal of a Pittsburgh Public School following his appointment at Miller Elementary. He received presidential elections for his developments of “team teaching” for more than 30 years.

1996 Honoree Robert L. Vann founded the Pittsburgh Courier in 1910 and built it into the largest Black newspaper in the country. The Courier became a platform from which Black leaders could speak out for equality, not only in Pittsburgh but throughout the country.

1997 Honoree Daisy E. Lampkin was one of the foremost fighters for civil rights, serving as vice-president of the Pittsburgh Courier from 1929-1965, and as field secretary for NAACP from 1939-1948.

1998 Honoree Oliver Livingstone Johnson was appointed the first African-American prosecuting attorney in the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office.

1999 Honoree Oliver Wendell Mason was among the first African-Americans to be hired by the Pittsburgh Police Department.

2000 Honoree Louis Mason Jr. became a prominent civil rights proponent following a study he conducted, reporting on the use of non-white personnel by industries holding federal defense contracts in 25 cities. His findings helped shape the way corporations function today.

2000 Honoree Frankie Pace became a distinguished civic leader in her Hill District community. She worked hard to improve housing conditions and government programs for the poor.

2001 Dr. Oswald ­Nickens was honored as the first Black physician to join the staff at Magee Women’s hospital and West Penn. Nickens was one of the founders of the New World Bank, the first African-American owned bank in Pittsburgh.

2001 Honoree Hazel Barbara Garland worked for the Pittsburgh Courier as the women’s editor and entertainment editor for 45 years. She was named city editor by new owner John Sengstacke during the early 1970s and was later promoted to editor-in-chief of the New Pittsburgh Courier, the first Black woman to achieve this status at a nationally circulated newspaper.

2002 Honoree Dr. Alma Johnson Illery and six friends raised enough money to buy a bolt of unbleached muslin and made hospital sheets for the patients. Years later, the six friends founded the Achievement Club.

2002 Honoree Dr. James A. Stewart and a group of young neighborhood activists received a grant from the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare to start their own Neighborhood Health Center. They founded the Alma Illery Neighborhood Health Center and it became the first in a series of community-based clinics of its kind.

2003 Honoree Charles H. Kindle is believed to have chaired the first African-Affairs Committee of any NAACP branch in the country. Among his many crusades was the opposition against the formation of a South African consulate in Pittsburgh.

2003 Honoree Selma Hortense Burke, Ph.D., became one of the best-known contemporary artists. She earned numerous awards including: A Rosenwald Foundation Fellowship and the Boehler Foundation Fellowship Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Visual Arts in 1936.

2004 Honoree Billy Eckstine moved to Chicago and joined the Earl “Fatha” Hines band. With the Hines band, he became an accomplished trumpeter and trombonist, and was responsible for discovering a number of talented young jazz performers by the names of Wardell Gray, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Sara Vaughan. He will always be remembered as perhaps the first African-American artist ever to achieve lasting success in pop music.

2004 Honoree George W. Gaines Sr.’s business became the largest in the area, primarily due to his creative and innovative thinking. He helped streamline funeral services for the family of the deceased and the church, produced many legal forms still used today by funeral directors for Social Security purposes, and worked diligently to open the first school of Mortuary Science in Pittsburgh.

2005 Honoree Florence Silberstein Reizenstein established numerous organizations designed to advance human rights and community betterment. She founded and served as vice president of the Negro Educational Emergency Drive, a non-profit organization first organized to provide financial assistance for Black high school students wishing to begin or continue their post-secondary education.

2005 Honoree Rev. Elmer Louis Williams. served as executive director of Pittsburgh Opportunities Industrialization Centers Inc. and as a member of the School Board.

2006 Honoree Everett Emory Utterback became the first African-American to captain a varsity team at the University of Pittsburgh. He was later inducted into the Western Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. He was the first African-American selected for Pitt’s Lettermen of Distinction Honor in 1964 and the first African-American to sit on the University of Pittsburgh’s Board of Trustees.

2006 Honoree Dr. Eugene Lloyd Youngue Jr. belonged to numerous professional organizations including the Gateway Medical Society, Chi Delta Mu Medical Society, the National Medical Association and the Black Faculty and advisory board of the Minority Health Center at the University of Pittsburgh. He also served as medical director of the Homewood-Brushton Health Center and the EI Elegba Drug Center.

2007 Honoree Richard E. “Pappy” Williams was an active and involved citizen in his community. He served in the following organizations: Centre Avenue YMCA, NAACP, Frontiers of America, North Side Elks Lodge, Shriners, 32nd Degree Mason, Hill City and the Loendi Club. In addition to volunteering, “Pappy” served his community in other ways. For one, he was a powerful political leader for more than three decades (1931-1964).

2008 Honoree Richard F. Jones, Esq., participated in three major events in history: Hiring African-American teachers in the Pittsburgh Public Schools (1936-1937), hiring African-American workers in defense industries and government following WWII, and the opening of Highland Park Pool to all people of the community (1951-1953).

2008 Honoree Mamie H. Lee was deeply affected by a prison uprising in Attica, NY. She set out to make sure that a similar event would not occur in Pittsburgh and began a prison reform movement called Vibrations, which led to a national movement.

2009 Honoree Frank E. Bolden worked as a feature writer, columnist, copy desk editor, war correspondent and later City Editor. He remained with the Courier for more than 27 years. With the onset of WWII in 1939, Bolden was one of only two accredited Black correspondents assigned to cover the war.

2009 Honoree Charles “Teenie” Harris, disturbed by the negative manner in which Blacks were depicted in Hollywood movies and by the mainstream media, used his position with the Courier to spotlight the many positive aspects of the Black community. These positive aspects became the inspiration for many of his finest and most remembered photos.

2010 Honoree Bishop Charles H. Foggie was consecrated Bishop in the AMEZ Church and was assigned to three Episcopal Districts world-wide.

2010 Honoree Jake Milliones, Ph.D., filled the vacant seat on the school board left by the death of his wife, Margaret. He went on to become the Board’s first African-American president in 1983. He later won a city council seat.

2011 Honoree Attorney and activist Byrd Brown graduated from Schenley High School and Yale University, and after two years in the Army came back to Pittsburgh, where he practice law and became a leader in the fight against injustice and discrimination, spending countless hours to use his skill of law in the fight. He became the president of the Pittsburgh NAACP in 1958. One of his major accomplishments was the breaking down the injustices and discrimination that existed in corporations, agencies and trade unions.

2011 Honoree Mal Goode, after graduating from Pitt in 1931, had several important positions, but his true calling came in 1948 when his passion for communication and telling people’s stories became his career, led him to become a reporter for the Pittsburgh Courier. He later moved to KQV radio and in 1962 to ABC-TV news to become the first African-American news correspondent to be hired by a major network. He covered all the major news of that time including the Cuban Missile Crisis, thus opening the doors for Blacks who followed him.

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