Thursday, July 19, 2001

Civil rights pioneers enter hall of fame




By Lori Burling
The Associated Pres

        LOUISVILLE — In 1958, Frank O. Moxley became the first black person to graduate with a master's degree from Western Kentucky University. Wednesday, the Bowling Green resident was inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame.

        “I've always been an active man,” he said following the induction in Louisville. “I think anybody can do what I've done if they want to. It's about what's right.”

[photo] Inductee Frank O. Moxley was the first black person to earn a master's from Western Kentucky University.
(Associated Press photo)
| ZOOM |
        Mr. Moxley, 92, established the first Negro Athletic League in the state and helped establish Cumberland Trace Legal Services Inc., a nonprofit corporation that provides legal counseling to low-income people. He implemented the first guidance counselor program for Kentucky public schools and became the state's first guidance counselor.

        “For so many years he has just faded to the background,” said Gwendolyn Downs, a friend who attended the ceremony. “This is just wonderful, he has done so much to help everyone, not just African-Americans.”

        Sixteen people were inducted Wednesday. The honor was established last year by the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights as it celebrated its 40th anniversary.

        Residents throughout the state were called upon to nominate a civil rights leader in their community.

        Abby Marlatt, 84, of Lexington, was one of the activists chosen for the Hall of Fame.

        “I'm very pleased and flattered,” said Ms. Marlatt, who helped form the Lexington chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality. “It's nice because this recognizes that the civil rights movement was active in Lexington as well as across the state.”

        Nine people were inducted posthumously.

        Karen Bell of Indianapolis accepted the award for her grandfather, Ira Bell of Monticello, who died in 1982. Mr. Bell was superintendent of the Wayne County School System for 38 years. He implemented one of the first integrated schools.

        Paul Oberst of Lexington, a former law professor, was chosen for his support of the University of Kentucky Law School as it was integrated.

        “Pop's not in the best of shape, but he was delighted to hear about this honor,” said his son, James Oberst. Mr. Oberst accepted the award for his father, who has Alzheimer's disease.

16 named to Civil Rights Hall

       



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