By Marla Hurston
Cincinnati Office of Human Relations
On Oct. 12, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC), along with sponsors Wright State University, Honda and PNC, hosted the 14th annual Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame induction ceremony in the Ohio Statehouse Atrium in Columbus at 10 am. to honor eight exceptional inductees.
The annual Ohio Civil Rights Commission’s Civil Rights Hall of Fame seeks to acknowledge those Ohioans who are recognized as pioneers in human and civil rights who have furthered the goals of civil rights laws. The inductees are further recognized for having made significant civic, social or business activities or contributions in support of Civil Rights, cultural awareness and understanding, and a more tolerant society. Inductees are individuals who:
- Have shown or show exemplary leadership and service in the area of Civil Rights in Ohio.
- Have advocated or advocate for Civil Rights through actions and deeds in Ohio; and,
- Have served or serve as role models and beacons in Civil Rights to eliminate barriers to equal opportunity in Ohio.
There are two honorees with roots in Cincinnati. They are:
- Rev. Dr. Lavaughn Venchael Booth (1919-2002). Founded Progressive National Baptist Convention (PNBC) which supported Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight for freedom and provided him with a denominational home. PNBC started with 33 members and now holds over 2.5 million around the globe. He was Pastor of Zion Baptist Church Cincinnati for 32 years.
The late Civil Rights trailblazer and pastor, Dr. L. Venchael Booth Sr. is distinguished on the local, national and international levels. He had a passion for uplifting humanity, and he channeled his energies toward that end through founding the Progressive National Baptist Convention, the establishment of the Marva Collins Preparatory School in Cincinnati, the initiation of the Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast, the launching of the Martin Luther King Jr. Sunday, the development of the Avondale Town Center, the formation of the Hamilton County State Bank, the leadership of the Cincinnati Opportunities Industrialization Center and PAED, and the chairing of the 1953 Political Campaign returning Theodore M. Berry to Cincinnati City Council after six years of disenfranchisement leading to his becoming the first African American Mayor of the City. He is also the founding member of the Board of Directors of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Non-Violent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia.
Before coming to Cincinnati to Pastor Zion Baptist Church, Dr. Booth pastored at the first Baptist Church of Warrenton, Virginia, a congregation in Macomb, Illinois, and the first Baptist Church of Gary, Indiana. In 1952, he emerged on the scene in the Queen City to lead the Zion Baptist Church (Avondale). In late 1984, he became the founder and pastor of Olivet Baptist Church (13 years) located in Silverton, Ohio. In 2002, Reverend Booth assumed the helm as undershepherd at the Church Upon the Rock in Anderson, Indiana, on his 82nd birthday and pastored until his death.
He offered his considerable gifts in service as the first African-American member of the Board of Trustees, University of Cincinnati for 21 years and as a Trustee of Central State University. Reverend Booth was a founding panel member of the TV Dialogue of National Conference of Community and Justice, a Vice President of the Baptist World Alliance 1970-1975, a Special Secretary of the American Bible Society, a member of the Board of Directors of Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Non-Violent Social Change, Atlanta, the first Executive Secretary of a national Baptist body, and later ascended to the presidency of the Progressive National Baptist Convention Inc.
Reverend Booth served his community in other ways too, including working with the Mayor’s Friendly Relations Committee, the NAACP, the Protestant Scout Committee and the YMCA. He was the first African American on that board of the University of Cincinnati.
- Joseph Robinson Patterson (1918-1996). Community activist for the City of Cincinnati. Key leader in establishing the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N.A.A.C.P.) and Congress of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E.) in Northern Kentucky part of the Greater Cincinnati Metropolitan area. Executive Vice President of Political Action Programming Assembly. One of nine Black students in a lawsuit against universities not allowing Black students to enroll led to federal court ruling forcing universities to admit Blacks (1949).
It was obvious to many that education was one of Patterson’s highest held regards. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and Economics after studies at Alabama State and Kentucky State College, both Black colleges, but had to overcome an obstacle for his graduate study. After starting his graduate work at UK, he received a Master of Education Degree from Xavier University in 1966. He was an educator for 32 years. He earned a certificate in “Institute Training in Social Work” from The Ohio State University in 1967. Patterson also completed a specialized course of instruction in “State EEO Compliance Procedures” in 1982.
He devoted much of his life to creating opportunities for the education of others, especially his children. He wrote the curriculum for the University of Cincinnati (UC) course, “Psychology of Prejudice” which is still in use at UC today.
A native of Lancaster, Kentucky, Patterson was an early advocate for racial equality and longtime community activist. He was familiar with “Days Law” which prohibited Black people from attending school with Whites. He and nine other Black students were part of a lawsuit against the University of Kentucky that lead to a June 1949 federal court order forcing the university to admit Blacks.
He was also a leader in the establishment of chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in Northern Kentucky.
Upon moving to Cincinnati, Patterson worked as a probation officer at Hamilton County Juvenile Court. He was presented with the Martin Luther King Award from the Ohio Senate. Additionally, he received citations from the Ohio House of Representatives and the Greater Cincinnati Small Business Coalition. Patterson also twice received the Man of the Year Award from the Political Action Programming Assembly and was given the Humanitarian Award by Sharei Karate Associations. He was also a Kentucky colonel.
Additional inductees include:
- Sundance (Oberlin, Ohio) First Native-American inductee. Activist and educator. Director of Cleveland American Indian Movement. Spearheaded the movement to change the use of Native-American imagery as sports mascots and team names. He is Muskogee of Turtle Clan.
- Veronica Isabel Dahlberg (Ashtabula, Ohio). Founder and Executive Director of HOLA Ohio, she has worked for over 25 years as an advocate for Latinos, immigrants, and farmworkers, in Ohio, most recently establishing a new Hispanic Community Center in Painesville, which opened May of 2022; Former Commissioner of Hispanic/Latino Affairs; Elected to serve as co-chair of the Affiliate Council for UnidosUS, the largest Hispanic Civil Rights organization in the country.
- Charity Adams Earley (1918-2002). Paved the way for Black women in the military. Commander of the Army’s First African American female regiment. First Black officer in the Women’s Auxiliary Corps (WAC). Promoted to Lt. Colonel, which was the highest rank for a soldier in the WAC. US Army renamed Fort Gregg-Adams after two pioneering Black military officers; Co-founder of Parity Inc.; Vice Chair Sinclair College; Chair of the Housing Authority in Dayton.
- Penelope “Penny” Wells (Youngstown, Ohio) Activist; Teacher; Organizer and Director of Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past, Currently serves as a member of Mahoning Valley Historical Society; Co-chair (acting chair) of the Youngstown City Schools Equity Committee; Member of Lit Youngstown Board; Co-convener of the MLK Jr. Planning Committee in Youngstown; Member of the YWCA Anti-Racism Day Committee; Member of the Education Committee of League of Women Voters of Greater Youngstown, studying charter schools and their effect on Youngstown public schools.
- Margaret “Peg” Rosenfield (1931-2022) Activist. Joined the League of Women Voters grassroots organization in 1966; Director of Election Programs for the Secretary of the State of Ohio; Her publications included the “1978 Fall-off Examined in Ohio” article published in the Federal Elections Commission Journal of Election Administration.
- Lt. Colonel Harold H. Brown, Ph.D. (1924-2023). Tuskegee Airman known as the Red-Tailed Angels in World War II; Prisoner of War; College Vice President; and co-author of “Keep Your Airspeed Up:” The Story of a Tuskegee Airman.
The program consisted of a formal ceremony. Bishop Timothy Clarke provided the keynote address. Singer Jessica Lorraine and the Ohio State School for the Blind Marching Band performed.
The ceremony was photographed and video recorded.