Each February, Black History Month pays tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity, equality and inclusion to achieve greatness in our society. This month we recognize and celebrate African American leaders from our communities who served the people as civil rights leaders, and in the fields of medicine, law, and athletics. Today, we recognize and celebrate the following:
Dorothy Bacon is considered among Springfield’s most important civil right activists whose efforts helped change the racial landscape of Springfield.
Bacon was born in 1912 on a farm outside of Springfield. When Dorothy was just an infant, her family moved to West Grand Avenue. In the late 1920’s, she married Jerome Bacon. Following the depression, when the Bacons moved to Columbus to find work, Dorothy and Jerry moved back to Springfield and Dorothy got involved in the emerging movement for civil rights. Dorothy began to fight the segregation and injustice she saw in her community and became secretary of the NAACP, and Democratic committee woman in her precinct. She fought for the desegregation of schools and helped Perrin Woods Elementary become the first desegregated school in Springfield.
Dr. Thomas W. Burton was the first African American physician in Springfield, Ohio, the first to open a drugstore and the first to operate a successful African American newspaper.
Burton, the youngest of 15 children, was born a slave on May 4, 1860, in Madison County, Kentucky. His mother, Eliza, taught him the alphabet, and that was the extent of his formal education until he was 21.
Burton worked to pay his way through school and at thirty-two, after earning his M.D., he began practicing medicine in Springfield. The next year, he was commissioned as Assistant Surgeon of the Ninth Battalion Infantry, Ohio National Guard.
Dr. Thomas W. Burton died on March 23, 1939, at age 78.
Sully Jaymes was Springfield’s first African American lawyer, opening his practice in 1903. He was one of Springfield’s most tireless activists for equal rights. Jaymes represented primarily black clients, including Richard Dixon, the lynching victim of the 1904 riot, and other African-Americans indicted in the race riots of 1906 and 1921.
Jaymes offered his services free of charge if clients were unable to pay. His commitment to securing equal rights under the law for African Americans taking precedence over being paid for his work.
Lawrence is known as one of Springfield’s baseball greats. Attending Keifer Jr. High and Springfield South, he excelled in sports including track, basketball and football in addition to baseball. During WWII, he served in the Army and was awarded the Bronze Star. He enrolled at Miami University in 1947 and played on their baseball team. After several years in the minor leagues, he was called up to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1954 and was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in 1955 where he was selected to the National League All Star team and was the Reds’ top pitcher.
After retiring from baseball, Brooks worked at International Harvester for 10 years. He then worked for the Cincinnati Reds’ front office, being the first minority to handle scouting, minor league player development, radio and television work and season ticket sales.
Davey Moore made his professional debut in the boxing world at age 20, winning 22 of his first 27 fights. In 1952, prior to his turning pro, he was selected to the US Olympic team in Helsinki, Finland. His professional boxing career took him to France, Spain, Italy, Venezuela and other countries.
In 1957 he became the World Featherweight Champion, defeating Hogan Kid Bassey in a 13th round knockout. He held this title until his death on March 25, 1963. In a televised title match against Sugar Ramos in Los Angeles on March 21, he collapsed in the 10th round. He went into a coma and died a few days later.
His unexpected death shocked the world and Bob Dylan wrote a song in his honor, “Who Killed Davey Moore?”
Thousands of mourners attended Moore’s funeral in Springfield.
We are grateful for the contributions made by these and all African American citizens of Springfield, Ohio. We celebrate you this Black History Month.