Today in Black History, 12/20/2013 - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 12/20/2013

• December 20, 1949 Cecil Celester Cooper, professional baseball player and manager, was born in Brenham, Texas. Cooper was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 1968 draft and made his major league debut in 1972. Over his 17 season playing career, Cooper was a five-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glove winner, and three-time Silver Slugger Award winner. In 1983, he was selected for the Roberto Clemente Award which is given to “the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” Cooper retired as a player in 1987 and began working in various capacities for the Milwaukee Brewers. In August, 2007 he was named manager of the Houston Astros, the first African American manager in the team’s history, a position he held until September, 2009.

• December 20, 1968 George Edward Chalmer Hayes, lawyer, died. Hayes was born July 1, 1894 in Richmond, Virginia. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Brown University in 1915 and his law degree from Howard University School of Law in 1918. While at Howard, he attained one of the highest academic averages on record there. As a member of the District of Columbia Board of Education from 1945 to 1949, Hayes worked to desegregate the public schools in the capitol. He was the lead attorney in the 1954 Supreme Court case, Bolling v. Sharpe, in which the court decided that the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment implicitly forbade most racial discrimination by the federal government. In 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower appointed Hayes to the District of Columbia Public Utilities Commission, the first African American to serve on the commission. In 1962, the District of Columbia Bar Association named him to its Board of Directors, making him the first African American to hold office in that organization.

• December 20, 1988 Max Robinson, broadcast journalist, died. Robinson was born May 1, 1939 in Richmond, Virginia. He attended several colleges and briefly served in the United States Air Force before receiving a medical discharge. Robinson began his television career in 1959 in Portsmouth, Virginia where he had to read the news while hidden behind a slide of the station logo to conceal his race. One night, Robinson had the slide removed and he was fired the next day. In 1969, Robinson joined the “Eyewitness News” team in Washington, D.C., becoming the first Black television anchor in D.C. From 1978 to 1983, Robinson was the Chicago based co-anchor of “ABC World News.” Robinson was a founder of the National Association of Black Journalist in 1975.

• December 20, 1995 Madge Dorita Walters Sinclair, actress, died. Sinclair was born April 28, 1938 in Kingston, Jamaica. She was a teacher in Jamaica until 1968 when she moved to New York City to pursue an acting career. In 1977, she appeared in the television mini-series “Roots,” a role which earned her an Emmy nomination for Best Actress in a Drama. From 1979 to 1986, she appeared in the series “Trapper John, M. D.” and earned three Emmy nominations for her work on that show. In 1988, she appeared in the film “Coming to America” and in 1990 was a regular in the television series “Gabriel’s Fire,” for which she won the 1991 Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Dramatic Series. A businesswoman also, Sinclair was an art dealer, chairwoman of clothing manufacturer Madge Sinclair, Inc., and the owner of an income tax service.

• December 20, 2001 Leopold Sedar Senghor, poet and the first President of the Republic of Senegal, died. Senghor was born October 9, 1906 in Joal, Senegal. His father was a successful businessman which allowed Senghor to attend the best schools in Senegal and earn a scholarship to study in France where he graduated from the University of Paris. After graduation, he taught at the Universities of Tours and Paris. During this time, he and other African intellectuals conceived the idea of “negritude” in response to the racism in France. It was meant as a celebration of African culture and character. In 1939, Senghor enlisted as a French army officer and the following year was taken prisoner by the Germans and spent two years in different prison camps. After the war ended in 1945, Senghor took the position of dean of the linguistics department at the Ecole Natioanale de la France d’Outre-Mer, a position he held until 1960. The Republic of Senegal gained its independence from France June 20, 1960 and Senghor was elected the first president, a position he held until his resignation in 1980. In 1964, Senghor published the first volume of a series of five titled “Liberte” which contained speeches and essays. The fifth volume was published in 1993. Other works by Senghor include “Songs for Naeett” (1949), “Ethiopiques” (1956), and “Nocturnes” (1961). In 1983, he was elected a member of l’Academie francaise, the first African to sit at the Academie. In 1996, the airport in Dakar was renamed Aeroport International Leopold Senghor.

• December 20, 2010 Roderick L. Ireland was sworn in as the first African American Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Ireland was born December 3, 1944 in Springfield, Massachusetts. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1966 from Lincoln University, his Juris Doctorate degree in 1969 from Columbia Law School, his Master of Laws degree in 1975 from Harvard Law School, and his Doctor of Philosophy in Law, Policy, and Society in 1998 from Northeastern University. He served as the chief attorney, deputy director, and executive director of the Roxbury Defenders Committee from 1971 to 1974. Ireland served on the Boston Juvenile Court from 1977 to 1990 and the Massachusetts Court of Appeals from 1990 to 1997. He was appointed associate justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 1997. Ireland has been an adjunct faculty member at the Northeastern University School of Criminology and Criminal Justice since 1978 and on the faculty of the Appellate Judges Seminar at New York University since 2001. He has received a number of honorary Doctor of Laws degrees.

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