African American “Firsts” in Berks County - Woven With Words

 

 

Lauren Balogh and others compiled this list

 

Occupations

 

1st African American pastor: Sam Murray, a free black and a shoemaker, was the founding father of the local Bethel A.M.E. church.

 

1st African American District Justice (formerly called Alderman): Nathan Walker, 6th Ward, Reading

 

1st African American owners of a school for early childhood education: Grace Davies and Hilda Letman (The Goddard School)

 

1st African American police officer, Reading: Robert Young (unknown date of hire and unknown date of retirement/resignation; no official record could be found, but retired Officer Rodman Dawson he recalls Young’s name from his parents).

 

1st documented African American police officer, Reading: Earl Dorsey

 

1st African American to be employed at Reading Automobile Club [as Emergency Road Service Manager]: B.J. Ellison

 

1st African American to work at the Social Security Office in Reading: Virginia Wilkerson

 

1st African American registered nurse in Reading: Richard Grinage

 

1st African American Director of PAL [Police Athletic League] (former policeman): George Bolton

 

1st and 2nd police lieutenants, Reading (highest commissioned rank achieved to date): Mark Talbot (active) and Lionel Carter (active)

 

1st African American detective sergeant: Elton Butler, Sr.

 

1st African American female police officer: None

 

1st African American physician: Dr. Lee Terry

 

1st African American dentist: Dr. William Swinson

 

1st African American female meter maid in Reading: Roxie Willis

 

1st African American to work in a professional position at the Berks County Court House: Pauline Carter

 

1st African American notary in Reading: William V. Miller

 

1st African American Attorney in Reading [also ran for District Attorney in 1930]: Justin Carter

 

1st African American funeral home business in Reading: Stokes Stitt

 

1st African American female postmaster in Reading: Ruby L. Jackson

 

1st African American bank branch manager in Berks County: Ira L. Thompson.

 

1st (and only) African American director of Berks Department of Veterans Affairs: Edward Rodwell

 

1st African American volunteer and paid firefighter, Reading: Ralph Mickey (1870s-1913)

 

1st African American Department Head of the Reading Fire Department: Frank McCracken, 1994-96

 

1st African American real estate broker in Reading: Louis L. Miller

 

1st African American to operate a dry cleaning business in Reading: Louis L. Miller

 

1st African American check cashing business and the 1st African American J.V. cable company in Reading [founder and owner]: Charles A. Miller

 

1st African American woman to own and operate a ladies shoe and accessory shop in Reading: Brenda Futrick

 

1st African American Football Hall of Famer from Reading: Lenny Moore

 

1st African American woman to enter the field of real estate in Berks County: Lillie Foster

 

1st African American women to own and operate African American beauty parlors in Reading: Helene Phillips and Lillian Parham

 

1st African American to serve as Executive Director of the Reading Housing Authority: William Willis

 

Politics

 

1st African American to run for Reading School Board: William Miller

 

1st African American to run for District Attorney: Justin Carter

 

1st African American to run for county Prothonotary (no African Americans have been elected to Row Office): Steve Little

 

1st African American woman to run for public office in Reading as a Democratic candidate for City Council in 1971 (she lost) and the first woman elected president of the board of trustees at Wernersville State Hospital and the Greater Reading Council of Churches: Pattee Miller

 

1st African American mayor: Allan D. Coad (mayor of Wernersville)

 

1st African American president of Service Employees International, local chapter: Frank Gilyard

 

1st African American president of the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Union: Michael H. Reese

 

1st African American elected as a committeeman, a union position: Joseph “Bud” Haines in the 1950s, while employed by the American Chain and Cable

 

Education

 

1st African American Principal in Reading School District: Samuel Hubert, at the former 10th and Walnut Elementary School

 

1st African American teacher in the integrated Reading Schools: Velma King

 

1st African American graduate of Kutztown University: Bessie Reese Crenshaw, 1950

 

1st African American on record to attend Penn State Berks: Tyra L. Key. She registered for graduate level courses between summer of 1971 and summer of 1975.

 

1st African American graduate of Albright College (1948): Joseph E. Coleman

 

1st African American female graduate from Albright College: Geneva Bolton Johnson

 

1st African American to be admitted to Reading High School: Lizzie Terry

 

Other

 

1st African American in Reading to receive the highest honor in Boy Scouting [still active at the age of “89”]: Clarence Hubert

 

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@ 2018 Reading Branch #2289 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People