Iowa African-American Hall of Fame to induct new members

AMES, Iowa -- The Iowa African-American Hall of Fame, housed in Iowa State University's Black Cultural Center, will induct five new members in August.

Founded in Des Moines in 1995, the IAAHF recognizes outstanding achievements of African-Americans with respect to enhancing the quality of life for all Iowans. Forty individuals have been inducted into the hall of fame since its inception.

This year, the Iowa African-American Hall of Fame recognizes the achievements of:

  • Melvin Harper, manager of restaurants and entertainment venues in Iowa. A promoter of national musical acts, Harper was inducted into the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame in 2002. Harper also founded several construction businesses in Iowa.
  • Elaine Estes, the first and only African-American director (now retired) of the Des Moines Public Library. Under her leadership, the library became the first in Iowa and in the country to carry out a materials preservation program and disaster preparedness plan, and Iowa became the first state to pass a law protecting library users' records.
  • Iowa Tuskegee Airmen (group), African-Americans who participated in air crew, ground crew and operations support training in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Iowa had 12 black Tuskegee Airmen, six of whom served in combat. Between them, they flew over 400 combat missions.
  • Chuck Toney (posthumous), former director of affirmative action at John Deere. The first African-American at an executive level at John Deere, Toney started out his career as the first welder of color in Iowa and Illinois.
  • Zack E. Hamlett Jr. (posthumous), founder and first executive dean, Des Moines Area Community College Urban Campus. Hamlett also founded the Iowa Alliance of Black School Educators and served as chair of the Iowa State Black Network.

The 2010 inductees will be recognized at a reception and banquet starting at 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 6, at The Meadows Event and Conference Center, Prairie Meadows, Altoona. Tickets are $50 per individual. To reserve a seat, contact Rose Wilbanks at (515) 294-1909. In addition to supporting the IAAHF, proceeds help support the George Washington Carver Leadership Academy for developing youth leadership at Iowa colleges and universities. Proceeds also will help establish a permanent home for the Hall of Fame.