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. More than 60 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:

  • Alexander G. Clark (posthumous), champion of civil rights. In 1867 (nearly nine decades before the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case in Topeka, Kan.), Clark's 12-year-old daughter couldn't attend the same Muscatine school that white students attended, so Clark sued. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled in his favor the following year, saying that children of all races had the right to attend public schools. Clark later fought to get his son, Alexander Jr., admitted to the University of Iowa law school. Alexander Jr. became the first black person to graduate from that school in 1879; Alexander Sr. became the second black U of I law graduate in 1884. The two practiced law together in Iowa and Illinois. In 1890, Clark was appointed U.S. Minister to Liberia, where he died in 1891.
  • Lionel J. Foster Sr., executive director of the Mason City Human Rights Commission, a position he has held for 37 years. Foster began working for the city as a community aide in 1972, then became affirmative action officer before moving into his current position. He is the first African-American executive office holder in the city's government.
  • James B. Morris Sr. (posthumous), editor and publisher of the Iowa Bystander, the oldest black-oriented newspaper west of the Mississippi, from 1922-1972. Morris graduated from the first black officer candidate class at Fort Des Moines and served in World War I. He co-founded the National Bar Association and National Newspaper Publishers Association, America's first black legal and media networks.
  • Robert V. Morris, journalist, historian and founder of the Fort Des Moines Memorial Park and the World War II Iowa Tuskegee Airmen Memorial in Des Moines. Morris authored The Iowa State Bystander 100th Anniversary Magazine and Black Faces of War: A Legacy of Honor from the American Revolution to Today. He also founded the Iowa City branch of the NAACP in 1979 and was the youngest president of the NAACP Iowa/Nebraska Conference.
  • Richard S. "Dick" White, retired general manager of John Deere Des Moines Works. In this position, White's leadership greatly influenced business development growth in Iowa. He also led implementation of a community mentoring program for African-American high school students, Partners in Economic Progress, and helped establish the John R. Grubb Des Moines YMCA.

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