Columbus, Ohio, true to its pioneering namesake, has been the location of a number of firsts and the home of many first achievers. As we continue our Black History Month Celebration, we note that a number of these individuals were African Americans living in the Capital City. Someone has said that history recalls those who do things first and those who do things well. Such has been the case with this list of four African Americans who were notable “firsts” in Columbus.
These four individuals have made significant contributions in the areas of aviation, law, and politics. Two are men, one of whom was the first African American to fly airplane in Central Ohio; the other was the first African American elected as mayor of Columbus. The other trailblazers are two women, one of whom served as a municipal judge and as the Columbus City Attorney, and the other was the first African American female to serve on the Ohio State Supreme Court. Without questions, these individuals have left their marks on the City of Columbus.
To learn more about Columbus, OH as a “pioneering city,” click here.
Click here to read a related article on African American firsts and the Olympics.
The following are other related articles connected to Black History Month:
The Black Heritage Series: Eight honored men and women
Paying tribute to Rosa Parks on the 100-year anniversary of her birth
The Underground Railroad: Making six local stops on the road to freedom
Lonnie Carmon: First to fly in Central Ohio
In terms of Black History African Americans from Columbus were first to accomplish remarkable feats, such as flying an airplane in 1929. In the midst of the Great Depression, this time frame makes the accomplishment of Lonnie Carmon even more remarkable. Not only did Carmon become the first African American to fly an airplane in Central Ohio, but even more astonishing—he built the plane himself! To learn more about the accomplishments of this “natural mechanic and inventor” who was honored by the Ohio Historical Society and to view a slide show, click here.
Janet E. Jackson:First female Columbus city attorney
Janet E. Jackson, the first African American woman to serve on any Franklin County court, was 34 years old when she was appointed to the municipal court bench and served there for ten years. She then became the first woman to serve as the Columbus city attorney, where she worked for six years. Today she serves as CEO and president of United Way of Central Ohio.
The former judge spoke about historic “firsts” at the Ohio Supreme Court Black History Month event and commented,
“I’ve taken on the mantel many times of being the first, but one of the things I never want to be is the last,” Jackson said.
“In honor of a month dedicated to celebrating the many accomplishments of African Americans in the past, we need to ensure that we can create the opportunities necessary for more great achievements in the future,” Jackson said.
Michael B Coleman: First Black mayor of Columbus
Prior to his election as the first African American mayor of Columbus, Coleman served as Columbus City Council President from 1997-1999. Under Mayor Coleman’s leadership, the City of Columbus has been recognized as one of the top ten best places to live by CNN and Money magazine, which also declared Columbus as the nation’s safest big city.
Mayor Coleman led the restoration of the King Lincoln District with a $10 million cornerstone project: the restoration of the historic Lincoln Theater. The area is rebounding with seven major commercial and residential projects totaling $30 million in new private investments. In 2011 Coleman was elected to an historic fourth consecutive term as mayor and continues to lead the City of Columbus with distinction.
Yvette McGee Brown: First Black female on the state supreme court
According to the State Supreme Court of Ohio and the Ohio Judicial System, “A series of firsts defines the judicial career of Justice Yvette McGee Brown. She was the first African-American elected to the Franklin County Domestic Relations/Juvenile Court. In January 2011, she became the first African-American woman to serve as a Justice on the Supreme Court of Ohio.”
Born in Columbus to single teenage mother, Judge McGee Brown described her mother as her “hero” from whom she learned the value of hard work and the importance of education. McGee Brown was elected Judge of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas and inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame in 2008. As founding president of Center for Child & Family Advocacy, Judge McGee Brown is highly regarded because of the number of community service awards she has received as well as commendations for public service and her dedication to child and family protection.