Archive for January 17th, 2011

When I was trying to decide what to write about for Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, I begin to think about some of the amazing people that I have chanced to meet. I respect the work of Dr. King and other nationally known figures, but I wanted to write about something more personal.

There are no photos that I have taken for this post, and I met this man just once, very briefly. I want to tell you a little about Dr. Donald Spencer. I met Dr. Spencer at his home about 6 years and shook his hand because I had traveled there to interview his wife, Dr. Marian Spencer, for my master’s project in women’s studies. I feel like I knew him slightly better than I did because her description of her social justice activities and life was so deeply interwoven with her partnership with her husband.

The Spencers were (and I am sure she still is) advocates for civil rights in Cincinnati for their adult lives. They met at the University of Cincinnati, where he had helped create a student organization (Quadres) to allow African-American students to participate more fully in student life. Donald Spencer was a member of the NAACP, the first African-American trustee of Ohio University, a teacher, and one of the first African-American real estate agents in the area. He and his wife were both prominent leaders in the city.  He also supported fully his wife Marian in her efforts – her lawsuit to desegregate Cincinnati’s Coney Island in 1952 and her career in city politics. They both worked for desegregation of local institutions and voting rights. Dr. Donald Spencer died May 4, 2010, at the age of 95.

I cannot do justice to the life of Dr. Donald Spencer, so I will provide you with some links: here is an interview with Dr. Spencer from 2005. The Cincinnati Enquirer published lengthy profiles of him after his death. Here is a report on the tribute given for him.

I have not been to any memorial for Dr. Spencer. I am not certain where he is buried, if he is buried. But I offer these words as flowers for him.

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