Neblett, Dunnigan inducted into hall of fame
By Jim Turner

Posted on January 1, 0001 12:00 AM

     A current Russellvillian and a Russellville native have been inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame. They are two of 31 people the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights have announced as members of its 2010 inductees to the Hall of Fame.  

Charles Neblett, who may be the best-known present Logan Countian nationally, and pioneer journalist Alice Allison Dunnigan, who died in 1983, received yet another award in their long line of honors on Oct. 15.

     Over 400 people attended the ceremony, which took place at the Kentucky International Convention Center during the Kentucky Human Rights Commission 50th Anniversary Conference Combs-Breathitt Luncheon. There were several guest speakers including Kweise Mfume, former president of the NAACP and former U.S Congressman; Linda Breathitt, daughter of the late Gov. Edward (Ned) Breathitt who signed the Kentucky Civil Rights Act in 1966; and Judge Sarah Combs, widow of the late Gov. Bert T. Combs, who created the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights in 1960. 

     Charles Neblett’s  (1941- ) long career as a civil and human rights activist has taken him through more than 40 states and 50,000 miles as a member of The Freedom Singers, a legendary quartet that performed at the 1963 March on Washington and alongside other musicians Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Peter, Paul and Mary. Neblett helped form The Freedom Singers in 1962 under the direction of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, which helped plan the March on Washington where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream Speech. 

     Neblett began fighting for civil rights after the 1955 death of Emmett Till, a black teenager who was killed in Mississippi. Neblett was Till’s age at the time of Emmett’s death, and Neblett dedicated himself to human rights so that others may not suffer the way Emmett Till did.  Neblett has worked for the New York City Human Rights Commission. 

     He moved to Russellville after marrying his wife, the former Marvina Benton, who is currently a candidate for Russellville City Council. He was the first African American elected as magistrate in Logan County and helped found the Warren County and Logan County Human Rights Commissions. In February 2010, Neblett performed before President Obama during a “Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement.” He is one of the founders of the Martin Luther King Jr. March and Celebration in Logan County. 

     Charles and Marvinia Neblett operate a non-profit program called Community Projects to educate children in Logan County. He is on the board of the West Kentucky African American Museum and the Logan County NAACP.

     Alice Dunnigan (1906-1983) rose from a small, segregated school in Russellville to participating in the heights of political power. As a journalist, she covered - and influenced - presidents from Harry Truman to Lyndon Johnson and encouraged them to end segregation and support equal opportunity in education, employment and housing. She attended Kentucky State University and was a public school teacher from 1924-1942. 

     She began her journalism career after World War II at the Associated Negro Press, where she headed the Washington Bureau. Her reports were carried in 112 newspapers and read by thousands of people across the country. She was the first African American woman accredited to cover the State Department and the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1948, she was the first black to cover a presidential tour when she accompanied President Truman. She later called on President Truman to integrate military schools as well as the Armed forces, and the president agreed. 

      Although she suffered many indignities because of her race and gender as a pioneering reporter, Dunnigan never flinched and fought to help the oppressed. In 1951, she was the first woman selected as Best All-Around Newsman by the Capital Press Club. In 1961, President Kennedy appointed her to the Committee of Equal Employment Opportunity, which allowed her to meet with labor and business officials to promote equality in hiring across the country. She also fought for rural Kentucky by demanding that officials deliver mail, water lines and electricity to areas that had been undeveloped. 

     Dunnigan reported on the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and received an award from the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee for her courage. She reported on human rights issues in South America, Africa and Haiti. One supporter said, “Her passion and talent in writing allowed her to fight and expose injustice throughout the world.’’
     The luncheon first honored the two late governors, Bert Combs and Edward Breathitt, for their leadership in making Kentucky a pioneer civil rights state by leading the south to end segregation and make discrimination illegal. The state human rights commission’s 50th Anniversary Civil and Human Rights Conference started Oct. 13 and ended on the 15th

     The commission’s 50th anniversary was on March 21, 2010, and the commission has held several public awareness events throughout the year to promote civil rights and the commission’s service to the people of Kentucky.

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