Celebrating Kentucky: Georgia Powers

by Jenn Shockley |

Tireless legislator and Civil Rights advocate was at the center of the fight for racial equality in America.

Georgia Montgomery Davis Powers was a compassionate person who sought to help the disadvantaged as much as she possibly could. She achieved this by getting involved in politics and Civil Rights activism, eventually becoming a politician herself. Powers was the first woman and the first person of color ever elected to the Kentucky State Senate. Her political position in the Senate started in 1967 and ended in 1989, lasting 21 years.
 

Powers was born into a family of nine children in 1923. She was the only girl. Though born in the community of Springfield, Kentucky, her parents moved the family to Louisville while she was in grade school. She graduated from Central High School in 1940.

 

She married, adopted a son, and soon after began working in politics and Civil Rights. During early 1960, Powers got involved with the Allied Organization for Civil Rights in regards to public accommodations and labor laws. She also bolstered the political success of others, like the 1963 gubernatorial campaign of Edward T. Ned Breathitt. Working on the campaign gave her more knowledge and honed her skills towards encouraging powerful change in Kentucky.

Powers was an organizer of the 1964 march for public accommodation equality in Frankfort. Dr. Martin Luther King and baseball legend Jackie Robinson were both involved in the event. She became an avid supporter of Dr. King, and became acquainted with his son, Martin Luther King Jr. She had a very personal relationship with Dr. King Jr. She describes him as a trusted confidante, lover, and a dear friend in her book, “I Shared the Dream: The Pride, Passion, and Politics of the First Black Woman Senator from Kentucky.” One of her most devastating moments in life was being present when Dr. King was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis in 1968.

 

After she retired from the Senate, she continued to work for Civil Rights through the 1990s. She created Friends of the Nursing Home Residents in Louisville, encouraging faith-based volunteers for residents, along with an organization called QUEST (Quality Education for All Students), which monitors the Jefferson County school board to prevent segregation. Georgia passed away in January 2016, at the age of 92, leaving a legacy of Civil Rights heroism.

 

Head on over to KYforKY.com for more profiles of prominent black Kentuckians.

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