The University of Cincinnati leads effort to recognize the outstanding alum and community leader for his lifelong commitment to civil rights activism.
By: Lauren Boettcher
In response to the university’s official nomination, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission will induct Theodore M. Berry into the 3rd Annual Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame on Thursday, October 13. The prestigious group seeks to acknowledge the citizens who have left their mark in the State of Ohio through their tireless efforts toward the furtherance of civil rights, equality and justice in their communities.
Mr. Berry is most recognized for serving as the first African American mayor of the City of Cincinnati. His legal career began at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Law and served as the springboard to longstanding community service through civil rights activism.
“Mr. Berry was a lifelong public servant and supporter of the City of Cincinnati who leaves behind a legacy of fighting for equality and justice,” wrote UC President Gregory H. Williams in Mr. Berry’s nomination letter. “His visionary leadership and perseverance during a period of time marked by discrimination, racial animosity and bigotry allowed him to bring about progress in the area of social justice for people in the City of Cincinnati and throughout the country.”
Mr. Berry’s humble beginnings in Maysville, Ky. did not stop him from committing his life’s service to creating social and cultural change. His impact on Cincinnati is marked by his creation of the city’s first Community Action Commission, which garnered national attention from the federal government. He also served as mayor under an administration he themed “Togetherness.” In remembrance of his work, the City of Cincinnati changed the name of Produce Drive to “Theodore M. Berry Way” and dedicated International Friendship Park in his name, calling it the Theodore M. Berry International Friendship Park.
In addition, his notable appointment as the youngest president of Cincinnati’s branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) gave way to a string of other accomplishments. As Hamilton County’s assistant prosecuting attorney and a pivotal civil rights attorney with the NAACP, he went on to argue civil rights cases for and on behalf of victims of discrimination in local and state courtrooms.
Eventually, his work led him to fill governmental roles, including Morale Officer for the United States Office of War Information under President Fanklin D. Roosevelt and head of the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity’s Community Action Programs under President Lyndon Johnson. His work on behalf of the NAACP Ohio Committee for Civil Rights Legislation and Cincinnati Urban League allowed him to focus on equal employment and fair housing issues.
Mr. Berry will be recognized among six other honorees at the 3rd Annual Civil Rights Hall of Fame ceremony, including Nathaniel R. Jones (1996 recipient of UC’s Alumni Honorary degree), Amos H. Lynch, Sr., Ken Campbell, Louis Sharp, V. Anthony Simms-Howell and Roger Abramson.