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African-American hall to induct former Deere exec

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By Thomas Geyer, Quad City Times

A Quad-City civil rights pioneer will be inducted posthumously into the Iowa African-American Hall of Fame in August.

Charles Toney of Coal Valley, Ill., who died in October at age 96, won the first civil rights legal fight in Iowa after he and his wife, Ann, were denied service at a Davenport ice cream shop, the Iowana, in 1943.

He was the first African-American executive for Deere & Co., serving as the director of affirmative action. He started working for the Moline agriculture giant in 1936 and was the first black welder in Iowa or Illinois.

Toney was “a civil rights icon,” said the Rev. Melvin Grimes of Tabernacle Baptist Church, Rock Island.

“He opened a lot of doors and broke down a lot of barriers,” he said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have any clones of Charles Toney.”

Toney also had owned a barber shop and helped to integrate Davenport’s public pools.

Rock Island Alderman Terry Brooks, 1st Ward, said Toney “left a burning legacy to the future leaders of this community and this nation. The best word to describe him is ‘hero.'”

Brooks said Toney remains “a model to many, and what he stood for in the past we stand for in the present and in the future.”

Jim Andrews, a lifelong Quad-City educator who is assistant superintendent, human resources, for the Rock Island-Milan School District called Toney “a risk taker in the Martin Luther King mold.

“He opened doors for all of us,” he said. “Every organization has to have a leader like Charles Toney.”

Toney was born in 1913 in LaCrosse, Wis. He graduated from Clinton (Iowa) High School in 1930 and attended St. Ambrose University, Davenport.

Iowa African-American Hall of Fame

The 2010 inductees into the Iowa African-American Hall of Fame.

* Elaine Estes, the first and only African-American director (now retired) of the Des Moines Public Library. Under her leadership, the library became the first in Iowa and in the country to carry out a materials preservation program and disaster preparedness plan, and Iowa became the first state to pass a law protecting library users’ records.

* Zack E. Hamlett Jr. (posthumous), founder and first executive dean, Des Moines Area Community College Urban Campus. Hamlett also founded the Iowa Alliance of Black School Educators and served as chair of the Iowa State Black Network.

* Melvin Harper, manager of restaurants and entertainment venues in Iowa. A promoter of national musical acts, Harper was inducted into the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame in 2002. Harper also founded several construction businesses in Iowa.

* Iowa Tuskegee Airmen, African-Americans who participated in air crew, ground crew and operations support training in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Iowa had 12 black Tuskegee Airmen, six of whom served in combat. Amongst them, they flew more than 400 combat missions.

* Charles Toney (posthumous), first African-American executive at Deere and Co. With his wife, he won the first civil rights lawsuit in Iowa after being denied service at a Davenport ice cream shop. Also helped to integrate Davenport public swimming pools.

About the hall

The Iowa African-American Hall of Fame, founded in Des Moines in 1995, recognizes outstanding achievements of African-Americans with respect to enhancing the quality of life for all Iowans. It has inducted 40 individuals. It is housed in Iowa State University’s Black Cultural Center in Ames, Iowa.

If you go

WHAT: 2010 induction into Iowa African-American Hall of Fame

WHEN: 5 p.m. Aug. 6

WHERE: The Meadows Event and Conference Center, Prairie Meadows, Altoona, Iowa

Cost: Tickets are $50.

RESERVATIONS: Rose Wilbanks at (515) 294-1909

INDUCTEES: Elaine Estes, Zack E. Hamlett Jr., Melvin Harper, Iowa Tuskegee Airmen, Charles Toney

BENEFICIARIES: The George Washington Carver Leadership Academy for developing youth leadership at Iowa colleges and universities. Proceeds also will help establish a permanent home for the hall of fame.


Written by Symphony

June 29, 2010 at 11:09 am

Posted in Honors

Tagged with ,

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