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DAVIS: Psychiatrist carries rich legacy

As I dressed for work Friday morning, I heard the name of the woman I would be writing about later that day: Dr. Janet E. Taylor.

Taylor, a psychiatrist in private practice in New York City, was being questioned on the Today show about the apparent marriage discord between Oscar-winning actress Sandra Bullock and her husband, Jesse James.

The nod to Taylor's expertise in her field is the legacy she will be exemplifying when she addresses the evening session of the Lexington Central Kentucky Section of the National Council of Negro Women Inc. Leadership Summit on March 26.

Taylor, the daughter of Vertner L. and Joan Neal Taylor of Lexington, entered the medical field at the urging of her father, a pharmacist and former Kentucky Commissioner of Corrections, and her mother, a longtime educator and civic activist.

She is an example of the summit's theme, "Living Legacies: From Generation To Generation."

From her father, Janet Taylor received a love of medicine. Her father was the son of Vertner Woodson Taylor, who managed to earn enough of a scholarship to complete three years of a four-year pharmaceutical chemist degree at the University of Iowa in the 1920s. The elder Taylor ran out of money and returned to Lexington working a variety of jobs to support his family, including working as a custodian for Immanuel Baptist Church.

"He always said you've got to go to school," Vertner L.Taylor said of his father.

Years later, Vertner L. Taylor fulfilled his father's dream and graduated from the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy in 1960. He took the pharmacy boards in Chicago where he had landed a job with Walgreens drug stores and later became the associate director of pharmacy at the University of Chicago before moving back to Lexington to help establish the Hunter Foundation for Health Care.

Born in Chicago — as was her brother Vince Taylor, a basketball star at Tates Creek High School and Duke and now assistant coach to Tubby Smith at the University of Minnesota — Janet Taylor first thought she'd be a pharmacist like her father. But he urged her to go farther and become a doctor.

From her mother, Janet's legacy was civic activism and the will to do your best.

Janet Taylor's grandmother, Jennie Neal of Lexington, achieved several "firsts" and was very active in the War Bond drives for blacks and whites locally during World War II.

From that legacy, Joan Taylor, who is widely known as a people person, became not only an educator locally, but also held positions in several gubernatorial administrations and was active in civic issues.

And now, her daughter is frequently seen on TV and is a featured speaker at numerous conferences on minority health issues, stress management and balancing work and life agendas.

Janet Taylor said she is following the living legacies of her parents and of the deferred dreams of her grandfather.

"Even though I didn't fully understand being in graduate school as a black male in those days," she said, "I learned about the willingness to take risks and to handle disappointment with grace."

"My caring about people, I get that from my mother," Janet Taylor said. "I never heard her say a negative word about someone, or dismiss them or put them down because of their occupation or lack of education."

So, what legacy is she hoping to give her four daughters?

"Education is key," Janet Taylor said. "I would also like them to be more compassionate for others, being able to find the good in people. Not to where they get taken in or used, but to be able to see how every person has worth."

This is her second appearance at the summit, which is an effort by the local section of the National Council of Negro Women to inform women about health, education, and economic empowerment programs and services.

Nationally, the council was established in 1935 by educator Mary McLeod Bethune to help black women make better lives for themselves and their families. The Lexington and Central Kentucky group was chartered in 2003.

Janet Taylor will speak at a banquet being held from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Friday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Lexington — The Campbell House, 1375 Harrodsburg Road.

"My talk is about the legacy of health for black women," Janet Taylor said. "The message is how things haven't changed and, in some cases, have gotten worse."

We can't have it all, she said, and we need to ask for help when life becomes overwhelming or we need a break.

From 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, several workshops will be held dispelling similar myths and misconceptions while presenting techniques for creating positive legacies.

Tickets are $50 and include the banquet Friday, a continental breakfast Saturday, the workshops and a souvenir bag. Tickets for the banquet only are $40. For tickets or more information call Mary Murray at (859) 983-1432. Or visit