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Herald-Leader columnist Merlene Davis among 23 inducted into Ky. Civil Rights Hall of Fame

Lexington Herald-Leader columnist Merlene Davis at the induction ceremony Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014 in Bowling Green. Photo by Peter Baniak | staff
Lexington Herald-Leader columnist Merlene Davis at the induction ceremony Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014 in Bowling Green. Photo by Peter Baniak | staff

Lexington Herald-Leader columnist Merlene Davis was among the 23 Kentuckians inducted into the state's Civil Rights Hall of Fame on Thursday in Bowling Green.

Davis began working at the Herald-Leader in 1983, first as a reporter and then as a columnist.

The state Human Rights Commission began the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2000. Nominees and inductees have worked in a variety of areas, and they might be from past eras or the present.

Davis, who received a Lauren K. Weinberg Humanitarian Award in Lexington in 2012, was among 35 nominees for the Civil Rights Hall of Fame's 2014 induction.

"Merlene is certainly most deserving of this honor," said P.G. Peeples, president of Lexington's Urban League. "Throughout her entire professional career, she has been courageous and used her column to shed light on human rights issues. She has never shied from speaking truth to power."

"Whenever Merlene writes a column, she throws a big part of her heart into it," Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said. "And with that heart comes passion that burns with impatience ... a passion that speaks out for justice, freedom and equality. She calls it like she sees it. ... She's blunt, impatient and even downright pushy. I know. I've been the object of her pen! But reading a Merlene column can tug at your heartstrings or make you really angry or feel like a trip to the woodshed. We need Merlene. Lexington is a better place because of her."

Davis is married to Henry Rodgers and has three grown children: Dani, Aaron and Jordan.

Other inductees include:

■ Roszalyn Akins of Lexington, founder of the Black Males Working Academy.

■ Chester Grundy of Lexington, a civil rights leader, college administrator, educator, jazz enthusiast and arts patron.

■ bell hooks, the pen name for Gloria Watkins of Berea, author of 25 books, numerous magazine and newspaper articles on education, racism and feminism.

The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights is the state government authority that enforces the Kentucky Civil Rights Act and federal civil rights laws.

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