Today in 1936, the South’s First Black Post-Reconstruction Legislator Was Inaugurated in KY

0 Posted by - January 11, 2021 - On This Date

Photo credits: The Kentucky Center for African American Heritage

Charles W. Anderson, Jr. (pictured) is known honorably in U.S. history as the first black person to be elected as a legislator in Kentucky and the entire South since the Reconstruction. 

He championed the cause of civil rights in Kentucky. Anderson is credited with greatly improving the access of African Americans to education during his six terms as a legislator. Anderson was born in 1907 in Louisville, Kentucky to Dr. Charles W. and Tabetha Murphy Anderson. 

He attended Kentucky State College and Wilberforce University and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1927. Anderson received a Juris Doctorate degree from Howard University in 1931.  In 1933, he passed the bar exam and started his own legal practice in Louisville.

In 1935, Anderson ran as a Republican for the Kentucky House of Representatives and won on Election Day after campaigning. According to BlackFacts.com, his inauguration ceremony was held on January 11, 1936. Anderson served in the Kentucky Legislature until 1958. 

One of his most important legislative accomplishments was co-authoring a house bill, which became the Anderson-Mayer State Aid Act when it was signed into law. The legislation provided $7,500 annually to African American students to attend out of state colleges.

This was because Kentucky’s segregated college system could not accommodate all the blacks at the state’s lone all-black school — Kentucky State College, in Frankfort.  Anderson also passed bills that improved public school facilities.

He successfully legislated for a $100 education and travel fund for each black student who was forced to travel outside of his or her county to attend segregated schools. When it came to combating lynching in Kentucky, Anderson was credited with the repeal of the state’s public hanging law.

Anderson was a longtime president of the Louisville National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He was awarded the Lincoln Institute Key in 1940 for his service to the black community. He also served as president of the National Negro Bar Association chapter in the state of Kentucky. 

In 1946, Anderson was selected as the Assistant Commonwealth Attorney in Kentucky’s 30th Judicial District of Jefferson County. This was the highest judicial position held by any African American in the South at the time in history. 

President Eisenhower also selected him in 1959 as the alternate delegate to the United Nations. Anderson had two children (Charles III and Victoria) with his second wife Victoria McCall Anderson. 

Charles W. Anderson died tragically on June 19, 1960, in a train-car accident in Shelbyville, Kentucky (Fenison, 2009).

Reference: Fenison, J. (2009, March 28) Charles W. Anderson, Jr. (1907-1960). Retrieved from https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/anderson-charles-w-jr-1907-1960/

Research sources: John Benjamin Horton, Not Without a Struggle: An Account of the Most Significant Political and Social-Action Changes That Have Occurred in the Lives of Black Kentuckians in the  Twentieth Century, (New York: Vantage Press, 1979); http://kchr.ky.gov/gallergreatblack.htm?&pageOrder=0&selectedPic=1; http://www.kyenc.org/entry/a/ANDER01.html;

*BlackThen.com writer and historian Victor Trammell edited and contributed to this report.

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