Charles W. Anderson, Jr. (1907 – 1960)
Charles W. Anderson, Jr. made history in January 1936 by becoming the first African American to take the oath of office as a State Representative in the Kentucky General Assembly. When Anderson was sworn into office - four months prior to his 29th birthday - he became the first black legislator in Kentucky and in the South since the Reconstruction Era.
Anderson, the son of noted Frankfort physician Dr. Charles W. Anderson, Sr. and well-known school teacher Tabitha Anderson, was re-elected to the Kentucky General Assembly on five consecutive occasions.
During his tenure in the House of Representatives, Anderson successfully guided historic bills through the legislative process, becoming a watchdog for Kentucky's black citizens.
The legislative record made by Anderson is his guarantee of immortality in the Commonwealth. Barely into his new term of office, Anderson introduced a bill to provide graduate education for black students forced to be educated beyond Kentucky's borders by the separate school laws. When the bill became law, it required the Governor to allocate $5,000 toward the cost of tuition for the students.
Another of Anderson's legislative victories required rural high schools to educate black children in each of Kentucky’s 120 counties. Counties without proper high school educational institutions were ordered to grant each black student $100 for tuition in addition to transportation costs to attend classes in a nearby county.
Anderson guided other pieces of legislation through the Kentucky General Assembly, including a bill prohibiting racial discrimination in hiring for public building projects. He also persuaded his colleagues to enact legislation prohibiting discrimination in the private business sector of Kentucky.
Not all of Anderson's successes benefited solely black Kentuckians. One bill of interest to all of Kentucky's school teachers allowed them to keep their teaching positions after marriage.
Kentucky's notorious "hanging law" was also one of Anderson's legislative targets. He successfully worked for the repeal of the law, instead making it mandatory for all executions to be by electrocution.
Anderson resigned his House seat in 1946 to become the first black Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney in Kentucky or the South, representing Jefferson County.
Shortly before his accidental death in 1960, the President of the United States named Anderson an Alternate United States Delegate to the United Nations General Assembly.
Anderson was educated at Kentucky State College, Wilberforce University, and Howard University School of Law. He won the Howard University Alumni Award in 1945, given for distinction in law and government.
The Personnel Cabinet is honored to present the Anderson Medal as a perpetual memorial to a bona fide treasure of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Full List of Charles W. Anderson Laureates
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Commonwealth of Kentucky