YOUNGSTOWN Ungaro: Jennings' influence lingers

In 1996, the former city councilman was honored by Associated Neighborhood Centers for his dedication to youths.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Robert E. Jennings will be remembered as an influential city councilman and a progressive leader, according to former Mayor Patrick Ungaro.
Services will be at 11 a.m. Friday in Antioch Baptist Church for Jennings, the former longtime city councilman, who died Saturday evening in St. Elizabeth Health Center.
Jennings, 72, of 409 Breaden St., was born Dec. 31, 1928, in Winding Gulf, W.Va., a son of Joseph Sr. and Ida Ray Jennings. A Democrat, he served 12 years as 1st Ward councilman during the 1980s and '90s.
He was chairman of council's finance, economic development and parks and recreation committees.
"If you really wanted politics to work, you had to work with Bob," Ungaro said, giving Jennings credit for making possible the Salt Springs Industrial Park on the West Side, where some $850 million has been invested.
Jennings helped get legislation passed in council to provide the tax abatements, environmental cleanup and water and sewer line extensions for that industrial park, Ungaro said.
With the tax abatements expiring, the companies and the jobs they created there remain, benefiting the city and the local schools, Ungaro said. "The job creation goes on forever. He left Youngstown a better place," the former mayor said.
Civil-rights activist: A World War II Army veteran, Jennings was a retiree of Youngstown Steel Door, where he had been employed 33 years, and was active in the cause of civil rights.
Serving as a captain of a bus taking participants to the 1963 March on Washington, he was a life member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and received that organization's service award in 1984.
He was chairman of the NAACP's labor and industry committee and served 43 years on its executive board and was the organization's first vice president for 20 years. He was also a past president of the local NAACP, completing the term of the late Roland Alexander.
He was vice president and president of the Mahoning County Independent Negro Voter League, and a member of the Youngstown Community Improvement Corp. He was a member of Antioch Baptist Church for 45 years, a trustee of the church for 43 years and trustee board chairman for 10 years.
He was a member of Donald Lockett VFW Post 6488, the Northside Old Timers, and the Black Broadcasting Coalition.
Other activities: He was past civil rights chairman of United Steelworkers Local 2310 and chairman of the county labor committee for the Youngstown Area Urban League. He was a member of the Human Development Committee of the National League of Cities and was first vice president of Model Cities.
He served on the planning committees to build Mill Creek Community Center and the addition to McGuffey Centre and on the Community Action Council Advisory Board.
He also served on the advisory committees for the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center and the Youngstown State University Campus 2000 Plan. He was instrumental in getting West Federal Street renamed Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard.
Council accomplishments: As a councilman, he was instrumental in the renovation of the B & amp;O Railroad Station and development of a park around it, the reopening of Federal Plaza to two-way traffic and the Belmont and Wick avenue bridge replacements.
He was also instrumental in the improvement of upper Wick Avenue, fighting drugs and crime in Kimmel Brook Homes, demolition and cleanup activities in the 1st Ward, and enactment of a new anti-littering law with enhanced penalties.
He helped the city acquire Urban Development Action Grants to create more jobs and was instrumental in obtaining zoning changes to prevent more apartments from being built on the East Side.
In 1996, he was honored by Associated Neighborhood Centers for his dedication to community youth.
Family: He leaves a daughter, Laurie D. Davis; two sons, Robert L. and Alan R.; his companion, Cossell Burton; a sister, Blondina C. Williams; two brothers, the Rev. Joseph Jennings Jr., and Clarence Jennings, all of Youngstown; 13 grandchildren, including Chauna Swearingen of Youngstown, whom he reared; and a great-grandchild.
Three sisters, Catherine Williams, Ruth Ware and Martha Lucille Bryant; a brother, James; and a grandchild, are deceased.
Friends may call from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Black, Phillips and Holden Funeral Home and from 10 to 11 a.m. Friday in the church.

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