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Black history makers in Valley’s past, present

Published: Sat, February 5, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

Black History Month is under way, and school districts throughout the country will be swamped with essays on noted black Americans such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Dubois and President Barack Obama.

But I want to bring out info on some local black history.

My colleague Dennis Mangan, editorial page editor, handed me a copy of a story that appeared in The Vindicator in January 1936. He found the news clip while researching another matter.

This was the lead paragraph on Page One of the paper: “Berry Hubbard Hill, prominent Negro attorney, died of pneumonia at 7 a.m. today at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital only 15 days after his appointment as assistant police prosecutor by Mayor Lionel Evans.”

Hill never had the chance to take the job, however, because he was in the hospital when the new city officials were installed.

I knew Judge Lloyd R. Haynes, who died in 2006, was the city’s first black municipal judge, and the late William J. Higgins, a Campbell native, was the city’s first black law director.

I had never heard of Hill, however. If he had been able to serve, he probably would have been the first black to serve as a city prosecutor.

The story goes on to stay that Hill, 42 when he died, was a bachelor and was born in Selma, Ala. He received his education at Selma University and Howard University in Washington, D.C.

He came to Youngstown in 1922 and worked at Republic Steel. He later resumed his law studies and passed the Ohio State Bar Examination in 1925.

The story also points out that Hill made inroads as a politician. In 1930, he ran for the Republican nomination to become a member of the Ohio House of Representatives.

He was a member of Tabernacle Baptist Church and Covington Lodge of Masons and was a past exalted ruler of Buckeye Elks Lodge.

Mayor Evans’ quote: “I considered Mr. Hill one of the outstanding Negroes in Youngstown, and his death will be a loss to the city of Youngstown, and to me personally, because I feel that the work he would have been able to do in his department would have been of great value.”

Since Hill was a bachelor when he died, I don’t know if any of his relatives are still in the area. But for a black man to get Page One coverage in 1936 was indeed an accomplishment.

The achievements of black people years ago in The Vindicator were usually placed inside the paper in a column called either “News of Local Colored Folks,” or “Local News Notes for Colored Folks.”

Valencia Marrow of Youngstown also becomes a part of local black history with her appointment last year to the Mill Creek MetroParks board of commissioners. She was sworn in in January.

No black person ever had served on the board for the urban park, which was established in 1891 under the leadership of Volney Rogers, a city lawyer. Mill Creek Park was the first park district in Ohio. The district now has more than 4,400 acres of public lands and facilities in seven townships and three cities.

And Marrow will have a say in how the district is run.

She is a graduate of Youngstown State University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. After graduation, Marrow was employed by Delphi Packard Electric and Forum Health Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital in Howland.

She is clerk of Youngstown City Council.

Marrow, a member of Rising Star Baptist Church, also was a work-force development adviser at Youngstown State University and a program director at Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority.

Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly column. You can reach him at ebrown@vindy.com

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