1. Mary E. Mahoney, The first African American to study and work as a professionally trained nurse in the United States, graduating in 1879. In 1908, she co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN) with Adah B. Thoms. The NACGN eventually merged with the American Nurses Association(ANA) in 1951. She is commemorated by the biennial Mary Mahoney Award of the ANA for significant contributions in advancing equal opportunities in nursing for members of minority groups.
2. Ellis Wilson, Painter, artist. He won national acclaim in the art world during the 1930s and ’40s. His work can be found in the collections of many museums, including the Smithsonian’s National Gallery of Art, and his painting Funeral Procession received national exposure on the set of Bill Cosby’s 1980s television show. Yet Mayfield, Kentucky-born artist Ellis Wilson remains relatively unknown in his hometown and home state.
3. Darwin Turner, Literary critic and editor, His major works will include “Black American Literature: Essays, Poetry Fiction and Drama” (1969) and “Voices from the Black Experience: African and Afro-American Literature” (1972). Dr. Turner, the University of Iowa Foundation Distinguished Professor of English, began his teaching career at Clark College in Atlanta in 1949. He taught at Morgan State College and Florida A & M University and was chairman of the English department at North Carolina A & T College before joining the Iowa faculty in 1972.
Dr. Turner, a native of Cincinnati, was admitted to the University of Cincinnati at the age of 13. He received a bachelor’s degree three years later, earned a master’s in English from Cincinnati at the age of 18 and a doctorate from the University of Chicago when he was 25.
He edited a number of anthologies, including “Black Drama in America” and “Black American Literature,” published by Charles Merrill and Company.
4. Jimmy Ruffin is born in Colinsville, Mississippi. The older brother of the Temptations’ lead singer David Ruffin, he will become a singer on the Motown label and will best known for the hit “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted.” He will also record “Hold on to My Love,” “There Will Never be Another You,” and “I’ll Say Forever My Love.”
5. Thelma Houston, Rhythm and Blues Artist, singer-songwriter and actress. She scored a #1 hit in 1977 with her cover version of the song “Don’t Leave Me This Way“, which won the 1978 Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.