1. Byrd Prillerman, Co-founder of Virginia State College one of West Virginia’s most prominent Negro educators, and former president of West Virginia Collegiate institute, now West Virginia State college. one of those responsible for having the land-grant school located in the Kanawha Valley, was the fourth president. During his tenure, academic programs were expanded and the institution was given a new name “The West Virginia Collegiate Institute.” Prillerman Hall is named for him.
2. LaWanda Page, actress and comedienne best known for her portrayal of Aunt Esther in the 1970s TV sitcom Sanford and Son. Known for using the “set you straight term” (Watch it sucker).
3. Georgia Montgomery Davis Powers, served for 21 years as a distinguished member of the state Senate in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. When elected in 1967, she became the first person of color and the first woman elected to the Kentucky’s State Senate.
4. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, PhD, The first African American female president of Spelman College from 1987-1997. She was president of Bennett College from 2002-2007. She is currently serving as director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art.
5. Michael Stephen Steele, Conservative politician, serving since January 2009 as the first African American chairman of the Republican National Committee.
6. Jennifer Holiday, singer and Tony Award-winning actress. She started her career on Broadway in musicals such as Dreamgirls, and later became a successful recording artist. She is best known for her debut single, the Dreamgirls showstopper and Grammy Award-winning R&B/Pop hit, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.”
7. Evander Hollyfield, Former heavyweight Boxing Champion, He is a former World Undisputed Champion in both cruiserweight and heavyweight divisions, earning him the nickname “The Real Deal”. After winning the bronze medal in the Light Heavyweight division at the 1984 Summer Olympics, he debuted as a professional at the age of 21.
8. Bradley Lee Daugherty, retired basketball player with the University of North Carolina and later with the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA, joined ESPN’s return to NASCAR racing telecasts in 2007. He is currently a car owner and an analyst for NASCAR.
1. Dr. Vivien Thomas, surgical technician who developed the procedures used to treat blue baby syndrome in the 1940s. He was an assistant to surgeon Alfred Blalock in Blalock’s experimental animal laboratory at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee and later at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Without any education past high school, Thomas rose above poverty and racism to become a cardiac surgery pioneer and a teacher of operative techniques to many of the country’s most prominent surgeons. Vivien Thomas was the first African American without a doctorate degree to perform open heart surgery on a white patient in the United States.
2. Isabel Sanford, actress best known for her role as Louise “Weezy” Jefferson on the CBS television sitcoms All in the Family (1971–1975) and The Jeffersons She was the first African-American actress to win a Lead Actress Emmy Award (for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 1981), and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, and received an honorary doctorate degree from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts.
3. Charlie (Bird) Parker, famously called Bird or Yardbird, was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. Parker, with Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, is widely considered to have been one of the most influential jazz musicians. Parker acquired the nickname “Yardbird” early in his career and the shortened form “Bird” remained Parker’s sobriquet for the rest of his life, inspiring the titles of a number of Parker compositions, such as “Yardbird Suite”, “Ornithology” and “Bird of Paradise.”
5. Dinah Washington born Ruth Lee Jones, was a blues, R&B and jazz singer. She has been cited as “the most popular black female recording artist of the ’50s”, and called “The Queen of the Blues”. She is a 1986 inductee of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993
6. Albertina Walker, Albertina had four siblings born in Bibb County and four born in Chicago. Albertina began singing in the youth choir at the West Point Baptist Church at an early age, and joined several Gospel groups thereafter, including The Pete Williams Singers and the Robert Anderson Singers. Albertina was greatly influenced by Mahalia Jackson, her friend and confidante. Mahalia Jackson took her on the road when she was just a teenager. “Mahalia used to kid me. She’d say, ‘Girl, you need to go sing by yourself.’ ” recalled Walker in a 2010 Washington Post Interview. Albertina Walker did just that. In 1951, she formed the group called The Caravans. She was popularly referred to as the “Queen of Gospel Music”, initially by such notables as the late Reverend James Cleveland and Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., for her outstanding achievements within the genre after the death of Mahalia Jackson in 1972.
In the early 1950s Walker founded her own Gospel music group The Caravans, enlisting fellow singers from The Robert Anderson Singers (Ora Lee Hopkins, Elyse Yancey and Nellie Grace Daniels). The Caravans’ membership has included: James Cleveland, Bessie Griffin, Shirley Caesar, Dorothy Norwood, Inez Andrews, Loleatta Holloway, Cassietta George, and Delores Washington. Walker retired The Caravans in the late 1960s, performing as a solo artist.
7. Wyomia Tyus, Won a gold medal for two Consecutive Olympics (1964-1968). The first person to retain the Olympic title in the 100 m. Participated in the 1964 Summer Olympics at age 19. In the heats of the event, she equaled Wilma Rudolph’s World Record, propelling her to a favored position for the final, where her main rival would be fellow American Edith McGuire. Tyus won the final, beating McGuire by two tenths. At the same Olympics, she also won a silver medal with the 4 x 100 m relay team, finishing only behind Poland.
8. Michael Joseph Jackson, was an American recording artist, dancer, singer-songwriter, musician, and philanthropist. Referred to as the King of Pop, Jackson is recognized as the most successful entertainer of all time by Guinness World Records. His contribution to music, dance, and fashion, along with a much-publicized personal life, made him a global figure in popular culture for over four decades. The seventh child of the Jackson family, he debuted on the professional music scene along with his brothers as a member of The Jackson 5, then the Jacksons in 1964, and began his solo career in 1971.
In the early 1980s, Jackson became a dominant figure in popular music. The music videos for his songs, including those of “Beat It”, “Billie Jean”, and “Thriller”, were credited with transforming the medium into an art form and a promotional tool, and the popularity of these videos helped to bring the relatively new television channel MTV to fame. Videos such as “Black or White” and “Scream” made him a staple on MTV in the 1990s. Through stage performances and music videos, Jackson popularized a number of dance techniques, such as the robot and the moonwalk, to which he gave the name. His distinctive musical sound and vocal style have influenced numerous hip hop, pop, contemporary R&B, and rock artists.
Jackson’s 1982 album Thriller is the best-selling album of all time. His other records, including Off the Wall (1979), Bad (1987), Dangerous (1991), and HIStory (1995), also rank among the world’s best-selling. Jackson is one of the few artists to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice. He was also inducted into the Dance Hall of Fame as the first (and currently only) dancer from the world of pop and rock ‘n’ roll. Some of his other achievements include multiple Guinness World Records; 13 Grammy Awards (as well as the Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award); 26 American Music Awards (more than any other artist, including the “Artist of the Century”); 13 number-one singles in the United States in his solo career (more than any other male artist in the Hot 100 era); and the estimated sale of over 750 million records worldwide. Jackson won hundreds of awards, which have made him the most-awarded recording artist in the history of popular music.