Kansas City leader continues to persevere after 91 years
Kansas Citians know her as the matriarch, the conscience,
of a community. Journalists know her as an influential leader,
one of two Kansas City print journalists the other
is Ernest Hemingway honored in the Newseum, a Washington,
D.C. archive of the profession
She is Lucile Bluford, c'32, who celebrated her 91st birthday
July 1 with little fanfare but widespread praise throughout
her hometown. Bluford began her career as a reporter for The
Kansas City Call in the 1930s; when publisher Chester A. Frankin
died in 1955, Bluford succeeded him, guiding the newspaper
as editor, publisher and part-owner for decades. Amid the
struggles for civil rights and the rise of the African-American
community, Bluford rallied and reassured readers and
led The Call to national prominence.
In 1990, the University, where Bluford became only the second
African-American student to major in journalism, awarded her
its Distinguished Service Citation, the highest honor bestowed
by KU and the Alumni Association for service to humanity.
She also has received an honorary doctorate from the University
of Missouri, which years ago had refused to admit the young
black woman as a student. In 1939, Bluford sued MU, boldly
seeking to open the university to black students. Although
she lost her case, her action began a series of legal challenges
that ultimately abolished the "separate but equal"
doctrine in education.
Bluford retired from The Call four years ago following a
stroke, but she remains close to the newspaper and shares
a home with managing editor Donna Stewart, who is in her 25th
year at The Call. "She still likes to be informed. She
reads the paper and listens to the news," says Stewart,
who succinctly sums up the lessons she learned from Bluford:
"She taught me how to persevere."
Stewart says Bluford has long held citywide respect during
discussions of race relations in Kansas City, "an ongoing
topic for many years now and many years to come."
In his birthday tribute to Bluford, former Kansas City mayor
Emanuel Cleaver told The Kansas City Star, "Miss Bluford
will go down in history as one of the most unparalleled African-American
personalities in our city. At one time, we had no African-American
council members or representatives. All we had was Miss Bluford."
A strong voice that never wavered.