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Guest column/Meet some area residents who dare to dream

February 12, 2012
By DELORES WIGGINS , The Herald-Star

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, which was given during the march on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., was the most pivotal point of the modern civil rights movement. All people of all races, creeds, religious affiliation and nationality had no choice but to lend an ear with attentiveness.

This impeccable speech, one of the greatest messages of all times, can be reviewed as the "Dreamer and the Dream." Yes, the dream agitated the enemy to a breaking point.

When one dreams, the enemy will seek to destroy you, whether the dream remains silent or vocal. Every human being should possess a dream. African-Americans have no choice but to dream. Without it, we as a people would not be equipped to persevere. During the degradation of slavery, we dreamed and dreamed, with faith, that God would someday unlock the door. There were no beatings, rapings, all-day work sessions and other tormenting that could ever stop the dream and the faith.

Ten people who lived or live in our city dared to dream and have made a significant difference with an impact on our community.

First, Jerome Thompson Edwards and John Ellis Edwards hailed from Steubenville and were members of the famous Tuskegee Airmen. They were brothers who both attended West Virginia State University. After a few years, they were recruited in the Army Air Corps and were trained at the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Ala., in the mid-1940s. The Edward brothers have made a mark here in Steubenville and abroad, and their unit has been the subject of movies including "The Tuskegee Airmen" and the recently released "Redtails."

Second is Delores Miller, the first African-American to become a teacher (1955) and principal (at Garfield) in Steubenville City Schools. She also was a founder and director of the Head Start program at the Community Action Council in 1980. She was the first African-American to become executive director of Children Services.

Third is James Baber. A product of Ackerman, Miss., he is a graduate of Ackerman High School who earned his bachelor's degree from Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss. He completed his doctorate at Northern Illinois University and is now the executive vice president of academic and student affairs at Eastern Gateway Community College.

Fourth is Angela Kirtdoll Suggs, who was the first African-American woman to be elected to the 4th Ward seat on City Council. She grew up in Mingo Junction and is a graduate of Mingo High School. She attended the former West Liberty State College and Kent State University, and holds associate and bachelor degrees. She is the daughter of the late Rev. William Kirtdoll and Sharon Kirtdoll.

Fifth is the late Bobby Young, the founder of the Steuben Striders, a training track program for young people.

Sixth is the late Alfred Bell, who in the 1940s became the first African-American to open a funeral home in Steubenville.

Seventh is the late Frank Littlejohn Sr., who was the first African-American to become a captain and an assistant fire chief for the Steubenville Fire Department.

Eighth is the late Lubie Wiggins, who was the first African-American to graduate from the then-College of Steubenville in 1950 when she earned a bachelor of science degree in biology. She later became the chief medical technologist at the former St. John Hospital.

Ninth is the late Coleman Mullins, who was the first African-American to be elected as a 4th Ward councilman in the 1970s. He later was elected as councilman at large.

Last, but not least, is H. James Baker, who was a civil rights activist and president of the Steubenville Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He staged sit-ins in restaurants and movie theaters. The former steelworker was persistent, with his wisdom and knowledge in civil rights.

He was the pillar and a giant, and an example for all African-Americans who were negligent in becoming a part of the struggle.

God of our weary years, God of silent tears, keep us forever in the path we pray.

(Wiggins is president of the Ohio Valley Black Caucus Inc.)

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