Saturday, October 29, 2016

Birth Dates of Notable Kentuckians: October 29, 1923 – Georgia Davis Powers

  Image from www.uky.edu

From The Kentucky Encyclopedia –
Georgia (Montgomery) Davis Powers, civil rights leader and state senator, was born October 29, 1923, in Springfield, Washington County, Kentucky. She was the only daughter of the nine children of Ben and Frances (Walker) Montgomery. In Louisville she attended Virginia Avenue Elementary School (1929-34), Madison Junior High School (1934-37), Central High School (1937- 40), and Louisville Municipal College (1940-42).

From 1962 to 1967 Powers (as she has been known since her second marriage) served as campaign chairperson for candidates running for a variety of offices, including mayor of Louisville, governor of Kentucky, and the U.S. Congress. She was Kentucky chairperson for the Jesse L. Jackson presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988, and the first black woman to serve on the Jefferson County Democratic executive committee, beginning in 1964. Powers was one of the organizers of the Allied Organization for Civil Rights, which worked for passage of the statewide Public Accommodations and Fair Employment Law in 1964.

Powers was the first black woman to be elected to the Kentucky Senate, serving from January 1968 to January 1989 as a Democrat. As senator, she chaired two legislative committees: Health and Welfare (1970-76) and Labor and Industry (1978-88). Powers was also a member of the Cities Committee, Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee, and Rules Committee, as well as secretary of the Democratic caucus (1968-88). Throughout her Senate tenure, Powers championed blacks, women, children, the poor, and the handicapped. She sponsored or cosponsored an open housing law; a low-cost housing bill; a law to eliminate the identification of race from Kentucky operator's licenses; an amendment to the Kentucky Civil Rights Act to eliminate discrimination based on race, gender, or age; an equal opportunity law; the Equal Rights Amendment resolution; Displaced Homemaker's Law; and a law to increase the minimum wage in Kentucky.

Powers served on the University of Louisville board of overseers, the board of directors of the Kentucky Indiana Planning and Development Agency (KIPDA), and the governor's Desegregation of Higher Education Implementation Committee. In 1981 she helped lead the efforts to retain Kentucky State University as a four-year institution of higher learning, and in 1982-83 was a leader in the successful opposition in a referendum to merge Louisville and Jefferson County. In 1989 Powers received an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University of Kentucky and an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the University of Louisville.

Powers was married to Norman F. Davis from 1943 to 1968; they have one son. She married James L. Powers in 1973.

Selected Sources from UK Libraries:

Powers, Georgia Davis. I Shared the Dream : The Pride, Passion, and Politics of the First Black Woman Senator from Kentucky. Far Hills, N.J.: New Horizon, 1995. Print.
F456.26.P68 A3 1995, Young Library - 4th Floor

Powers, Georgia Davis. Celia's Land : A Historical Novel. Louisville, Ky.: Goose Creek Pub., 2004. Print.
PS3616.O884 C35 2004, Special Collections Research Center

Kentucky Historical Society, and Kentucky Oral History Commission. Living the Story the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky. Frankfort, KY]: Kentucky Historical Society, 2001.
AV-V3226, Young Media Library

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