T. M. Berry Project: Great Living Cincinnatian Award

By Laura Laugle

In 1984, while Theodore M. Berry was heavily involved in the battle to end racial segregation in Cincinnati Public Schools, the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce chose him as a “Great Living Cincinnatian.”  This prestigious designation by the Chamber is part of the organization’s annual honor conferred on local citizens who have made a substantial impact on Cincinnati life.  Joining Berry in being honored that year was Cincinnati Bell CEO, Richard T. Dugan.  Every year since 1967, the Chamber of Commerce (now called the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber) has chosen a select few Cincinnatians as “Great Living Cincinnatians” based upon their achievement in five categories over a lifetime of work: community service, business and civic attainment on a local, state and national or international level, leadership, awareness of the needs of others, and distinctive accomplishments that have brought favorable attention to their community, institution or organization. Continue reading

T. M. Berry Project: Berry and the Fight for Fair Housing in Cincinnati, Part 3

By Laura Laugle

All these delays caused one huge problem: members who had been in need of homes back in 1947 found housing before homes could be built for them at Hollydale in the mid to late 1950s. The result was an enormous expense for the Cedar Grove Homestead Association, which had to refund many of its original members’ investments. Gail Berry remembers her father going to Cedar Grove meetings and to the building site at Hollydale in Springfield Township many times during her childhood. Fortunately, as Berry points out in the article to the right, this type of persistence paid off and the association managed to build a safe and stable community for Cincinnati’s black residents.

Approximately 200 homes were built in the subdivision in the middle part of the 20th century. Thanks to the efficiency of the building techniques used, the homes in Hollydale were relatively affordable. However, the people who ended up settling there were the same people who could afford to wait for houses to be built to his/her specifications and who generally had steady if not large incomes. At first glance then, it would seem that Hollydale would have had little effect on the massive overpopulation problems in Cincinnati’s low income black neighborhoods. However, this is one instance (of only a few) where “trickle down” economics seems to apply beautifully. People moving to Hollydale cleared up at least a little space in the basin of the city which, when combined with additional new housing projects like Park Town, Garden Hill and Richmond Village for which Berry acted as counsel and others like Laurel Homes and Lincoln Court eventually created enough housing to relieve much of the congestion plaguing poor black neighborhoods. Continue reading

T. M. Berry Project: Berry and the Fight for Fair Housing in Cincinnati, Part 2

By Laura Laugle

On May 28, 1948, less than a year after its initial formation, Cedar Grove Homestead Association had the funds available to authorize Berry to begin negotiations to purchase a 93 acre tract of land. The final price for the land: $17,500. Unfortunately, getting the owner to sell to an association made up entirely of African Americans wasn’t so easy…

The problem for Berry and his partners was, as expected, discrimination. The chosen plot of land for the subdivision which would be named “Hollydale” was a farm in Springfield Township near Glenview Golf Course. Continue reading

T. M. Berry Project: Berry and the Fight for Fair Housing in Cincinnati, Part 1

By Laura Laugle

Cincinnati has had a housing problem for a long time; after all, only so many people can fit into the basin that makes up downtown and its immediate surroundings. However, for much of the city’s early history, the African American population was so small and resident Caucasians depended so heavily on the services which they provided that their housing was simply not a problem. The few blacks living in Cincinnati in 1900 made up only about 4.5% of the city’s total population. Out of practicality (who could afford to rent a horse each day for the housemaid’s commute?) blacks lived either with the white families they served or in neighborhoods close to the whites for whom they worked. As a result, high income white neighborhoods were home to black domestics and middle and lower income white neighborhoods, especially those near business districts, were home to working class blacks. That is not to say that race relations in Cincinnati were A-Ok; there were riots throughout the 1800s, rampant legal and illegal discrimination and general tension, but whites simply had no other choice but to accommodate the blacks living among them. Continue reading

T.M. Berry Papers Progress Report

By Kevin Grace, Project Director

In 2010, the University of Cincinnati Libraries received a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) to fully process the Theodore M. Berry papers housed in the Archives & Rare Books Library.  If you have followed ARB’s blogs over the past several months, you’ve read a number of very interesting insights into the life of this civic activist, civil rights pioneer, and Cincinnati politician.  Ted Berry was a key figure in the American civil rights movement from the 1940s until his death in 2000, and his papers help illuminate this era in American history.  Laura Laugle was hired in October 2010 as the project archivist to inventory and describe the Berry materials, create finding aids, and establish a web presence for the collection.  Ms. Laugle has contributed these weekly blogs based upon her discoveries while processing the documents. Continue reading

T. M. Berry Project: The 1949 Election

By Laura Laugle

It seems that smear campaigns fueled by fictitious rumors are nothing new to politics. Of course, most have known this to be true for quite some time. In fact, politicians in ancient Greece began pulling the proverbial wool about five minutes after the words demos and cratos were combined, but here we have one more piece of evidence to add to the already mountainous pile.

Headline - "Berry Asks $100,000 for Red Tag Continue reading

T. M. Berry Project: 'Stumble upon' Sleuthing

By Laura Laugle

“Hey, look what I found!” I’ve been saying that an awful lot lately. I can’t help it; I keep coming across interesting and sometimes funny items of historical significance. In the past two weeks I’ve found photos of Berry with Martin Luther King, a letter with an authentic signature from W. E. B. DuBois, photographs of Donald Rumsfeld from 1969, and a frankly terrifying copy of Enquirer Magazine from 1972 which contains both an advertisement for a red shag bedspread and a photo of Burt Reynolds lying on a bearskin rug, clad only in a smile and a strategically placed hand. Luckily for me, not all Telegram to Berry from White Housediscoveries are quite so… errr… revealing. Continue reading


Written by Laura Laugle

Click image to see a larger version

Ever since finding the photo below I’ve been attempting to find its origin. As I stated in my previous blog post, Hmmm…, the photo was found in an envelope with other, non-related pictures from the collection. Not too long after posting the picture on the blog, I received a tip from the Berry family that the King photo and the JFK photo I posted along with it may have been taken while Berry was at the White House at the invitation of President Kennedy on June 21, 1963. Looking through Kennedy’s diaries for that time, I found that the meeting Berry attended was specifically for lawyers, so King probably wasn’t present. There was however another meeting listed in Kennedy’s diary for June 22 which Dr. King did attend. It is therefore very possible that Berry and King could have had overlapping visits to the White House and met in that context. Continue reading

T. M. Berry Project: A Few Words for Sarge and Berry's WWII Service

Letter from Sargent Shriver

Click on image to read text

Written by Laura Laugle, Berry Project Archivist

I’d like to start out this post with a few words for a man with whom Theodore Berry worked closely during his tenure at the Office of Economic Opportunity, R. Sargent Shriver Jr. During the upheaval accompanying the creation of the program and amid controversy over lost memoranda, Shriver stood by his choice of Berry as director of the Community Action Program and continued to be a friend and supporter of Berry’s long after they had both left Washington when President Nixon took office. Shriver was not only the first director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, but was also the first director of the Peace Corps and helped his wife, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, develop and found the Special Olympics in 1968. Shriver died last Tuesday, January 18, 2011 in a Maryland hospital at the age of 95 and was remembered at his funeral on Friday, January 21 by his five children, his nineteen grandchildren and a horde of celebrities and dignitaries from all over the world as a loving family member and friend and a true statesman. Continue reading

T. M. Berry Project: The UC Connection

Newspaper Article - "Negro is Winner of Jones Prize"

Click on the image to read the article

By Laura Laugle

Up to now, I have explained to you some (very little actually, but we’ll get there) of what made Berry an important figure. If you’ve been reading regularly, you’ll know that Ted Berry was an attorney, a civil rights activist, a local politician and a key player in “The War on Poverty.” What you would not know, because I have thoughtlessly neglected to tell you, is why he is so important to the University of Cincinnati in particular. The short answer is that he was an alumnus. The complete answer is that he was an important part of UC’s community and he has become part of the University’s history.

While at UC, Berry received many honors, both local and national. Perhaps the most outstanding of which is the Jones Oratorical Prize which he won in 1928 for his speech entitled “The Significance of the Minority.” In that speech Berry, then a senior undergraduate at UC, challenged America “… to live by the principles of the founders of our democracy, and to practice a new ideal of human understanding and fair dealing.” Continue reading