The Iowa African-American Hall of Fame will add five new members later this summer. The Hall of Fame is housed in Iowa State University’s Black Cultural Center. The inductees include Elaine Estes, Melvin Harper, Chuck Toney, Zack E. Hamlett Jr. and the Iowa Tuskegee Airmen. I.S.U. Vice-President for Student Affairs Thomas Hill says Estes opened doors for future Iowans in terms of both race and gender.
“As a student in 1949 at Drake University, she integrated the girls residence halls,” Hill said. “Later, she became the first African-American female graduate of the College of Business Administration and the only female majoring in retailing in the 1953 graduating class.” Estes went on to become the only African-American director of the Des Moines Public Library. Chuck Toney and Zack Hamlett Jr. will be honored posthumously. Hill says Toney became the first African-American executive at John Deere in 1972.
Toney helped Deere develop an affirmative active plan that would later be used as a model implemented by the federal government. Hamlett founded the Des Moines Area Community College Urban Campus. “He was an educator,” Hill said of Hamlett. “He was really instrumental in establishing a campus that provided opportunities for higher education and continuing education in central Iowa.”
Hamlett also founded the Iowa Alliance of Black School Educators. Melvin Harper was a successful music promoter and businessman. The Iowa Tuskegee Airmen were a group of 12 African-Americans from the state who were involved in a combined 400 combat missions in World War II. The 2010 Iowa African-American Hall of Fame inductees will be recognized at a reception and banquet on August 6 in Altoona.
For more information about the event, call (515) 294-1909.