Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Buechner Family

Buechner Hall. Photo from Facebook Page

When my wife and I were students at Youngstown State. We had friends who lived in Buechner Hall at 620 Bryson Street. On one hand, the lobby featured beautiful wood paneling and comfortable furniture, a bit like one would find in your grandmother’s parlor. That’s as far as guests could go, especially gentlemen guests. This was, and is, a privately operated residence hall for women, and it was a place where women on an urban campus could feel secure. The residence hall had its own food and a curfew. Yet the women who lived here generally seemed to accept the restrictions and overall were happy to live there.

Photo source: August 3, 1940 Vindicator

Buechner Hall was built in 1940-1941 to provide affordable lodging for both working women and female students at Youngstown College. Construction was funded by a $2 million bequest from Lucy R. Buechner, given in memory of her mother, Elvira Buechner. A non-profit corporation, the Lucy R. Buechner Corporation was established and continues to use funds from the bequest for building operations, keeping housing costs at an affordable price.

Lucy R. Buechner was the daughter of an early physician and part of a family that invested significantly in Youngstown philanthropy. Her father, William L. Buechner, was born in Reinheim, Hesse, Darmstadt, Germany on December 3, 1830. He received his medical training at the University of Giessen, graduating in 1853. He emigrated to the United States that same year, living briefly in Pittsburgh before moving to Youngstown in 1854. In 1858, he married Elvira Heiner, daughter of Squire Heiner, an early resident of Youngstown. Two children followed, William H., who became a celebrated local surgeon in his own right, and Lucy.

He was recognized for his medical excellence by honorary degrees from Western Reserve University, and later the Rush Medical College of Chicago. He was one of the leaders in the efforts to establish the City Hospital (later North Side Hospital) in Youngstown and served on its staff until his death. He served both on the Board of Heath and the Board of Education. He was also a shrewd investor with investments in stocks of several of the major iron and steel companies of his day, and this established the family’s fortune. Tragically, he died on September 10, 1904, during a driving accident with an unmanageable horse in Mill Creek Park. When he died, at the request of the Mayor, businesses and the Common Pleas Court closed.

His son, William H. Buechner followed in his father’s footsteps in pursuing a medical career. Born in 1864, he graduated from The Rayen High School in 1882, and Western Reserve University in 1885 with his M.D. He pursued additional studies at the University of Pennsylvania in 1886. He went on to work as an assistant of a famous German surgeon, Professor Von Volkman in Halle, Germany, returning to Youngstown in 1890. He was on staff as a surgeon at the City Hospital of Youngstown, performing the first prostatectomy in the city, a delicate operation, according to Dr. John Melnick. He died on December 14, 1920 following a long battle with pneumonia in an age before antibiotics.

The family had all lived at a stately home at the corner of Champion and East Federal Street. After her brother’s death, it was said that Lucy was rarely seen, and then only on her porch in a black dress until complications from an illness ended her life on September 10, 1926. Following her death it was learned that she had given the bulk of her fortune to establish a home for “student girls” and “those who are self-supporting and are engaged in gainful occupation.”

According to a story in The Jambar, some Buechner residents believe Lucy’s ghost haunts the residence. My wife and I don’t recall any such stories. Whatever is the case, Buechner Hall continues to serve Youngstown State’s students, with the restrictions on men visiting rooms that existed when we were there. Typically, there have been wait lists for rooms. Lucy’s gift, and the investments of the Buechner family have left a lasting memorial to Elvira. One can’t help but think she was an extraordinary wife and mother!

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Cascade Run Stone Bridge

“Cascade Run Stone Bridge” Bob Trube, (c) 2015.

The Lanterman Falls Bridge, the silver Suspension Bridge and the Parapet Bridge are probably the most photographed bridges in Mill Creek Park. But there are many bridges in Mill Creek Park. Several years ago, on a fall visit to Youngstown we took a number of pictures in the park. One of those was of the Cascade Run Stone Bridge. I was on the north bank of Cascade Run, between the bridge and Lake Cohasset, looking toward the bridge and up the ravine beyond in the afternoon sunlight.

That picture turned into the painting above a few years ago when I was practicing working with an easel and paints before joining my wife and a group of artist friends in a plein air retreat at Linwood Park on Lake Erie. I don’t claim this is great art, more of a beginners effort. I suspect I am just one of many who have been inspired by a place in the park.

A early photo of the Cascade Run Stone Bridge (Source: The Vindicator)

The pictured bridge is a small stone bridge over Cascade Run, just before it flows into Mill Creek at the south end of Lake Cohasset. If you are driving north on Valley Drive from the Suspension Bridge, it crosses the Cascade Run Stone Bridge just before West Gorge Drive and West Cohasset Drive. Cascade Run Ravine is one of the most scenic spots in the park, running parallel to West Gorge Drive. It is a steep ravine (as is West Gorge Drive) punctuated with cascading waterfalls as it makes its way to Lake Cohasset. According to John C. Melnick, it was one of Volney Rogers’ favorite places.

Cascade Ravine was among the earliest park acquisitions. 29.36 acres west of Mill Creek. The deed was signed by George Tod and H. H. Stambaugh on September 15, 1891. A steel bridge at the top of the bridge was built in 1894. A new bridge was built in 1990. The stone bridge over Cascade Run on Valley Drive was built in 1913, which means it has lasted over a century, like many of the other bridges in the park.

This is not one of the more dramatic sights in the park, yet it is one more example of the careful workmanship and aesthetic sense of Volney Rogers and those who worked with him to create scenic and durable structures to complement that natural beauty of Mill Creek Park. It caught my eye on an afternoon roaming the park, and on another afternoon when I painted the scene. It is one of the reasons the park is such a treasure–favorite places to return to at different times of the year, and a thousand new ones to discover.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Charles H Owsley and Charles F Owsley

C F Owsley and C F Owsley

Charles H. Owsley and Charles F. Owsley

This father and son architect team designed some of of the most iconic and enduring buildings in Youngstown. Charles H. Owsley, the father, was born in 1846 in Blaston, England. He apprenticed under two Wales architects, Sir Gilbert Scott and Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt, who specialized in church buildings. When he finished his apprenticeship, he moved to the U.S. via Canada in 1868, buying a farm in Weathersfield Township. Originally he set out to farm but a few architectural commissions led to a career. Even before forming Owsley & Bourcherle in 1878 (Boucherle did the engineering work on Owsley’s buildings), Owsley’s projects included the original Strouss-Hirschberg store and the second Mahoning County Courthouse. One of his surviving structures, built in 1899, is the John R. Davis Building. It may be that his most enduring works were residential buildings. Among these are the Wick-Pollock House, Buhl Mansion in Sharon, and houses on Millionaires Row in Warren. He also designed the Carnegie Library in Salem, still in use today.

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Mahoning County Courthouse. Photo © Robert C. Trube, 2019.

Charles F. Owsley, his son, followed in his steps. After graduating from the Rayen School in 1899, he studied architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, and then went to Paris, studying at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. It wasn’t clear whether he would be an artist or an architect, but in 1905 he joined Owsley & Boucherle, and worked with his father on some of the notable buildings in Youngstown including the current Mahoning County courthouse, one of Youngstown’s architectural jewels, replacing the one designed by his father, the Reuben McMillan Public Library, and South High School.

After his father retired, the company was reorganized as the Owsley Company. He built homes for some of the powerful Youngstown families, and married into one of them, the McKelvey’s. Needless to say, one of his projects was the design of the McKelvey building, a grand building in which I was privileged to work. He went on to design both the original building of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and North Side Hospital, Youngstown City Hall, and the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District buildings.

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Home Savings & Loan Building (now Premier Bank), © Robert C. Trube, 2019

Two of his most iconic works came at the height of his career. In 1919 construction was completed on the Home Savings and Loan building (now Premier Bank). I used to look out my back bedroom window with binoculars at the sign and clock tower, and the building represented financial stability of Youngstown for generations. Then, in a very different style, art deco, he designed the expansion of the Isaly Dairy plant with its distinctive tower.

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Isaly Dairy plant (now Hertz Rental and Storage), Photo © Robert C. Trube, 2019.

He built civic organizations as well as iconic buildings. He felt it important to gather business leaders over lunch to hear speakers and enjoy fellowship and formed the Rotary Organization in 1914, the 137th in the country. He was active in the Chamber of Commerce, the Masons, the Elks. His business began to wind down in the 1940’s with his last design being the Shenango Inn, in 1950. He died on March 17, 1953 of a stroke at his home.

His buildings live on. The classic beauty, detail, and stateliness of the courthouse, the dignity of the library, the striking art deco design of the Isaly building, and the distinctive presence the Home Savings Tower adds to the Youngstown skyline all are architectural gifts to the city. Yet these are merely the most prominent of many structures from commercial structures to residences given to us by this father and son. Now it is our job to preserve them.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Ed Matey

Ed Matey teacher and coach

Edward Paul Matey, teacher and coach. Photos from 1970 Lariat

As I was finishing an article on Chester McPhee, the first of a long line of great Chaney High School coaches, I saw comments on a Chaney alumni site of the passing of another Chaney coach Edward (“Ed”) Paul Matey on Thursday, July 30, 2020. Confirmation soon followed in Youngstown news media. Mr. Matey had died in his home at the age of 74.

I knew Mr. Matey best as my U.S. History teacher. At that time, he was assistant coach to Lou “Red” Angelo. He would take over as head coach the next year and Lou Angelo would become Athletic Director. I had a number of tough teachers at Chaney. Truthfully, Mr. Matey wasn’t one of them. We learned all the important facts about U.S. history, we watched a lot of films, and the exams were straightforward. If you studied what he told you would be on the exam, you would pass, usually with an “A.” What I do remember was that he was always immaculately dressed–ironed white shirt, pressed slacks, shined shoes, and tie. The most he would do would be to roll up his sleeves in hot weather. While he wasn’t a hard teacher, you didn’t goof off in his class, any more than in gym classes taught by his mentor, Mr. Angelo.

Until his passing, I didn’t realize how much he did both before and after I was at Chaney, and how much he contributed to athletics, and to the Youngstown community. He was born and raised on Youngstown’s West side, born right at the end of World War II, on October 30, 1945 to Andrew and Helen Matey. He played football under Lou Angelo at Chaney from 1960-1963, playing both ways, as players often did then, winning All-City, All Northeastern Ohio and an All State awards in 1962.

He stayed in Youngstown when he could have played for many college teams, playing defense for Dike Beede from 1963-1966. He won a varsity letter in his freshman year, starting from his second game on for the rest of his college career winning four varsity letters. In one game during his freshman year against Southern Connecticut, he had fifteen tackles and six sacks. During his sophomore year, the Penguins were 6-1-2, in part because of his great defensive play. He won most valuable player awards in his junior and senior years and YSU’s Most Valuable Male Athlete for 1966-67. In 1997 he was inducted into the YSU Athletics Hall of Fame.

Leaving Youngstown State with an education degree, he became a teacher at Chaney High School, where he would work until 2002. In addition to teaching U.S. History, he was assistant coach under Lou Angelo from 1967 to 1971. He took over as head coach in 1971 and coached for 17 years. During that time his teams won eight City League championships, including Chaney’s first 10-0 team. He had an overall coaching record of 83-67-4, coaching future NFL players like Matt Cavanaugh and Jerry Olsavsky.

After his coaching years, he became athletic director, and then assistant principal at Chaney until retiring in 2002 after 35 years at Chaney. His career as player, teacher, coach, and administrator earned him induction into Chaney’s Wall of Fame in 2005 beside greats like Chester H. McPhee and Lou Angelo.

His service to Chaney and Youngstown area athletics didn’t end with his retirement. He served as Athletic Director for Youngstown City School District until finally retiring in 2017. He knew everyone in the Mahoning Valley and used his ties to spearhead a campaign to build the new Rayen Stadium, which became the shared home field for Chaney and East High School, Youngstown’s two remaining high schools.

His obituary notes his marriage of thirty-three years, and his love for his children and grandchildren, his love of hunting and fishing with them, and his skills in carpentry. Reminiscences of former players I’ve seen note his impact on their lives and lifelong friendships. And typical of Youngstowners, he made pierogies with friends at Holy Trinity on Thursdays.

It is hard to believe the young teacher and coach of my high school years is gone. As sad as that is, I also celebrate a life well-lived, a life invested in family, athletes, a school, and a city. Rest in peace Coach Matey.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Chester H. McPhee

Chester McPhee

Chester H. McPhee, from the 1936 Rig Veda, Chaney’s yearbook.

Recently I wrote about Frank Sinkwich, the Heisman Trophy winner who got his start at Youngstown’s Chaney High School. His coach was Chester H. McPhee. I remember Mr. McPhee, who still visited Chaney when I was there from 1969 to 1972, sometimes speaking at an assembly, or attending a basketball game. At the time, he was on the Youngstown Board of Education, even though he was in his seventies. He was, even then, a tall and imposing figure.

Chester H. McPhee was born March 28, 1897 in Mahoningtown, Pennsylvania, near New Castle. His family moved to Youngstown and he was a star half back at South High School under coach Russell “Busty” Ashbaugh. He also was a talented basketball player. After graduation in 1915, he enlisted in the Marine Corps, becoming a drill instructor at Parris Island. After his discharge in 1918, he returned to Youngstown, working at Stambaugh-Thompson’s. When it became clear to him that the promotions were going to college men, he enrolled as a student at Newberry College in South Carolina.

He went on to play half back on the Newberry College team, winning both freshman and senior All-Star awards. He was All-State center on the Newberry basketball team, which won four consecutive state championships. He also met and married Mabel, his wife for over 50 years.

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Chaney 1935 basketball team. Chester McPhee is on the far left of the second row.

After graduation, he taught coached in Laurens, South Carolina for a year. The following year, he returned to Youngstown to teach and coach at the newly established Chaney High School on Youngstown’s West Side. He taught physical education and coached there for 28 years. He coached both football and basketball. He not only coached Frank Sinkwich, but also All-American Frank Terlecki, the Kabealo brothers and his two sons, Chester, Jr. and Frank. He won five City Series football championships outright and shared four others.

He stepped down from his coaching role in 1954, and took a teaching position at West Jr. High School, teaching physical education and history until he retired in 1966. He organized weekend basketball tournaments and worked summers with Youngstown’s Park and Recreation Commission. He was honored on retirement by the Chaney Sports Alumni Association and elected to the Curbstone Coaches Hall of Fame.

In 1967 and 1971 he ran for school board and served as president of the school board from 1970 to 1972, when he retired. In 1974, he was elected to the Ohio High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame. He passed away June 8, 1975 and laid to rest at Forest Lawn Cemetery. In 1977, Newberry College elected him to its Hall of Fame. Mabel lived on until 1996.

His sons followed in his footsteps in many ways. Chester H. McPhee, Jr., after completing a doctorate at Ohio State went on to a teaching and coaching career at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. At various times he coached football, lacrosse, and swimming for the college. He died in 2012. His other son, Frank, went to Princeton, where he was an All-American in 1951-1952, during an era of great Princeton football teams. He played one season in the NFL with the Chicago Cardinals, and then went on to a successful career in the insurance industry with Prudential. He returned to Youngstown after retirement and passed in 2011.

Chester McPhee established a tradition of great coaching at Chaney High School, a tradition carried on by the likes of Lou “Red” Angelo, Ed Matey, and Ron Berdis. He coached players who went on to success in sports and life, including his sons. He spent most of his life as an educator. Thank you Mr. McPhee. Once a Cowboy, Always a Cowboy!

[After writing this article, I learned of the passing of Ed Matey, one of my teachers at Chaney, and a part of that great tradition. What a reunion he and Red and Chet must be having! My sympathies to the family of Coach Matey. May he rest in peace.]

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Girard’s Beginnings

I’m sure I’ve driven through Girard, probably up Route 422 toward Warren, following along the course of the Mahoning River. Little did I realize that this road and this river were a significant reason why Girard existed. Girard was originally part of Liberty Township, the five mile by five mile township due west of Hubbard Township. The township was originally owned by four men: Moses Cleaveland (after whom Cleveland was named–they dropped the first “a”), Daniel Lathrop, Christopher Liffinwell, and Sam Huntington, Jr. The township was divided into 25 one mile lots. Lot 10, where Girard is located was in a prime location because the Mahoning River ran through it and State Road, which ran through it connecting Youngstown and Cleveland.

Hieronimus Eckman and his family settled the upper third of Lot 10 in 1802, The next year he petitioned to have an east-west road built between what became Girard and Hubbard. This is now Route 304, Churchill Road. The Eckmans were from Lancaster County in Pennsylvania, a heavily German area. Others followed and settled in this area on the north side of Girard, so many that it became known as “Dutchtown.”

The southern third was settled by the Francis Carlton family and established the first school, a log cabin affair, on their land. They were an Irish family from western Pennsylvania. The middle section was owned by a succession of people winding up with Solomon Kline, after whom Kline Street was named

One of the other early families to settle in the area was the Henry Barnhisel family. The family eventually acquired 650 acres just north of Lot 10. The Union Church was the first church in the area and was built on land donated by the Barnhisels. In 1841 Barnhisel’s son built the Classic Revival mansion on State Street seen above.

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Stephen Girard

Up until the 1830’s, the area was dominated by prosperous farms served by Andrew McCartney’s Grist Mill, powered by water from a dam across the river. Then plans developed for the Pennsylvania-Ohio Canal that would run from the Ohio River, up the Beaver and Mahoning Rivers and on to Akron. The reservoir above the dam made an ideal place to load and unload canal boats and this fact led to land speculation in which four men bought 42 acres of Solomon Kline’s land to form the town of Girard, likely named after Philadelphia philanthropist Stephen Girard, the richest man in America at the time of his death in 1831. One of the four was David Tod from Brier Hill, future industrialist and governor of Ohio.

The canal reached Girard in 1839. The dam was modified to a two levee dam with a canal lock at the east end. There was a basin north of the dam for loading and unloading barges and this both brought goods into Girard and enabled shipping of the local farm products. Taverns, a post office, a school and residences on the fifteen blocks of lots followed. By 1860, 500 people lived in Girard.

Girard mills

Girard Rolling Mills

The next thirty years was a time of industrial expansion. Fredrick Krehl established a tannery in 1860 that grew to eventually turn out 600 hides a week. The major growth was due to the iron and steel industry. All the needed raw materials were nearby. An influx of Welsh settlers engaged in much of the mining. In 1866, David Tod, Joseph Butler, William Richards, and William Ward built a mill that could turn out 20,000 tons a month. Nearby, also on the south side of the Mahoning, Henry, Myron, and John Wick built the Girard Rolling Mill in 1872. The Girard Stove Works were nearby and eventually became part of Youngstown Foundry and Machine, building coal cars and castings.

Lotze building

Lotze Building

All of this brought money and people into Girard. Fredrick Krehl built a mansion at State and West Broadway while Zenas Kline built a mansion on Churchill Road. The Girard Savings Bank and a newspaper sprang up and the Lotze Building on Liberty Street, which housed a number of stores and the Opera House on the second floor. Churches and new school buildings were erected. By 1890, the population surpassed 1,000 and in 1893 Girard was incorporated as a village with a mayor and city council. A descendant of the first settlers, Ambrose Eckman became mayor.

There is much more to tell of Girard’s story. One of the best accounts on which I drew extensively may be found at “Girard History” hosted by the Girard Free Library. The same factors that accounted for Youngstown’s early industrial development were factors with Girard–the Mahoning River, and nearby raw materials for steel making. The Tods, Wicks, and Butlers led the growth of these industries in both areas. Transportation both by canal and land, later augmented by rail brought goods into and out of both. I suspect some of this might have been a surprise to Hieronimus Eckman and Henry Barnhisel. But they had the foresight to recognize those transportation possibilities, good not only for the products of their farms, but far more.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Nehemiah Hubbard, Jr.

Nehemiah Hubbard Jr.

Nehemiah Hubbard, Jr.

My aunt’s sister Winifred used to live on the outskirts of Hubbard. We would visit occasionally, usually when my uncle came up from Texas. We would drive up Wick Ave to Logan Avenue, and then turn onto Youngstown-Hubbard Road (Route 62), crossing Crab Creek. All of a sudden, it seemed we were out in the country, with the glow of the mills behind us. Winifred lived in a home on a large lot on the east side of Youngstown-Hubbard Road. That is the extent of my memories of Hubbard.

Like so many places in the Mahoning Valley, Hubbard is named after one of the land speculators who purchased land in the Connecticut Western Reserve. Like many, he never moved to Ohio. Hubbard is named after Nehemiah Hubbard, Jr. of Middletown, Connecticut. He was born on April 10, 1752 as the third of thirteen children of Nehemiah and Sarah Hubbard. From the age of 14 to 21, he clerked in Samuel Talcott’s store and then went to sea in the West Indies, eventually becoming a captain and later, a merchant. In 1776, Governor Jonathan Trumbull Sr. appointed Hubbard as paymaster to Colonel Charles Burrall’s regiment. He advanced to deputy quartermaster for the State of Connecticut. In 1780 served with contractors supplying the French at Yorktown. He was on hand when General Cornwallis surrendered, ending the war.

After the war, he returned to Middletown, becoming a successful merchant, and eventually the president of Middletown Bank, and later the Savings Bank. He became one of the original founders of the Connecticut Land Company. He acquired 15,274 acres, which formed Range 1, Township 3 of the Western Reserve (nominally these were 16,000 acres but varied because of surveying errors). He also acquired land in Ashtabula and elsewhere, owning roughly 58,000 acres.

Hubbard sold the first parcel of land to Samuel Tylee, who acted as Hubbard’s agent in selling plots of two hundred acres (sometimes subdivided) in Hubbard Township, and moved his family from Middletown, Connecticut to Ohio. The township itself remained small until coal fields in the Mahoning Valley opened up in the 1850’s and 1860’s. This attracted settlers from Europe and in 1861 Hubbard became a village, and in 1868 it became a statutorily incorporated municipality.

While Nehemiah Hubbard, Jr. never moved to Ohio, his nephew, William Hubbard moved to Ashtabula in 1834, three year’s before Nehemiah’s death, serving as his agent to sell the remainder of his lands. William Hubbard was known for his abolitionist efforts, joining his brothers Matthew and Henry who had previously settled in the area and who were also engaged in anti-slavery efforts. He was active in the Underground Railroad, at one time sheltering 39 fugitive slaves. His house in Ashtabula, at one point facing demolition, has been restored as the Hubbard House Underground Railroad Museum.

Nehemiah Hubbard, Jr. died February 6, 1837. He has been described as “tall and commanding. He was a man of unbending integrity, of quick and discriminating judgment, and of a noble, frank deportment.” In other places he has been described as energetic. He was a pillar of his community, a Revolutionary War veteran, a founder of the Connecticut Land Company and part of a family that not only gave Hubbard its name but had influence throughout the Western Reserve, particularly in anti-slavery efforts.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — J. Maynard Dickerson

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J. Maynard Dickerson

A couple weeks ago I wrote about Judge Nathaniel R. Jones,  who rose from early years in Smoky Hollow to serve as a justice on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth District. In writing that story, I began to learn about his mentor, J. Maynard Dickerson. As I learned more about him, I discovered an equally distinguished career as a civil rights leader, publisher, attorney and city prosecutor in Youngstown, and civil servant in Ohio’s State government.

J. Maynard Dickerson was born in Hamilton, Ohio July 9, 1899. He came to Youngstown as a youth, graduating from The Rayen School before going on to The Ohio State University. He then pursued legal studies at the Youngstown College of Law and was admitted to the bar in 1930. He married Virginia Hall in 1933 and they were together until his passing.

After two stints as an assistant prosecutor (1928-1936 and 1939-1942), he was named the first black city prosecutor of Youngstown in 1943. During his legal studies, he ran a printing business, and out of this launched The Buckeye Review, a local weekly newspaper covering the black community in Youngstown at a time when The Vindicator gave very limited coverage.  Nathaniel R. Jones mother came to work for him as a subscription manager, and this led to Nathaniel’s association with Dickerson.

Dickerson first gave him the opportunity to write sports columns. He was a tough editor, marking up his columns with red ink so that they looked “like something chickens had a fight over.” But he explained why every correction he made mattered as well as grooming him in speaking and public behavior. Dickerson was a local officer and president (later state president) of the NAACP. A number of national speakers came to Youngstown to speak, and Dickerson always made sure Jones was at his side to learn from, and establish a relationship with these leaders. Jones served as president of the NAACP Youth Council and was alongside Dickerson in his civil rights advocacy. Later, Dickerson helped advocate for his appointment by Robert Kennedy as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio in Cleveland in 1961.

In 1949, Dickerson was appointed as Vice Chairman and first black member of the Ohio Industrial Commission and eventually was appointed Chairman in 1959, holding that position until 1963. In 1958 he attended a conference convened by President Eisenhower. When Dickerson died, Bob Riley, assistant superintendent of the Safety and Hygiene Division said of his service:

“For many years Maynard served the people of Ohio as Industrial Commission Chairman. He combined a dedicated sense of responsibility while retaining and conveying ‘the common touch’ with employers and employees alike.”

He then went on to serve on the Ohio Liquor Commission until 1970. He fought for civil rights for blacks all his life, advocating for the first Fair Employment Practices Law in Ohio and serving as counsel in school desegregation cases in Dayton and Columbus.

Among his affiliations were membership at Oak Hill A.M.E. Church in Youngstown, the Elks, a Masonic Lodge, and the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. He received a Phi Beta Kappa award for outstanding work in the field of education and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Central State University in 1960.

He died at his home in Columbus, Ohio in the early morning hours August 5, 1976 of a cerebral hemorrhage, having complained to a guest of a headache the previous evening. He was a civil rights pioneer, publisher, mentor, and a leader in city and state government. Perhaps Nathaniel R. Jones, in his memoir, summarized it best when he said, “…I shall be forever grateful to J. Maynard Dickerson. He stood out as the most powerful African-American in the valley and one of the most significant in the state. He did not shirk from using The Buckeye Review to challenge the racial status quo.”

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Independence Day

man with fireworks

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com

Independence Day

Day begins early–holiday Vindy to deliver

Flag-lined streets

We’re all patriots

Dad cooks bacon and egg breakfast

Sousa marches on the radio

“We hold these truths to be self-evident…”

Picnic preparations

Neighborhood alive with firecrackers

A wonder any of us has ten fingers

Drive through Mill Creek to grandparents

Through the smoke of a dozen barbecues

Meat on the grill

Guys standing around with a brew

Women shuttling between kitchen and back yard

Dishes cover the picnic table

Hotdogs with all the fixins’

Burgers grilled to perfection

Grandma’s potato salad

The best baked beans

Jello salad

Strawberry shortcake

Peach pies

Stuffed

Leisurely conversation

Horseshoes

Hide ‘n seek

Popsicle break

Dusk

Lighting sparklers

Citronella candles

Pile into the car

Idora fireworks

The perfect Fourth

And two more months of summer!

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Honorable Nathaniel R. Jones

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Nathaniel R. Jones, by Jay Godwin for the LBJ Library / Public domain

He grew up in Smoky Hollow. His father worked in the mills and later did janitorial work. His mother took in laundry. As a high school youth, he wrote for a local newspaper and organized a boycott of a segregated roller skating rink. He rose from working class beginnings to become a judge in the second highest court in the land as a justice on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth District. The new Federal Building and Courthouse in downtown Youngstown bears his name. Nathaniel R. Jones.

Nathaniel Raphael Jones was born in Youngstown on May 13, 1926 to Nathaniel Bacon Jones and Lillian Isabelle (Brown) Jones. After his father was laid off from his work in the mills during the depression, he washed windows and did janitorial work in local theaters, often taking Nathaniel along. His mother eventually became the subscription manager of The Buckeye Review, the local black newspaper. Publisher and lawyer J. Maynard Dickerson took young Nathaniel under his wing, allowing him to write a sports column in the paper.

As a high school student, he was active in the NAACP youth council, organizing a successful boycott of a roller skating link that allowed blacks to skate only on Monday nights. After serving in the Army Air Force, he went to a restaurant by the name of DuRell’s in the Youngstown area that refused to serve him. He filed suit against them, winning a judgment that did little more than pay his attorney’s fees. But he made a point. So began a career of pursuing civil rights for blacks.

He went to Youngstown College, and then received a law degree from Youngstown University, graduating in 1956 with his law degree. He set up a private practice, until named by Attorney General Robert Kennedy as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio in Cleveland in 1961. He was the first black to serve in the district in this position. In 1967 he was named Assistant General Counsel to the President on President Johnson’s Kerner Commission on Civil Disorders.

After briefly returning to private practice, in 1969 he agreed to serve as general counsel for the national NAACP. At a recognition banquet hosted by the Youngstown NAACP the following year, he described the situation of blacks in the U.S. in these terms: “We still live in the basement of the great society. We must keep plodding until we get what we are striving for.” In his role as general counsel he strove to change that situation, directing all litigation for the NAACP. He argued cases challenging school segregation in the North and against racial bias in the military. He persuaded Governor George Wallace to pardon Clarence Norris, the one surviving member of the Scottsboro Boys, wrongly accused of the rape of a white woman in 1951.

His fight against racial injustice was fought not only in the courts of the United States. In the 1980’s, he was arrested in South Africa for protesting the nation’s apartheid policies. Later, he helped in the drafting of a new South African constitution, ending apartheid. He also consulted with other African countries on setting up their judicial systems.

On August 28, 1979 President Jimmy Carter nominated Nathaniel R. Jones to the to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He assumed senior status in 1995 and retired on March 30, 2002. During his term on the bench, he taught at the University of Cincinnati law school and at Harvard Law School. On May 6, 2003, the second federal courthouse established in Youngstown was named in his honor.

After retirement from the court, he became Senior Counsel for Blank Rome LLP and co-chairman of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. He wrote a memoir, published in 2016: ”Answering the Call: An Autobiography of the Modern Struggle to End Racial Discrimination in America.” That same year, he received the NAACP’s Spingarn Award, their highest award, recognizing outstanding achievement by an African-American.

Nathaniel R. Jones died of congestive heart failure at age 93 on January 26, 2020. He was one of the most distinquished figures to rise from working class beginnings in Youngstown. His comments to the Cincinnati Enquirer may give us a clue to his distinction. He said, “The key to prevailing as a minority in a segregated, oppressive society is to not let the prevailing stereotypes define who you are.”

He prevailed.

[Special thanks to Nick Manolukas for suggesting this article]