Judge Julie Robinson, L'81, among African-American Leaders and Innovators

Monday, September 30, 2013

LAWRENCE —​Nine alumni whose University of Kansas eras span from the 1920s to the 1980s are the 2013 recipients of the KU Black Alumni Chapter’s African-American Leaders and Innovators award. The chapter, sponsored by the KU Alumni Association, will honor them Friday, Nov. 1, during its biennial reunion. Five of the recipients will attend the event, and four will be honored posthumously.

The five who are scheduled to attend include:

  • Homer C. Floyd of Harrisburg, Pa., who completed his bachelor’s degree in education at KU in 1961;
  • La Vert Murray of Kansas City, Kan., a 1971 KU graduate in political science;
  • Julie Robinson, Lawrence, who completed her journalism degree at KU in 1978 and graduated from the School of Law in 1981;
  • Leslie Meacham Saunders, Roswell, Ga., who graduated from KU with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1973; and
  • Lynette Woodard of Houston, who earned her KU communication studies degree in 1981.

The four posthumous honorees are:

  • Wilbur D. Goodseal, who earned his KU degree in education in 1952 and his graduate degree in speech pathology in 1962;
  • Marie Ross, who completed her KU journalism degree in 1944 from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, two years before the School of Journalism was founded;
  • Chester I. Lewis Jr., a 1951 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a 1953 graduate of the School of Law; and
  • Cheryl Warren Mattox, who completed her bachelor’s degree in piano from the KU School of Fine Arts in 1972.

Floyd was among the first African-Americans in the 20th century to play on KU’s football team. He won All-Conference honors in the Big Eight and was co-captain, the first black player to serve in this role. Floyd devoted his career to civil rights enforcement. During the 1960s, he directed the Topeka Human Relations Commis­sion, the Omaha Human Relations Board and the Kansas Commission on Civil Rights. As executive director of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission from 1970 until his retirement in 2011, he led the resolution of cases that benefited millions of racial minorities, women and people with disabilities. In 1999 and 2002, he received the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Outstanding Achievement Award.

Goodseal, who died Aug. 5 this year, distinguished himself during a 42-year career with the Kansas City, Mo., school district. He achieved local, state and national recognition, including the 1994 prestigious Rolland Van Hattum Award from the American Speech-Language and Hearing Foundation for his leadership in creating and implementing curriculum and cultural awareness programs for students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. An avid supporter of the arts, Goodseal also performed in numerous ensembles to promote the arts and community relationships.

Lewis, who died in June 1990, was a Wichita attorney and a local, state and national leader in the movement for equality. He graduated third in his KU law school class and was a campus civil rights activist, president of his fraternity and a member of Student Senate. As an attorney, he challenged racial segregation in Wichita. He successfully sued Wesley Hospital, which had decreed that black patients could not have private rooms; the city of Wichita, which refused blacks admission to the municipal swimming pool; and numerous businesses, including Boeing Aircraft, for employment discrimination.

Murray, a certified economic development profes­sional, played a major part in bringing significant developments to Kansas City and Wyandotte County, including the Village West/Legends shopping district and four of the top tourist attractions in Kansas: the Kansas Speedway, Cabela’s, Nebraska Furniture Mart and Great Wolf Lodge. He and others orga­nized the city’s first Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration in 1984.

Robinson, who works in Topeka, served as a law clerk for federal bankruptcy judge Benjamin E. Franklin, a U.S. assistant prosecutor for the District of Kansas, and a judge in the U.S. Bankruptcy Appellate Panel of the 10th District. In 2002, when she was sworn in as the 26th district judge in the federal district of Kansas, she became the first African-American woman to serve as a federal judge in the state.

In 1927, Ross was the first black woman to enroll in journalism classes at KU. When one of her professors tried to dissuade her from pursuing a career in journalism by claiming no white newspa­per would hire her, she brought him examples of many African-American-owned newspapers where she could find employment. In 1929, she left KU to work as a full-time member of the staff at The Call in Kansas City, Mo. During World War II, she moved to Des Moines to work for the Iowa Bystander. While continuing her career, Ross completed her undergraduate work to earn her KU diploma in 1944. She returned to The Call in 1959 to serve as manager and editor of its Kansas City, Kan., office. She died in July 2001.

Saunders, of Roswell, Ga., served as the University’s first coordinator of special projects/assistant director of admissions and helped lay the foundation for what is now the KU Black Alumni Chapter. She was the executive director of Kaw Valley Girl Scout Council and one of the young­est executive directors in the Girl Scouts’ national history. For her innovative approach to managing the organization, the IBM Corp. recognized her as one of the nation’s top 1 percent among nonprofit leaders. She is now president of LMS Management Consulting in Roswell.

Mattox died in February 2006 after a career as a renowned classical pianist, composer and arranger. She also hosted a radio show, taught elementary-school music and, with her husband, wrote two critically acclaimed children’s books, “Shake It to the One You Love Best” and “Let’s Get the Rhythm of the Band,” which were honored by the American Library Association and featured on the Emmy award-winning PBS children’s program “Reading Rainbow.” She received a master of arts in music from San Francisco State University.

Woodard played basketball at KU from 1977 to 1981 and was a four-time All-American, averaging 26 points a game and scoring a school-record 3,649 points during her KU career. She was the first KU woman to have her jersey hung at Allen Fieldhouse. In 1984, she led the U.S. women’s gold-medal Olympic team as captain at the Los Angeles Olympic Games. In 1985, she made headlines when she became the first woman to play for the Harlem Globetrot­ters. After working as an assistant coach for the KU women’s basketball team, she played for two years in the WNBA when it was created in 1997. When she retired in 1999, she returned to KU as assistant coach and served as interim coach in 2004. Since 2005, she has worked as an investment adviser for Cornerstone Securities. She is a member of 10 different halls of fame, including the Naismith Hall of Fame (2002), Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame (2005) and the African-American Sports Hall of Fame (2006).

The KU Black Alumni Chapter created the Leaders and Innovators award in 2006 and has honored 29 alumni. For a list of previous African-American Leaders and Innovators and details of the Black Alumni Chapter Reunion Nov. 1-3, visit kualumni.org.

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