York Town Square

Part of the USAToday Network

York County, Pa.’s, ‘Civil Rights Heroes – Barrier Breakers’ Mural – Part II

This is one of three panels of the York City Human Relations Commission’s mural ‘Civil Rights Heroes – Barrier Breakers.’ A brief presentation on this mural, to go along with a panel discussing growing up on West Princess Street in post World War II-era, is set for 5 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 27, at the York County Heritage Trust. (See key below.) Also of interest: Check out these updated lists of pioneering York County minorities, women and All black history posts from the start and All Underground Railroad posts from the start.


Another in a series of the people of the Civil Rights Heroes Mural of York … .

– 1 • Ray Crenshaw — Ray Crenshaw, retired from state employment and later as a York businessman, served in numerous community leadership positions. He gained appointment to the York City Council in 1992 and served through the 1990s. He later became the first black candidate for mayor of York. He served as president of Crispus Attucks when its new South Duke Street building was dedicated in 1972. “(T)hat was one of the proudest moments in my life — to see where that came from to where it ended up,” he said.
– 2 • Dr. George W. Bowles — George Bowles headed the National Medical Association in 1938 and was active in medical organizations at every level. He served on several governmental commissions. But he was best known in the York community in the first 50 years of the 20th century, along with Thomas Montouth, as a spokesman on issues affecting blacks. The William Penn Senior High School graduate chaired the York Inter-Racial Commission for six years and helped found the Crispus Attucks Community Center.
– 3 • David M. Orr Sr. — When David Orr became assistant pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in 1957, he had been known for years for his deep religious faith. He was also known for his business acumen. He started his business life in York in the late 1920s, selling pancake syrup door to door in the black community. His business enterprises grew to ownership of a restaurant, barbershop, grocery store and Fisher Refuse Collection Company Co. Orr and his wife, the former Eula Mae Nimmons, built the trash collection business into a company that served hundreds of York area residences and commercial interests.
– 4 • Dorrie Leader — Dorrie Leader, civic leader and humanitarian, served as York County chairwoman for the 1970 White House Conference on Children and Youth, the local and national YWCA boards, state Human Relations Commission, and a multitude of other community boards. A YWCA publication pointed out a particularly special skill that made her effective in community work: She was able to pull together a roomful of diverse people with diverse opinions so that at the end of the meeting everyone felt that progress had been made. “In her words and deeds,” AAUW’s “Legacies” booklet states, “Dorrie Leader has contributed her tremendous efforts to bring peace into the lives of those she touches.”
– 5 • W. Russell Chapman — W. Russell Chapman, a longtime York funeral director, was appointed to the York City School Board in 1967, becoming the first black person to join the board and was later elected to the board. He cast the deciding vote to make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a school holiday. York City resident Alice Bowers said this about Russell Chapman: “Mr. Chapman wouldn’t turn people away. He taught people how to help others in spite of money.” The accomplishments of his wife, Mildred, often are mentioned with Russell Chapman’s. She led the women’s and girls’ program at Crispus Attucks Community Center for years.
– 6 • Carrie Ford — Mother Ford retired as a teacher at Hannah Penn Middle School in 1972 after years in the York City School District as a French teacher. She then worked as a missionary in Liberia for 17 years. Her daughter, Diane Scott, assessed her local contribution this way: “Locally, she was a role model for many people, especially the children she taught. Everyone looked up to her.”
– 7 • Maurice Peters – Maurice Peters was chair of the Peaceful Committee for Immediate Action, the group that brought issues facing the black community before York City’s leaders in the 1960s. The group protested in a manner that was true to its name. Despite yeoman’s work as chair of the group, Maurice Peters is often remembered today for a forceful action. In 1948, some in the black community protested the prohibition of their swimming in the all-white Boys Club Pool, later the Farquhar Park Pool. Maurice Peters took issue with the policy by jumping into the pool. That action led to his ejection shortly thereafter and long memories of his protest.
– 8• Mattie Chapman — County voters elected Mattie Chapman to the post of county prothonotary in 1975. She was the first black woman elected to county office. She had started in the prothonotary’s office as a clerk 19 years before and worked her way to the top. She was the first woman elected to honorary membership in the York County Bar Association in recognition of her service to lawyers. “(Attorneys) knew how well she ran the office,” longtime attorney Nevin Stetler said. “She hired all good people, and they did their job.”

Sources: York County Heritage Trust Library and Archives; James McClure’s “Almost Forgotten”; James McClure’s blog, Yorktownsquare.com; YDR.com/blackhistory; Jim Kalish’s “The Story of Civil Rights in York, Pennsylvania”; York Branch, AAUW’s, “Legacies: Remembrances of York County Women”; George Shumway’s “Charrette at York, Pa.”; Interview, Wm. Lee Smallwood.
– Check out all the York Town Square blog posts from the start.