Pioneer and Champion for Civil Rights and Humanities

Journalism giant Lucile Bluford inducted into Starr Women’s Hall of Fame

Defined by Merriam Webster’s dictionary, a pioneer is a person or group that originates or helps open up a new line of thought or activity. Another way to define a pioneer is the late Lucile H. Bluford, former editor and publisher of The Kansas City Call (THE CALL) newspaper.

“Bluford was a bridge builder in the greater Kansas City community,” said current Kansas City Call President and Publisher Donna Stewart. “She was sought and looked upon for advice on numerous issues facing the city from all segments of the community.”

Bluford’s 70-year career at THE CALL began while she was a budding journalist in high school, under the leadership of editor and founder Chester A. Franklin, and she continued her work during summers throughout college. After earning her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas, Bluford went to work for a summer at the Atlanta Daily World, but after becoming homesick she returned home to Kansas City.

By 1938 she had earned the position of managing editor of the Kansas City Call. Soon after, Bluford gained national prominence for her legal case against the University of Missouri, protesting the racially motivated denial of her enrollment into the graduate school of journalism. With support from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Bluford’s case was heard by the Missouri Supreme Court and led to the establishment of a “separate but equal” school of journalism at the all-black Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo. From then on she would continue to work and support the national initiatives of the NAACP and several local Civil Rights and humanitarian organizations, including the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, Niles Home for Children, Kansas City Cancer Society and the Kansas City NAACP. She also served as an editor for the NAACP’s national publication THE CRISIS, and as a Pulitzer Prize juror. Bluford took on the role of editor and owner of The Kansas City Call in 1955.

Throughout her five decades as editor, Bluford’s editorials took a pivotal stand on numerous issues and causes within the Black community. Her position as managing editor and then editor and owner of The Call influenced other women, both black and white, to seek meaningful employment within the print news industry.

Throughout Bluford’s life and career she received many awards and honors, including the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Kansas Citian of the Year Award, Lincoln University Curator’s Award, and an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from the University of Missouri. Perhaps one of Bluford’s most notable honors is the naming of the Lucile H. Bluford Public Library Branch at 3050 Prospect Ave. in Kansas City. Her indelible legacy lives on throughout the greater Kansas City community as colleagues, friends and community members continue to honor her for her activism and influence.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City will honor Bluford as an inductee into the Class of 2017 Starr Women’s Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 22 in Swinney Recreation Center. The Starr Women’s Hall of Fame is a community-based effort to honor outstanding Greater Kansas City women from all walks of life who have a made a difference in their communities.

  • The hall was created to honor women who have made Kansas City a better place, said Debby Ballard, co-chair of the hall of fame planning committee, and the nine women in the hall class of 2017 have clearly done so.
  • “These women represent another class of remarkable women whose stories will be preserved for those that will come after, to learn from their good work and inspire the next generation of leaders to dream big and not fear the impossible,” Ballard said.
  • The Starr Women’s Hall of Fame is dedicated to recognizing extraordinary Kansas City women and preserving the history of their accomplishments. These women are social reformers, volunteers, philanthropists, civic leaders, activists and educators. They are neighborhood leaders and grassroots organizers, from yesterday and today, both famous and unsung. They are movers and shakers whose tireless commitment to community has made Kansas City a better place to live. The Hall of Fame is a repository for their legacies. By sharing their stories, the Hall of Fame encourages and inspires women everywhere.
  • A permanent display honoring Hall of Fame members is now open to the public on the third floor of the Miller Nichols Library at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The display currently includes memorabilia and information about the contributions of the inaugural class of inductees. The library is at 800 E. 51 St., Kansas City, Missouri.
  • The Hall is named in honor of Martha Jane Phillips Starr, a legendary activist and philanthropist who blazed a trail for family issues and women’s rights. The hall of fame is made possible through the Starr Education Committee, Martha Jane Starr’s family and the Starr Field of Interest Fund, which was established upon her death through the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. The idea for the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame stemmed from Starr Education Committee members.

The civic organizations that advocate on behalf of women and family issues and have signed on in support of the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame include: American Association of University Women, American Business Women’s Association, Central Exchange, CBIZ Women’s Advantage, Girl Scouts of NE Kansas and NW Missouri, Greater Kansas City Chamber’s Executive Women’s Leadership Council, Greater Kansas City Women’s Political Caucus, Jackson County Missouri Chapter of the Links, Inc.; Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri; KC Metro Latinas, Kansas City Athenaeum, Kansas City Young Matrons, National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators, OneKC for Women, SkillBuilders Fund, Soroptimist International of Kansas City, Soroptimist Kansas City Foundation, UMKC, UMKC Women’s Center, UMKC Women’s Council, UMKC Women of Color Leadership Conference, WIN for KC, win|win, Women’s Foundation, Women’s Public Service Network, Zonta International District 7 and Zonta Club of KC II.

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