Whitney Young Jr.
Whitney Young Jr., a native of Lincoln Ridge in Shelby County, was a graduate of Kentucky State University. His experience with racial conflict in the United States armed forces during World War IIand the example of his father, an educator and activist in his own rightled him to choose a career in race relations. And his vision of cooperation rather than conflict and building relationships rather than walls guided that work throughout his life.
Having been denied admission for graduate work at the University of Kentucky because of his race, Young was awarded his masters degree in social work at the University of Minnesota. He then held two positions with Urban League chapters before being appointed dean of the School of Social Work at Atlanta University in 1954. In 1961, he was named executive director of the National Urban League, where he served until his death in 1971.
During his tenure, Young contributed significantly to bringing corporate America into the civil rights movement. He intensified his call for the end of segregation and discrimination by working to empower African-American communities to work toward the advancement of social and economic equity among all racial and ethnic groups.
Young received the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the country, from President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1969. (His father, Whitney Young Sr., had served on the commission Johnson appointed to implement the 1964 Civil Rights Act.) He also wrote two books, To Be Equal and Beyond Racism, and helped plan and implement the historic March on Washington in 1963.