COLUMBIA — The fight to give Lucile Bluford a day of recognition in Missouri began three years ago, when a state representative started advocating for a way to recognize the influential journalist and civil rights leader.
Gov. Jay Nixon signed House Bill 1559 on Wednesday, designating July 1st as "Lucile Bluford Day" beginning in 2017.
Bluford, who died in 2003, was one of Missouri's most prominent African-American journalists. In 1932, she started working as a full-time reporter for the Kansas City Call, one of the country's most influential black newspapers, according to previous Missourian reporting. Seven years later, she applied to MU's graduate journalism program. She was admitted to the school, but when she showed up to the campus to register for classes she was told by the university's registrar she couldn't attend after they saw she was black.
Despite the rejection, she continued to work in journalism and eventually became an editor and publisher for the Kansas City Call. She also teamed up with the NAACP to sue the university in an attempt to end Missouri's educational segregation.
In 1984, Bluford was invited back to MU and awarded a Missouri Honor Medal, the School of Journalism's highest honor.
Assistant House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, filed House Bill 1559 in January 2015 after she spent months advocating for it. She had filed the legislation twice earlier — once in 2013 and again in 2014. McCann Beatty said she was pleased that her initiative finally succeeded this year.
"She was a leader in the community, someone who fights for what is right. She was not afraid to stand up to something that was wrong," McCann Beatty said. "She was the kind of the person that we all hope to be."
McCann Beatty said she is still working to have Bluford included in the Hall of Famous Missourians. If Bluford's name is added, a bronze bust of her will be displayed in the state capitol in Jefferson City.
"Recognition of Bluford’s dedication to fighting injustice and breaking down racial barriers at the University of Missouri is well-deserved and I am proud that legislation has been signed into law that will do so," McCann Beatty said in a Wednesday news release.
*The Residence Halls Association at MU proposed that a new residence hall be named after Bluford, Matt Bourke, president of the association, said.
“We are playing the waiting game to see if it will be approved by curators,” Bourke said.
The UM System Board of Curators will likely review the proposition by its October meeting, Bourke said.
Supervising editor is Allison Colburn.