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Spirit of King Awards Ceremony

Jan 12, 2023 - Jan 12, 2023 | 10:00 am - 11:30 am
Pittsburgh, PA

Spirit of King Award (History)

The life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has served as a tremendous inspiration for millions throughout the world.

 King’s influence can be witnessed in the “Spirit of King Award” established in 1989 by the Kingsley Association, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Port Authority. The New Pittsburgh Courier is now a partner as well. In recognition of the significance of a life dedicated to the service of others, these organizations built a tradition based on acknowledging Pittsburgh area citizens who have, like Dr. King, advanced the cause of civil rights and equality.

 The Spirit of King Award is given annually in January during a program celebrated at the Kingsley Center, adjacent to the Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway in Pittsburgh. Due to the pandemic, event has been held virtually since 2020.  We look to resume hosting at Kingsley Center again in 2024.

 Led by Elmer McClung, the observance began with a simple tree planting ceremony in 1986. The program has grown to include the establishment of the Wilhelmina Byrd Brown Parklet at that location, named for the first honoree. Subsequent honorees have included people from all walks of life representing diverse areas of human endeavor. Some have been well known to many, while others quietly dedicated their lives to helping others. Each shares the dedication of spirit and perseverance through practice to the ideals of freedom.

Since 1993, a committee representing the sponsors will name new honorees each year, and the Spirit of King Award Plaque is rededicated.

The public celebration has grown to be a multi-generational affair, well-attended by community members, organization representatives, school board members, city and county council members, etc. In addition to paying tribute to the honoree, the “Spirit of King” is represented through song and art.  Local and state government officials participate in the program as well! 

Below is a listing of past, and current award recipients.  Booklets are also available upon request, highlighting a brief history of each awardee's accomplishments:

History of Spirit of King Award

1986 Tree Planting along Martin Luther King, Jr. East Busway

1987 Plaque installed at site of tree

1988 - Parklet along Martin Luther King, Jr. East Busway named after Wilhelmina Byrd Brown

1989 Wilhelmina Byrd Brown                                                        First Recipient

1990 Matthew Moore, Sr.                                                           Award Recipient

1991 James McCoy, Jr.                                                              Award Recipient

1992 Margaret Milliones                                                             Award Recipient

1993 Mary Elizabeth Goode Dudley                                          Award Recipient

1994 Roberto W. Clemente & Josh Gibson                                Dual Recipients

1995 Mary Cardwell-Dawson                                                     Award Recipient

1996 John M. Brewer, Sr. & Robert L. Vann                              Dual Recipients

1997 Daisy E. Lampkin                                                             Award Recipient

1998 Oliver Livingstone Johnson                                              Award Recipient

1999 Officer Oliver Wendell Mason                                           Award Recipient

2000 Louis Mason, Jr. & Frankie Pace                                      Dual Recipients

2001 Dr. Oswald Jerry Nickens & Hazel Garland                       Dual Recipients

2002 Dr. Alma Johnson Illery & Dr. James A. Stewart                Dual Recipients

2003 Dr. Selma Hortense Burke & Charles Henry Kindle           Dual Recipients

2004 Billy Eckstine & George W. Gaines, Sr.                             Dual Recipients

2005 Florence Silberstein Reizenstein & Rev. Elmer Louis Williams             Dual Recipients

2006 Everett Emory Utterback & Dr. Eugene Lloyd Youngue, Jr.  

Dual Recipients

2007 Robert E. “Pappy” Williams                                               Award Recipient

2008 Mamie H. Lee & Richard F. Jones, Esq.                            Dual Recipients

2009 Frank E. Bolden & Charles “Teenie” Harris                       Dual Recipients

2010 Bishop Charles H. Foggie & Jake Milliones, Ph.D.            Dual Recipients

2011 Byrd R. Brown, Esq. & Malvin R. Goode                           Dual Recipients

2012 Dr. Edna B. McKenzie & Msgr. Charles Owen Rice           Dual Recipients

2013 Barbara Sizemore                                                             Award Recipient

2014 Rev. LeRoy Patrick & August Wilson                                Dual Recipients

2015 K. Leroy Irvis & Anderson Little                                         Dual Recipients

2016 Dorothy I. Height & Dr. Curtis L. Walker                            Dual Recipients

2017 Cmdr. Gwen Elliott & Walt Harper                                     Dual Recipients

2018 Katie Everette-Johnson                                                    Award Recipient

2019 Harvey Adams, Jr. and The Honorable Walter R. Little

Dual Recipients

2020 Nate Smith, Sr. and Robert Lavelle                                   Dual Recipients

2021 Elmer McClung                                                                 Award Recipient

2022 Bernard H. Jones and Sylvester Pace                              Dual Recipients

2023 John H. Adams and Bill Nunn, Jr.                                     Dual Recipients

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