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.
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
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