Norman S. Minor (1901-1968)

Norman S. Minor (1901-1968)
Norman S Minor was an african-American attorney, orginally a prosecutor
and then a defense attorney. He helped to train a number of Cleveland’s prominent black attorneys including Louis and Carl Stokes 

The late Congressman Louis Stokes who trained under Mr. Minor called him the “Greatest criminal trial lawyer this state has ever known” in this interview (12:32)

Norman S. Minor, was Cuyahoga County’s 1st black assistant prosecutor: Black History Month

From Encyclopedia of Cleveland History:
(19 July 1901-15 May 1968), noted criminal trial attorney under whom a number of Cleveland’s prominent black attorneys, including Merle McCurdy and Louis and CARL STOKES, trained, was born in Oak Park, Ill., to Arthur and Rebecca Walden Minor. He came to Cleveland when he was 4. After 2 years at the University of Michigan, he graduated with an LL.B. degree from John Marshall Law School in 1927, and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1928. From 1928-30, Minor was associated with the firm of Payne, Green, Minor, & Perry, taking cases of men in jail who needed a free lawyer in order to gain trial experience. Appointed assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor in 1930, he was assigned to cases in which the defendants were black since the discriminatory system at the time limited general use of his skills. He worked effectively to change the policy for subsequent black prosecutors and, despite discrimination, became one of Cleveland’s best criminal trial lawyers. He prosecuted more than 5,000 felony cases, including 13 successful prosecutions for 1st-degree murder, his most famous case being that of Willie “The Mad Butcher” Johnson, convicted of murdering 12 women during the 1930s and 1940s. Involved in Democratic party politics, Minor polled the largest vote of any black candidate to that time in a 1937 election defeat for a municipal court judgeship. In 1948 Minor returned to private practice as a criminal defense lawyer specializing in homicide cases.

Minor married three times and had two children. He had a son, Harold Craig (Green) Minor (b.1921-d.1988); a daughter, Valena (Williams) from the Feb. 1922 marriage to Grace C. Jones which ended in divorce in 1926. Minor married Norvell Major (d. 1937) in 1928; and in 1938, Minor married Mary Christian. He is buried in LAKE VIEW CEMETERY.

Obituary from Plain Dealer

Ebony Magazine article on Norman S. Minor, November 1963
Click here (8mg pdf)

Incredible quote from Ebony essay:
“(Minor) has been either the prosecutor or the defense lawyer in almost every heinous crime committed in Cleveland since 1930, the year he began his trial work.”
Google books link is here


‘Lady Artha’ Woods served on Cleveland council, managed boxers and more Plain Dealer 5.10.2010

‘Lady Artha’ Woods served on Cleveland council, managed boxers and more

The link is here

By Grant Segall, The Plain Dealer
on May 10, 2010 at 3:38 PM, updated May 11, 2010 at 5:52 AM


Artha Woods, who died Monday, once burst into Mayor Dennis Kucinich’s office, got him to cancel a meeting and took him to see hookers hawking their wares in her ward.

She also traced some of the customers’ car registration tags and called their homes.

Woods longtime councilwoman and council clerk, died at McGregor at Overlook after a long illness. Different public records put her age at 94, 90, 88 and younger.

She broke the color line at Ohio Bell, managed boxers, ran a racially pioneering modeling school, mentored Jayne Kennedy and other stars and led local and national civic groups.

The slim, tall woman was known as “Lady Artha.”

“She was a great woman,” said her companion, Stanley Tolliver, former Cleveland school board member.

“She was a convergence of formality, professionalism and street smarts,” said long-time Councilman Jay Westbrook.

“She was always trying to advance black women,” said Councilman Ken Johnson.

Woods often denounced sexism and racism. In 1985, blasting police neglect of her East Side ward, she said, “This is getting to be a prime area, and I’m beginning to wonder if they don’t want black people living in the area.”

Yet she reached out to all races, especially after beating Councilman John Lawson for a new Ward 6, combining her old Fairfax ward with his University Circle one. She was named an honorary Italian at Holy Rosary Church and blessed by Pope Paul VI in Rome for her work with Catholic leaders.

She was born Artha Mae Bugg in Atlanta and had four younger siblings. The family moved to Cleveland before she started kindergarten. She became valedictorian of Central High School and won a district award as a top Latin student. She was raised as a Seventh-Day Adventist, without shows or dances. She later joined Antioch Baptist Church near her long-time home on E. 89th St.

Woods attended Western Reserve School of Education and took courses elsewhere in shorthand, modeling, sewing and more.

After public protests for diversity, Ohio Bell hired her and 18 other blacks in 1941. All the black women operated elevators at headquarters on Huron Rd. Black women had to sit at a separate table from white women in the cafeteria. She started boycotting the room.

She rose during 40 years at Ohio Bell and retired as public relations manager. Along the way, she led civic projects for the company, including “Reaction Line,” a program with Parent-Teacher Associations for city schools. Woods also managed two boxers and sewed rhinestone robes for them. She owned Cedar Ave. Millinery Shop and sold hats to Dorothy Fuldheim, Billie Holliday and Zelma George.

She had trouble finding black models. With partner Jon McCullough from Ohio Bell, she founded Artha-Jon Academy of Modeling and Charm at her E. 89th St. home, one of the nation’s first such schools for black women.

She ran the school for 30 years and passed it on to a granddaughter. She formed a foundation to teach the underprivileged for free. She also created a pioneering charm course for clients of the Cleveland Society for the Blind

She edited “International Image” for the Modeling Association of America International and became the group’s first black president in 1978. She and McCullough were inducted to the Models Hall of Fame.

Woods founded the Fairfax Area Community Congress, donated its building and created its Starlight Cotillion for female graduates of nearby public high schools.

“These young women deserve a moment in the spotlight,” she told The Plain Dealer in 1990.

Woods was also president of the Champs scholarship organization, the Booth-Talbert Clinic and Day Care Center Auxiliary and the Business and Professional Women’s Club. She belonged to the Cuyahoga County Democratic Executive Committee. She was second vice chairperson of the Metropolitan Health Planning Corp. and second vice president of the Urban League. She was a convenor of the National Black Caucus of Girl Scouts of America.

In 1977, she ran in Ward 18 against incumbent Councilman James Boyd, convicted of bribery inJuly. A few days before the election, he was jailed and removed from office. She was appointed to the seat, then won a full term at the polls.

On council, Woods helped the Cleveland Clinic and Cleveland Playhouse expand and pressed for minority contractors. To fight graffiti, she proposed registering buyers of spray paint. She also fought for improvements at the public Woodhill Homes.

“Very little is being done for you,” she once told Woodhill tenants. “Instead, they’re doing it to you.”

In 1981, she won the merged Ward 6. Nine years later, she stopped serving on council and started serving it as clerk. Westbrook, then a new council president, said, “She was an invaluable part of the team that moved us forward.” She oversaw renovations of council offices, put the city’s dormant consumer affairs department under council’s wing, and got the office’s first fax machine.

Among many hobbies, Woods liked to sew, swim, landscape, watch sports and raise German shepherds. She built a heated swimming pool and brick doghouse at her home. She won a landscaping commendation from Governor John Gilligan. Among many other honors, Artha Woods Street and Artha Woods Park are named for her.

Woods outlived her two children, one of them killed by gunfire at age 24.

She once said, “There was always rebellion in me, but I rebelled in a productive way, even in the face of blatant segregation.”

Artha Mae Woods

Survivors: two granddaugh ters, Gaile Ozanne of Pepper Pike and Deborah Enty of Cleveland; and six great-grandchildren.

Arrangements: E.F. Boyd & Son

Funeral: pending

Artha Woods:First Black Woman City Council Clerk Passes Away WEWS 5.13.2010

Artha Woods:First Black Woman City Council Clerk Passes Away

Link is here
13 MAY 2010

Posted May 13th 2010

Artha Woods was the kind of woman who, when she entered a room, drew the positive attention of almost everyone who saw her.  Those in government leadership positions in Cleveland City Hall speak of her using the terms “elegant” and “class.”

She was often affectionately called “Lady Artha” because of her bearing.  Artha Woods was a longtime Cleveland City Councilwman.  In 1977, she was appointed to the seat held by Councilman James Boyd, who, convicted of bribery, had to give up the seat.  She then won a full term to the Ward 18 council seat. Years later, she was selected as the clerk of city council.

Artha Woods died Monday of natural causes.  In recent years, she was a resident of a Cleveland nursing home.

Councilman Jay Westbrook remembers Woods as a woman who was “elegant,” but one also who was dedicated to the people.

“Artha was always quick sot stand up for her community; stand up for what she knew was right,” said Westbrook.  “She was defintely her own person.”

During her years as clerk of council, Woods kept up with the many pieces of legislation passed by the councilmembers. She worked closely with then-council president Westbrook.

“She would let me know what she thought even if I did not agree with her,” said Westbrook as he spoke of the woman who worked by his side.

Councilman Jeff Johnson remembered Woods as one of two women on the council who helped guide him through his freshman year.

“One was the late Fannie Lewis and the other was Artha Woods,” said Johnson.  He said Woods showed him the ropes of how legislation was passed in city council.

“She was tough,” he said with a smile on his face.

“She was the velvet glove over the iron fist;  that’s how Artha was,” said Johnson.  “But get her riled up and when she was fighting for a cause, that came out, too.”

She had many talents, which showed themselves even in the earliest years of her life.  In 1941, after public protests for Ohio Bell to integrate its office, Woods and 18 other blacks were the first blacks hired by the telephone company.  All the black women operated elevators at Ohio Bell’s headquarters on Huron Road in downtown Cleveland.

When she learned black women had to sit at a separate table from white women in the cafeteria, Woods began to boycott the room.

She persevered at the company during her 40 years with Ohio bell. She retired from the company as a public relations manager. She was also involved with a modeling school for young women. She even managed two boxers.

At Cleveland City Council’s committee room, Woods’ portrait hangs on the wall with those of two other council clerks. She has long been held in high esteem because of her ability to bring a relative quiet to political arguments on the council floor.

That was always quite a job because of the large numbers of councilmembers.  When Woods joined the council, she was one of 33.  Later, the council was pared down to a lesser number.

When Woods retired from the clerk of council job in the late 1990s. ther were tributes in her honor at city hall.  When she died Monday, many at City Hall took notice.

“She made advancements for women, for African-Americans, for community residents and for City Hall,” said Westbrook. “She was a real voice for people.”

Johnson called her a “giant.”

The impression she left was the same one she brought — dedication to the people and dignity for herself.  Her longtime friend, community activist and former Cleveland School Board member Stanley Tolliver, called woods “a remarkable woman.”

Her funeral will be held Friday at 11 a.m. at Liberty Hill Baptist Church, 8206 Euclid Ave., in Cleveland.  It will follow a 10 a.m. wake for the woman many in City Hall called “Lady Artha.”

Records put her age at 99, 90, or 88.  Tolliver said she was 90.  Whatever was her age, Woods left a strong and positive impression at Cleveland City Hall and throughout the Northeast Ohio community.

African Americans in Cleveland from the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

Written by Kenneth Kusmer

The link is here

AFRICAN AMERICANS. Cleveland’s African American community is almost as old as the city itself. GEORGE PEAKE, the first black settler, arrived in 1809 and by 1860 there were 799 blacks living in a growing community of over 43,000. As early as the 1850s, most of Cleveland’s African American population lived on the east side. But black and white families were usually interspersed; until the beginning of the 20th century, nothing resembling a black ghetto existed in the city. Throughout most of the 19th century, the social and economic status of African Americans in Cleveland was superior to that in other northern communities. By the late 1840s, the public schools were integrated and segregation in theaters, restaurants, and hotels was infrequent. Interracial violence seldom occurred. Black Clevelanders suffered less occupational discrimination than elsewhere. Although many were forced to work as unskilled laborers or domestic servants, almost one third were skilled workers, and a significant number accumulated substantial wealth. Alfred Greenbrier became widely known for raising horses and cattle, and MADISON TILLEY employed 100 men in his excavating business. JOHN BROWN, a barber, became the city’s wealthiest Negro through investment in real estate, valued at $40,000 at his death in 1869. Founded by New Englanders who favored reform, Cleveland was a center of abolitionism before the CIVIL WAR, and the city’s white leadership remained sympathetic to civil rights during the decade following the war. Black leaders were not complacent, however. Individuals such as Brown and JOHN MALVIN often assisted escaped slaves, and by the end of the Civil War a number of black Clevelanders had served in BLACK MILITARY UNITS in the Union Army. African American leaders fought for integration rather than the development of separate black institutions in the 19th century. The city’s first permanent African American newspaper, the CLEVELAND GAZETTE, did not appear until 1883. Even local black churches developed more slowly than elsewhere. ST. JOHN’S AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL (AME) CHURCH was founded in 1830, but it was not until 1864 that a second black church, MT. ZION CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH, came into existence.

Between 1890-1915, the beginnings of mass migration from the South increased Cleveland’s black population substantially (seeIMMIGRATION AND MIGRATION). By World War I, about 10,000 blacks lived in the city. Most of these newcomers settled in the Central Ave. district between the CUYAHOGA RIVER and E. 40th St. At this time, the lower Central area also housed many poor immigrant Italians and Jews (see JEWS & JUDAISM). Nevertheless, the African American population became much, more concentrated. In other ways, too, conditions deteriorated for black Clevelanders. Although black students were not segregated in separate public schools or classrooms (seeCLEVELAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS), as they often were in other cities, exclusion of blacks from restaurants and theaters became commonplace, and by 1915 the city’s YOUNG WOMEN’S CHRISTIAN ASSN. (YWCA) prohibited African American membership.HOSPITALS & HEALTH PLANNING excluded black doctors and segregated black patients in separate wards. The most serious discrimination occurred in the economic arena. Between 1870-1915, Cleveland became a major manufacturing center, but few blacks were able to participate in INDUSTRY. Blacks were not hired to work in the steel mills and foundries that became the mainstay of the city’s economy. The prejudice of employers was often matched by that of trade unions (see LABOR), which usually excluded African Americans. As a result, by 1910 only about 10% of local black men worked in skilled trades, while the number of service employees doubled.

Increasing discrimination forced black Clevelanders upon their own resources. The growth of black churches was the clearest example (seeRELIGION). Three new churches were founded between 1865-90, a dozen more during the next 25 years. Baptists increased most rapidly, and by 1915 ANTIOCH BAPTIST CHURCH had emerged as the largest black church in the city. Black fraternal orders also multiplied, and in 1896 the Cleveland Home for Aged Colored People was established (see ELIZA BRYANT VILLAGE). With assistance from white philanthropists (see PHILANTHROPY), JANE EDNA HUNTER established the PHILLIS WHEATLEY ASSOCIATION, a residential, job-training, and recreation center for black girls, in 1911. Blacks gained the right to vote in Ohio in 1870, and until the 1930s they usually voted Republican. The first black Clevelander to hold political office was JOHN PATTERSON GREEN, elected justice of the peace in 1873. He served in the state legislature in the 1880s and in 1891 became the first African American in the North to be elected to the state senate. After 1900 increasing racial prejudice made it difficult for blacks to win election to the state legislature, and a new group of black politicians began to build a political base in the Central Ave. area. In 1915 THOMAS W. FLEMING became the first African American to win election toCLEVELAND CITY COUNCIL.

The period from 1915-30 was one of both adversity and progress for black Clevelanders. Industrial demands and a decline in immigration from abroad during World War I created an opportunity for black labor, and hundreds of thousands of black migrants came north after 1916. By 1930 there were 72,000, African Americans in Cleveland. The Central Ave. ghetto consolidated and expanded eastward, as whites moved to outlying sections of the city and rural areas that would later become SUBURBS. Increasing discrimination and violence against blacks kept even middle-class African Americans within the Central-Woodland area. At the same time, discrimination in public accommodations increased. Restaurants overcharged blacks or refused them service; theaters excluded blacks or segregated them in the balcony; amusement parks such as EUCLID BEACH PARK were usually for whites only. Discrimination even began to affect the public schools. The growth of the ghetto had created some segregated schools, but a new policy of allowing white students to transfer out of predominantly black schools increased segregation. In the 1920s and 1930s, school administrators often altered the curriculums of ghetto schools from liberal arts to manual training. Nevertheless, migrants continued to pour into the city in the 1920s to obtain newly available industrial jobs. Most of these jobs were in unskilled factory labor, but some blacks also moved into semi-skilled and skilled positions. The rapid growth in the city’s black population also created new opportunities in BALDWIN RESERVOIR and the professions. Most black businesses, however, remained small: food stores, restaurants, and small retail stores predominated. Two successful black-owned funeral homes opened early in the century, the HOUSE OF WILLS (1904), founded as Gee & Wills by J. WALTER WILLS, SR., and E. F. Boyd Funeral Home (1906), founded by ELMER F. BOYD and Lewis Dean. Although the employment picture for blacks had improved, serious discrimination still existed in the 1920s, especially in clerical work and the unionized skilled trades.

Black leadership underwent a fundamental shift after World War I. Prior to the war, Cleveland’s most prominent blacks had been integrationists who not only fought discrimination but also objected to blacks’ creating their own secular institutions. After the war, a new elite, led by Fleming, Hunter, and businessman HERBERT CHAUNCEY, gained ascendancy. This group did not favor agitation for civil rights; they accepted the necessity of separate black institutions and favored the development of a “group economy” based on the existence of the ghetto. By the mid-1920s, however, a younger African American group was beginning to emerge. “New Negro” leaders such as lawyer HARRY E. DAVIS and physician CHARLES GARVIN tried to transcend the factionalism that had divided black leaders in the past. They believed in race pride and racial solidarity, but not at the expense of equal rights for black Clevelanders. The postwar era also brought changes to local institutions. The influx of migrants caused problems that black, churches were only partly able to deal with. The Negro Welfare Assn., founded in 1917 as an affiliate of the National Urban League (see URBAN LEAGUE OF GREATER CLEVELAND), helped newcomers find jobs and housing. The Phillis Wheatley Assn. expanded: a fundraising drive among white philanthropists made possible the construction of its 9-story building in 1928. The Cleveland branch of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE (NAACP, est. 1912), led by “New Negroes,” expanded, with 1,600 members by 1922. The NAACP fought the rising tide of racism in the city by bringing suits against restaurants and theaters that excluded blacks, or intervening behind the scenes to get white businessmen to end discriminatory practices. The FUTURE OUTLOOK LEAGUE, founded by JOHN O. HOLLY in 1935, became the first local black organization to successfully utilize the boycott.

The Depression temporarily reversed much of this progress. Although both races were devastated by the economic collapse, African Americans suffered much higher rates of unemployment at an earlier stage; many black businesses went bankrupt. After 1933, New Deal relief programs helped reduce black unemployment substantially, but segregated public housing contributed to overcrowding, often demolishing more units than were built. Housing conditions in the Central area deteriorated during the 1930s, and African Americans continued to suffer discrimination in many public accommodations. The period from the late 1920s to the mid-1940s was one of political change for black Clevelanders. Although migration from the South slowed to a trickle during the 1930s, the black population had already increased to the point where it was able to augment its political influence. In 1927 3 blacks were elected to city council, and for the next 8 years they represented a balance of power on a council almost equally divided between Republicans and Democrats. As a result, they obtained the elections of HARRY E. DAVIS to the city’s Civil Service Commission and MARY BROWN MARTIN to the Cleveland Board of Education, the first African Americans to hold such positions. They also ended discrimination and segregation at City Hospital. At the local level in the 1930s, black Clevelanders continued to vote Republican; they did not support a Democrat for mayor until 1943. In national politics, however, New Deal relief policies convinced blacks to shift dramatically after 1932 from the Republican to the Democratic party. After World War II, Pres. Harry Truman’s strong civil-rights program solidified black support for the Democrats.

World War II was a turning point in other ways. The war revived industry and led to a new demand for black labor. This demand, and the more egalitarian labor-union practices of the newly formed Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), created new job opportunities for black, Clevelanders and led to a revival of mass migration from the South. The steady flow of newcomers increased Cleveland’s black population from 85,000 in 1940 to 251,000 in 1960; by the early 1960s, blacks made up over 30% of the city’s population. One effect of this population growth was increased political representation. In 1947 Harry E. Davis was elected to the state senate, and 2 years later lawyer Jean M. Capers became the first black woman to be elected to city council. By the mid-1960s, the number of blacks serving on the council had increased to 10; in 1968 Louis Stokes was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives; and in 1977 Capers became a municipal judge for Cleveland. The postwar era was also marked by progress in civil rights. In 1945 the CLEVELAND COMMUNITY RELATIONS BOARD was established; it soon developed a national reputation for promoting improvement in race relations. The following year, the city enacted a municipal civil-rights law that revoked the license of any business convicted of discriminating against African Americans. The liberal atmosphere of the postwar period led to a gradual decline in discrimination against blacks in public accommodations during the late 1940s and 1950s. By the 1960s, both hospital wards and downtown hotels and restaurants served African Americans.

Despite these improvements, however, serious problems continued to plague the African American community. The most important of these was housing. As the suburbanization of the city’s white population accelerated, the black community expanded to the east and northeast of the Central-Woodland area, particularly into HOUGH and GLENVILLE. Expansion, however, did not lead to more integrated neighborhoods or provide better housing for blacks. “Blockbusting” techniques by realtors led to panic selling by whites in Hough in the 1950s; once a neighborhood became all black, landlords would subdivide structures into small apartments and raise rents exorbitantly. The result, by 1960, was a crowded ghetto of deteriorating housing stock. At the same time, segregation in public schools continued, school officials routinely assigned black children to predominantly black schools. In 1964 interracial violence broke out when blacks protested the construction of 3 new schools, as perpetuating segregation patterns. Frustration over inability to effect changes in housing and education, coupled with a rise in black unemployment that began in the late 1950s, finally ignited the HOUGH RIOTS for 4 days in 1966. Two years later, the GLENVILLE SHOOTOUT involved black nationalists and the police; more rioting followed. The resulting tension and hostility did not entirely destroy the spirit of racial toleration in Cleveland, however, as evidenced by the 1967 election of lifelong resident Carl B. Stokes as the first black mayor of a major American city (see MAYORAL ADMINISTRATION OF CARL B. STOKES). Since then, blacks have continued to be the most influential group in city council. The city again elected an African American mayor, Michael White, in 1989.

As migration from the South ended, Cleveland’s African American population stabilized in the 1970s and 1980s. Although the ghetto expanded into EAST CLEVELAND, fair housing programs and laws made it possible for middle-class blacks to have greater choice of residency. Eastern suburbs such as SHAKER HEIGHTS and CLEVELAND HEIGHTS absorbed large numbers of black residents by the 1970s, but managed to maintain integrated populations. In addition, some of the more blatant causes of the riots–such as the small number of black police officers–were partially resolved. But fundamental problems remained. Inner-city residents suffered high levels of crime, infant mortality, and teenage pregnancy in the 1970s and `80s, but the most significant obstacles for black Clevelanders remained economic in nature. The movement of black women into white-collar jobs after 1970 was more than counterbalanced by the growing unemployment or underemployment of black men, as good-paying industrial jobs declined or shifted to the suburbs. At the same time, the declining city tax base undercut funding for the public schools, making it more difficult for African American children to obtain the necessary skills demanded in the emerging post-industrial society. For many black Clevelanders in the late 20th century, economic progress had not kept pace with improvements in the political realm.

Kenneth L. Kusmer

Temple Univ.

Davis, Russell. Black Americans in Cleveland (1972).

Kusmer, Kenneth L. A Ghetto Takes Shape (1976).

Last Modified: 21 Jul 1997 01:26:36 PM