Married in 1940 and often with their two boys in tow, Donald and Marian Spencer worked tirelessly for educational equity and equal rights for more than a half–century.
Donald Spencer (1915-2010) was one of the first African American realtors in Cincinnati and became the first African American broker to serve as President of the Cincinnati Board of Realtors. Additionally, he was the first African American appointed as a trustee of Ohio University (1974-1983) and the first African American Chair (1979). Mr. Spencer was passionate about Cincinnati Parks and worked to ensure all Cincinnatians had access to green spaces and keep the Krohn Conservatory free for residents.
Marian Spencer (1920 –2019) was the first African American woman to be elected to the Cincinnati City Council and worked with the Board of Education to desegregate schools. Additionally, she chaired the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and was the first African American elected president of the Woman’s City Club. What is more, Mrs. Spencer was the first female president of the Cincinnati NAACP chapter and a trustee of the University of Cincinnati.
After being banished from the front gate of Coney Island by a guard brandishing a gun on July 4, 1952, Marian Spencer filed a lawsuit and subsequently won the case, which desegregated the amusement park. Later, in 2004, she initiated litigation and won a lawsuit that aimed to restrain members of the Republican Party from implementing tactics that would discriminate against Black voters in Hamilton County.
The Spencer’s public lives deservedly earned the family plaudits and recognition, including being the first husband and wife to be recognized as Great Living Cincinnatians by the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce.
Donald and Marian Spencer graduated from the University of Cincinnati and earned honorary degrees from Ohio University. Eden Park features the Donald Spencer Overlook, and tributes to his wife include a downtown street, a building at their alma mater and a statue at Smale Riverfront Park.
In addition to being an activist, Donald Spencer taught at the Cincinnati Public Schools and was an accomplished jazz musician. He was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi and a trustee at what is now the New Vision United Methodist Church. Marian Spencer was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and The Links, Incorporated.
Donald Andrew Spencer Sr. – Wikipedia
Marian A. Spencer | African American Resources | Cincinnati History Library and Archives (cincymuseum.org)
Donald and Marian Spencer: Lives of Love and Social Justice | LibLog (uc.edu)
Marian Spencer – Wikipedia
The First 28, graciously sponsored by the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, celebrates Black Cincinnatians who were the first in their fields. Each day during Black History Month, we will celebrate athletes, artists, business leaders, civil rights activists, educators, physicians and politicians.
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