As discussed last week, the Rev. Dr. Lillian Anthony was the first Director of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department, appointed in late 1967 by then Mayor Arthur Naftalin. Dr. Anthony quietly passed from this life at her home in Louisville, Kentucky, June 26, 2014. Her memorial will be in Louisville, July 11, 2014.
The Rev. Dr. Anthony’s history, legacy and accomplishments are legendary. She was clearly the right choice to head the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department, setting a new tone for race relations in the city. She was not a woman to be intimidated nor forced to abandon her principles and her commitment.
When Lillian Anthony accepted the appointment as first to head the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department, she was an experienced and successful civil rights activist and administrator. On the occasion of her departure in an article in the Minneapolis Star, dated May 29, 1969, she articulated her concerns about the future of the city because of those who opposed having a Civil Rights Department and Civil Rights Commission. That opposition still exists today. She and long-term activist Josie Johnson formed a very close philosophical relationship that served them well over their careers.
I remember the first time I met Ms. Anthony. I was about to become the vice chair of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission, and had been forever grateful for her friendship, fellowship and over all support, which allowed an active Civil Rights Department and Civil Rights Commission to make a difference carrying out the direction and dream expressed by Mayor Arthur Naftalin in his historic address to the Minneapolis City Council, June 30, 1963.
Dr. Anthony understood the principles of compassion and fairness. She knew the importance of not forgetting our history. As she stated at the 10th anniversary celebration of the Slave Memorial at Mount Vernon, VA, September 18, 1993, “The memory of our ancestors who are buried here is a tribute not only to the survival of a people but a tribute to our continued gifts to the world.”
Those memories and their significance are missing today from the Minneapolis Black leadership, as is their lack of commitment to the principles that created the Civil Rights Department and commission. Let’s not forget what the Minneapolis Star article, July 31, 1964, in which the legendary Mary Kyle, publisher of the Twin City Courier, and Ms. Josie Johnson, a member of the staff of then-Mayor Arthur Naftolin, reflected on the dangerous path that was being taken by women of truth and commitment in support of the missions of the Civil Rights Department and commission.
Lillian Anthony was ordained into the ministry of the Presbyterian Church USA, July 25, 1993. As noted, she served the national staff until retirement as Associate for Affirmative Action and Equal Employment. History will remember Dr. Anthony as a visionary, as a tenacious fighter for civil and human rights, and, for 40 years, a person of conscience on behalf of the Presbyterian Church, USA. She was known across the wider Presbyterian Church USA her work during and for her commitment to justice and advocacy.
She was honored February 20, 1990, for her role in the development of he Minneapolis Ordinance on Civil Rights and the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights.
The Rev. Dr. Anthony has embarked on her final journey. We all pass this way once in life. We look at her journey with pride, and remember her wisdom and compassion that inspired others to take that journey as well. May God’s hand be upon Dr. Anthony’s shoulders, and may we applaud her achievements in the name of all.