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Vel R. Phillips Trailblazer Award

Velvalea Hortense Rodgers Phillips (1923-2018) was a Milwaukee native who became a leader in not only the African-American community but was a trailblazer and role model for all Milwaukeeans, for Wisconsin, and the nation. Ms. Phillips achieved many “firsts” in her lifetime:

  • First African-American woman to graduate from the University of Wisconsin Law School
  • First African-American to be elected to the Milwaukee Common Council
  • First female judge in Milwaukee, and the first African-American judge in Wisconsin
  • First person of color to be elected Secretary of State in Wisconsin
  • First African-American to be elected as a member of the Democratic National Committee.

Whether serving as an elected official or as a private citizen, Ms. Phillips worked tirelessly to better her community with a fearless and pioneering spirit. She will be remembered for her mission to eliminate barriers between disadvantaged people and their goals, clearing the path for educational, occupational, social and political parity.

The Vel R. Phillips Trailblazer Award is bestowed annually recognizing a female city resident who best exemplifies Vel R. Phillips’ legacy of selfless service and trailblazing work to improve the quality of life for residents in Milwaukee.

Print Materials

Nominations are currently being sought for this year's award, and will be due on Friday, February 23, 2024.

Vel R. Phillips Trailblazer  

Send Questions to:

Joanna Polanco - City Clerk’s Office
City Hall, Room 205
Milwaukee, WI 53202

[email protected]


Vel R. Phillips Trailblazer Award
Selection Committee

  • Ald. Milele A. Coggs

  • Keith Bailey

  • Mildred Coby

  • Jasmine Johnson

  • Michael Phillips

  • Peggy Rozga

  • Jada Young

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