28 Days of
February is Black History Month, and in many ways, that history is still being written today. Throughout this month, several key Milwaukee Black History makers will be profiled on the City of Milwaukee website’s main page. The prominent online spot will give students and Milwaukeeans across the city a chance to learn about – and to honor – some of the city’s notable and unsung heroes.
In the early years of the 20th century, Little Africa was the name given to the area of Milwaukee where the majority of Black residents were consigned to live due to strict patterns of residential segregation enforced at that time. The area was bounded by State Street, North Avenue, 3rd Street (now MLK Drive), and 12th Street, and was also referred to as Bronzeville, the name by which much of the area is currently known.
Michael Morgan was the first African American to be appointed as Commissioner of Milwaukee’s Department of City Development, and served in that capacity from 1993 to 1998. He also spent a number of years as a member of Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle’s cabinet, first as Secretary of Revenue, and later as Secretary of the Department of Administration. He went on the work for the University of Wisconsin System as Senior Vice President for Administration and Fiscal Affairs. He has a BA in Communication Arts (1978), and a Law Degree (1984) from UW-Madison.
After jobs in tech roles for big companies such as We Energies and GE Healthcare, Ms. Johnson launched her own software development firm, Jet Constellations, in 2017 with a focus on serving Milwaukee companies led by people of color. In 2018, she started the Milky Way Tech Hub, an organization that works to ensure that a diverse population is represented in Wisconsin’s growing technology sector. By attracting partnerships and grants from local corporations and universities, Milky Way has nurtured entrepreneurs and students to build businesses and pursue tech jobs, assuring them that there is a place for them in the tech industries.
Dr. Rob "Biko" Baker
After completing a degree at UW-Milwaukee in 2000, Baker moved to Los Angeles to attend graduate school at UCLA. There he studied history by day and witnessed history by night, working as a writer covering the thriving hip hop scene for The Source magazine. He blended the two interests by joining the League of Young Voters, encouraging youth to pursue social change through political and multi-media activism, and he served as the group’s executive director for 10 years while completing his PhD. Violence in Milwaukee and the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri spurred him to more activism and creative output. He launched his digital storytelling company, Render, to help amplify social causes and nonprofits through web sites and social media.
Mr. Washington, a proud UW-Milwaukee alum, is partnership development advisor at American Family Insurance, where he assists in the company’s community outreach and talent development. Previously he worked as vice president of business banking at Town Bank. Since 2020 he has also served on the board of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA), and Gov. Evers appointed him as its chairman in 2021. He also co-founded the young professional group Social X and has been involved with several of Milwaukee’s business, educational, and arts groups.
Ms. Carter was appointed Director of Port Milwaukee in January 2023, the first African American to be appointed to lead that enterprise. Prior to her appointment as director, she was the Finance and Administration Officer at the Port. Ms. Carter has also worked in the local non-profit and public sector for more than 20 years. She graduated with a Master of Business Administration with an emphasis in Public Administration from Concordia University, and holds a Bachelor of Arts from Alverno College, with a double major in Business & Management and Professional Communication.
Sharon Robinson was the first black woman Director of the City of Milwaukee’s Department of Administration for over 20 years. Ms. Robinson was previously the Director of the Washington, D.C. office of the William Davidson Institute, an international nonprofit headquartered at the University of Michigan and focused on promoting economic growth in emerging market economies. She also worked for 20 years on Capitol Hill beginning in the 1980s in the U.S. House of Representatives where she eventually became former U. S. Congressman Tom Barrett’s Chief of Staff.
Willie Jude Sr.
Mr. Jude’s long career with Milwaukee Public Schools put him in important leadership roles, including serving as a Deputy Superintendent and as principal of three large high schools—North Division, James Madison, and Custer (now named Barack Obama). Though he retired in 2005 from MPS after 32 years there, his devotion to education has not stopped, and he has led or advised charter schools in the city. His son, Willie Jude II, who is a Vice Chancellor for UW-Parkside, has said of his father, “He has always been a problem solver. He’s always been consistent, he’s always been fair. He taught me about being a lifelong learner.”
White, who passed away in July 2022, was the first African American to be hired as Executive Director of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District in 1989. He later served as a commissioner and chairman. While head of the MMSD, White was instrumental in increasing the number of minority employees there, as well as contracting with local minority-run businesses. He was also a successful local businessman, and an instructor as Cardinal Stritch University's College of Business and Management.
Sister Patricia Rogers
Former executive director of the Dominican Center, a neighborhood organization that serves Milwaukee's Amani neighborhood and focuses on housing, safety, and economic development initiatives; during her tenure the center worked to address community needs by hosting neighborhood cleanups, mobile food pantries and the resident-led Moody Park revitalization. Sister Rogers previously worked for Safe & Sound, where she managed the day-to-day operations of the $2.5 million nonprofit.
Anna Maria Hodges
In November 2022, Hodges was elected as the 30th Clerk of Circuit Court of Milwaukee County, becoming the first woman and woman of color to hold the post. She previously served as the Acting Clerk of Circuit Court in early 2022, Chief Deputy Clerk of Circuit Court from 2018 to 2022, and Assistant Chief Deputy Clerk of Circuit Court and Civil Division Administrator from 2006 to 2018. Ms. Hodges has worked in public service for over 30 years, having also served as Court Coordinator and Deputy Director of Litigation Services for the First Judicial Administrative District, Deputy Director of Governor Tommy Thompson’s Milwaukee office, and Constituent Services Specialist in the office of Milwaukee County Executive F. Thomas Ament.
Mr. Lucas was elected Milwaukee County Sheriff in November 2018, and was sworn into office January 7, 2019, stepping down from that position at the end of 2022. He is a 25-year veteran of the Milwaukee Police Department, retiring at the rank of captain. He holds a bachelor’s degree cum laude in criminology and law studies from Marquette University. Sheriff Lucas is a product of the Milwaukee Public Schools system, graduating from Rufus King High School. He also served as Major League Baseball’s Chief Liaison of Security & Investigations for the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues.
Dr. William Rogers
Dr. Rogers was a local activist, educator, and historian whose work focused on Black community empowerment and celebration of African American history and culture. He worked as an instructor at UW-Milwaukee’s Department of Africology, and also served as host of The Black Reality Think Tank, a local radio program. Dr. Rogers was well-known for his inspirational public speaking, and having a positive influence on those who encountered him, especially his students.
Willie Hines, Jr.
First African American to lead the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee, he was appointed the Executive Director in early 2022; prior to working at the Housing Authority, Hines served on the Milwaukee Common Council from 1996 to 2014, and was the Common Council President from 2004 to 2014.
In the late 1970’s Lula Chambers was the Executive Director of the Highland Park Community Center, a city housing project, youth and family recreation center. She was also a caseworker in the family empowerment program of S.E.T. MINISTRY (SERVICE, EMPOWERMENT, and TRANSFORMATION), a Milwaukee non-profit agency that helps socially and economically disadvantaged people set and achieve goals that promote self-sufficiency and improve their lives. Her service with that organization included working with residents of the Milwaukee Housing Authority. She served in the office Mayor Henry Maier. Ms. Chambers passed away in 2007, and was the grandmother of newly elected Ald. Mark Chambers.
Torre "ToeJoe" Johnson
Mr. Johnson is the founder of X-Men United, an organization designed to provide a platform for ex-offenders and others to motive and uplift the community by leading by example. He currently works with Wisconsin Community Services, providing a variety of services for individuals involved in or at risk of becoming involved in the criminal justice system. Mr. Johnson is a former Social Development Commissioner and a long time contributor to Milwaukee’s annual Juneteenth Day Celebration. He now uses his experience to counsel others on how to live positive and productive lives.
Dr. Ball is the first black woman to hold the post of Milwaukee County Sheriff, first on an interim basis after the resignation of Earnell Lucas, then elected in November 2022 to a full term. Sheriff Ball holds a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, a master's degree in criminal justice administration from the UW–Milwaukee, and a doctorate of philosophy in educational leadership from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee. Prior to her election, Sheriff Ball had served since 2019 as chief deputy sheriff/undersheriff of the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office, and before coming to the Sheriff’s Office, she worked for the Milwaukee Police Department and retired at the rank of deputy inspector after 25 years of distinguished service. While a member of the police department, Sheriff Ball set up and was the first commander of the Neighborhood Task Force, a group of 200 officers whose efforts resulted in double-digit decreases in crime.
Mr. Morrison, a Milwaukee native, is the Executive Director of College Possible Milwaukee, an organization that works with local high school students from under-represented communities helping them with the college admissions process and providing them support throughout their college education. He also worked for a number of years with the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee, as well as Operation DREAM, an organization that provides mentoring and workforce development to young men of color.
Patricia O'Flynn Pattillo
Ms. Pattillo is the founder, CEO, and publisher of the Milwaukee Community Journal, the largest African-American newspaper in Wisconsin since 1976. In 1987 she became the first female president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association-Black Press of America. After losing her 29-year-old son Terence to an asthma attack in 1991, she set up the Dr. Terence N. Thomas Scholarship Fund, which has provided more than $1 million in stipends to low-income students and students of color in Milwaukee. In 2015 she was inducted into the Milwaukee Press Club’s Wisconsin Media Hall of Fame.
Mr. Perkins Family Restaurant
Started over 50 years ago by Tennessee native Willie Perkins, Sr. and wife Hilda, their restaurant at 2021 W. Atkinson Ave. is a Milwaukee institution. Southern-style and soul food favorites have been its specialty since its founding in 1969, drawing loyal diners from all over Milwaukee, as well as visiting celebrities and professional athletes. Throughout its history, the restaurant has been a family business. Willie Perkins, Jr. and his wife Cherry Welch-Perkins took it over in 1999, and despite Willie Jr. passing away in 2010, Cherry continues to run it today.
Dr. Gina Haughton
Dr. Haughton has served in many places in her career as an educator, from various roles with Milwaukee Public Schools to Cardinal Stritch University, where she was a member of their graduate school faculty and chaired master’s-level programs in teaching, inclusive education, and higher education student affairs leadership. In 2019 she was hired by University School of Milwaukee as its director of student success, and in November 2022 she was named head of its Upper School, becoming USM’s first division leader who identifies as a person of color.
Frank Gatson, Jr.
A graduate of North Division High School, Mr. Gatson is an award-winning choreographer, director, and dancer who got his big break when he was hired to dance in Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” video. He has gone on to work with other musical superstars including Beyonce, Usher, Brandy, En Vogue, and Jennifer Lopez. Recently, he has partnered with the Milwaukee YMCA to help turn the building at 1915 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. into an intergenerational arts center.
Rev. Dr. Joy L. Gallmon
“Pastor Joy” has been the leader of St. Mark AME, Milwaukee’s oldest African-American church, since 2017, but she wasn’t always focused on the religious life. Her first college degree was in marketing, and she had some success in the business world, but her call to ministry was stronger. Her devotion to serving others fits well with St. Mark’s ongoing outreach to the Milwaukee community.
Mr. Carrington was serving as the principal at North Division High School, when he died unexpectedly at the age of 48 in August 2022. He had been working in that position since 2016. The two decades prior to that, Mr. Carrington worked as a paraprofessional, special-education teacher, assistant principal and principal at a number of other MPS schools. He was also a part-time security supervisor for first the Bradley Center and then the Fiserv Forum. He was admired and respected by his North Division students and staff for his positive presence and commitment to both the school and the neighboring community.
Brother Booker T. Ashe
Brother Ashe was a Capuchin monk who founded the House of Peace in Milwaukee in 1967, a non-profit institution serving the poor. He ran it for over 25 years, until his retirement in 1995. In 1970, he was elected by the Capuchin order to a term as a provincial councilor, the first Black in the United States to be selected to that administrative post. Brother Ashe was also the first cousin of tennis legend Arthur Ashe. He died in 2000 at the age of 68.
Rev. Greg Lewis
Reverend Lewis is an Assistant Pastor at St. Gabriel Church of God and Christ on Milwaukee’s north side, and the founder of Souls to the Polls, a local community organization that works to increase voter turnout in Milwaukee’s central city, particularly among Black voters. He is also involved in advocating for fair and affordable housing, and through his church community works to increase the rate of Black homeownership in Milwaukee.
A Milwaukee native, Neal has worked with Diddy and Ludacris, hosts a Sirius XM radio show and stages DJ seminars through his Core DJs organization. In 2008 he moved from WKKV-FM (100.7) to become program director of WNOV-AM (860), according to allaccess.com. He’s a co-owner of Radio Multi Media, the station’s new owner.
Maurice "Doc B" Beckley
Doc B is one of Milwaukee’s first hip hop DJs, and is the founder and owner of B-Boy Productions, a local company that provides music for public events. He was also the official Green Bay Packers DJ at Lambeau Field during their 2014-2015 season, and has participated in the 10,000 Fearless movement, a group of men and women working to stop the bloodshed in the Milwaukee community.