O. T. Jackson (1862-1948)
Visionary and Co-founder of Dearfield, Colorado
Oliver T. (Toussaint L'Ouverture) Jackson was one of Colorado's more intriguing characters. Born in Oxford, Ohio, Jackson moved to Colorado in 1887 where he worked as a caterer in Denver and then a farmer. In 1909, while a messenger to Colorado Governor John Safroth, Jackson took his idea for an African American colony to the governor. Gov. Safroth helped Jackson select homestead land in Weld County.
In 1910, Jackson began advertising for colonists. Late in 1910, Dr. J.H.P. Westbrook, an early settler, suggested the name Dearfield at a community meeting because the fields would be very dear to the settlers making their home there. Starting with only seven families with little farming experience, Jackson's settlement grew to a prosperous colony of 60 families by 1921. Dearfield represents the determination of the African American community to have a path to independence and prosperity.
Dorothy Ann Witt King (1913-2014)
Leader and Innovator
Dorothy Ann Witt King was a community service and civil rights activists who advocated for economic opportunity and education for African Americans in Denver for 70 of her 100 years.
Born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, King would often accompany her mother on shopping trips to Denver where she met her husband, Frank King, the first African American to attend the School of Engineering at the University of Colorado.
Dorothy King's legacy includes her work with girls in the Denver Parks and Recreation and the Whittier Recreation Center, including the CANTEEN, a place where girls could dance, have fun and learn, and SHOWAGON, a traveling talent show that made its rounds in Denver parks. King's unfamiliar legacy is the creation of Personal Services, Inc., in the 1970s. Personal Services was a laundry and custom ironing service in the Denver area that employed women who had limited skills and income.
Thomas Washington Bean (1911-1987)
Life of "Firsts"
Thomas Washington Bean was an astute African American business pioneer. He came to Denver in 1911 on the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, as a dining car steward. His life was full of "firsts," which included operating music vending machines in Denver's businesses, being the first African American to operate a taxicab service in Denver, and being the first African American to serve on the Denver Board of Adjustment Zoning, from 1957 until 1980.
He had the ability to understand the housing needs of the Denver minority community, which allowed him to successfully devote his life to providing homes and living accommodations for low income families. In 1951, Bean financed and built the Bean Apartments at 2100 Franklin Street. He personally developed and arranged financing for African Americans to purchase or rent housing when available resources were non-existent for minorities at the time.
Dianne Reeves (1956-)
"Breathtaking virtuosity, improvisational prowess"
Dianne Reeves was born in Detroit, Michigan, and raised in Denver, Colorado. She grew up surrounded by music. Her father was a singer, her mother played the trumpet, and her Uncle Charles (Charlie) Burrell was a bassist for the Denver Symphony Orchestra.
At age 16, Reeves sang with the George Washington High School band in Denver. The band performed in Chicago at the National Association of Jazz Educators Convention where Reeves caught the attention of Clark Terry, former trumpeter for the Duke Ellington Orchestra, who became her mentor and introduced her to famous jazz legends.
Reeves studied music at the University of Colorado before moving to Los Angeles. Her singing career took off and she began recording as a solo artist and touring with Harry Belafonte and Sergio Mendes, respectively. In 1987 she was the first vocalist signed to the revived Blue Note label. To date, Reeves has recorded 16 albums, received five Grammy nominations and won two Grammys. Although Reeves travels and performs extensively, she now resides in Denver.
George Leslie Brown (1926-2006)
Nation's First African American Lieutenant Governor
George Leslie Brown, former lieutenant governor of Colorado was the first African American to hold statewide office. Brown became the nation's first African American lieutenant governor since Reconstruction.
Brown was born on July 1, 1926, in Lawrence, Kansas. He served in pilot training with the Tuskegee Airmen toward the end of World War II. Brown studied journalism at the University of Kansas and did graduate work at the Harvard Business School, the University of Colorado and the University of Denver. Brown moved to Denver where he worked as a reporter and editor for The Denver Post before entering politics.
In 1955, Brown made history when he was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives. He was later elected to the state Senate, where he served 18 years, and was reelected to five consecutive four-year terms.
In 1979, Brown left Colorado and joined the Grumman Corporation where he was later promoted to senior vice president in charge of the firm's regional offices, becoming the first African American corporate officer in a major U.S. aerospace company.