Georgia Powers, first Black and first woman elected to Kentucky senate

Georgia Powers
Fri, 1923-10-19

Georgia Davis Powers, an African American politician and lawyer, was born on this date in 1923.

She was born in Springfield, KY, the only girl in a family with nine siblings. Powers once worked as a riveter on airplane fuselages in Buffalo, NY. She moved to Louisville, KY, and got involved in politics through her church. From 1962 to 1967, Powers was campaign chair for a number of candidates. Even before she began her career as a senator, Georgia Powers was a civil rights movement leader in Kentucky.

She was one of the essential organizers of a statewide rally in March, 1964 in support of a law to make public accommodations accessible to all, regardless of race. This rally brought civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., and Jackie Robinson to Frankfort, the Kentucky state capitol.

The public accommodation bill did not pass at this time, resulting in a starve-in in the House gallery. Powers said that she did not know her calling in life until she was 45 years old. After holding over 30 different jobs, she knew that her life's calling was politics.

Georgia Montgomery Powers became the first African-American and the first woman to be elected to the Kentucky State Senate in 1967. When she arrived in Frankfort in 1967 as a newly elected senator, she could not get a room in a hotel as an African-American woman.

She was also the first black woman to serve on the Jefferson County Democratic Executive Committee. In 1968, Powers was present at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis the morning that Dr. King was assassinated. As senator, she chaired two legislative committees, Health and Welfare (1970-76) and Labor and Industry (1978-88). During her five four-year terms, she pushed for legislation on public accommodations, open housing, and other issues of concern to people of color, women, children, and the poor.

She addressed the dramatic 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, chaired Jesse Jackson's 1984 and 1988 Kentucky presidential campaigns. She fought for the Equal Rights Amendment resolution, the Displaced Homemakers Law, and a law to increase the minimum wage in Kentucky. In 1988, Georgia Montgomery Davis Powers retired from politics.

I Dream A World: Portraits of Black women Who Changed America
Edited by Barbara Summers
Photos and Interviews by Brian lanker
Copyright 1989, workman Publishing
ISBN 1-555670-063-6

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Powers, Georgia Montgomery