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Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream and Barack Obama, with his historic inauguration, is helping to fulfill it. But so, too, did African-Americans in Utah.
Today, we feature four of those barrier breakers, brave souls who blurred the color line and advanced civil rights in the Beehive State.
Get to know Utah's first black legislator, who protested by lying down on city streets and inside the Capitol; the state's first black judge, who rose from dishing out assists as a University of Utah basketball star to handing out justice as a 3rd District jurist; an NAACP icon, who became a tireless children's and education advocate; and, finally, the "Queen of 25th Street," an Ogden jazz-club owner who defied the era by allowing black customers.
Tyrone Medley » Utah's first black judge
Playing basketball in his native New Jersey under now-Maryland coach Gary Williams, Tyrone Medley thought his path to the NBA was back East, perhaps through Temple University.
Instead, the University of Utah came calling in 1970 with a four-year scholarship. That offer transported Medley into a life he never imagined. And it rendered basketball an afterthought.
After four years on the court and in class, the "fish out of water" scored an interview with the U.'s law school dean. He knew it was a sign to abandon basketball for a life in the law -- a good call, colleagues say.
"He showed that he was something more than a jock, that he had a mind," says Shauna Robertson, a judge with the Salt Lake County Justice Court. "He used the opportunity and catapulted it into something more."
Indeed, after graduating from law school, clerking in Nevada and working as prosecutor with Salt Lake County, Medley was appointed in 1984 by Gov. Scott Matheson as Utah's first African-American judge.
"It caught me by surprise," recalls Medley, who was job hunting in New Jersey at the time.
Over the ensuing quarter century, Medley has carved a reputation for fairness, patience and intelligence.
"He represents not only the African-American community but the entire community in a way you would want to see," says Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP's Salt Lake branch.
The 3rd District judge, who lives with his wife in the Avenues, agrees the career move has worked out "greatly." He has parlayed his seat on the bench into other leadership roles, including a chairmanship of the Alberta Henry Education Foundation.
"I view Mrs. Henry as a trailblazer who paved the way for the opportunity I got," Medley says about the legendary community leader. "It was a way to pay her back."
Despite his own success since 1984, Medley laments that progress for blacks in Utah remains "awfully slow."
"I'm still the only African-American judge of general jurisdiction in the state."
Alberta Henry » Matriarch of equal education
Alberta Henry's refusal to accept racial roles seemed preordained.
After all, hearing that her mother was threatened in Louisiana with lynching for confronting a white man over the family's cotton yield, Henry identified with the defiance.
"I'm just like her - I'm going to say my bit," said Henry, whose sharecropper father was born into slavery.
The Deep South transplant said - and did - plenty following her arrival in Utah in 1949. With few blacks in Salt Lake City, Henry took a job as a housekeeper, where she once was wrongly suspected to be a streetwalker.
She persevered, married and adopted two kids. Then, at a Head Start day care, she discovered she was a natural teacher and began focusing full time on children.
"There were teenagers in and out of her house all the time," Mary Schultz, a fellow NAACP officer remembered about her late friend. "She was just a very strong woman, a natural leader."
In 1972, serving as a minority consultant in the school district, Henry was appalled to find many black students were shuffled into special education. She fought the system, helped boost black-history curriculum and founded an honor society for minority students. An education foundation in her name has helped hundreds receive degrees.
"My primary concern is seeing that anyone, any color, gets an education if he or she wants one," she said in 1975.
Henry, who died in 2005, also ran for a slot in the Legislature, served as president of the NAACP's Salt Lake branch, received an honorary doctorate of humane letters, and was largely responsible for making Martin Luther King Jr. Day an annual event in schools.
Florence Lawrence, a west Salt Lake City friend, recalls rearing their families together as the "Post Street gang."
"She had the welfare of other people in her mind," Lawrence said. "She was a very dedicated lady."
Robert Harris » Utah's first black state lawmaker
Robert Harris didn't take anything lying down. Check that - he took virtually everything lying down.
Known as Utah's prone politician, the late Harris staged lie-ins from the Capitol Rotunda to the asphalt of Ogden. His usual protest message: lack of tax relief for the elderly poor.
But because the Ogden pastor was also Utah's first black legislator, his antics resonated. And if his flamboyance wasn't enough, Harris always had his mouth.
"The person that thought of the idea to take away old people's homes is a candidate for hell if he doesn't repent," Harris said in 1976. "The hippies and yippies take advantage of old people by going on welfare. If the devils won't work, then don't feed them."
Harris, who died in 2005, often would boast about his dozen-plus arrests and multiple stints in jail - most from acts of civil disobedience. But controversy followed the outspoken lawmaker.
He often took on gays and, in 1986, Harris was found guilty of assault for slugging a health official he accused of trying to steal his secret barbecue-sauce recipe. The incident happened in downtown Ogden when the county health employee refused to let Harris open his restaurant.
Harris also was found guilty of animal cruelty after insisting his dogs - destroyed after being found emaciated - would eat only soul food. In court, Harris wheeled in pots of stew with meat, bones, broth and bread, saying the dogs "ate just as good as the kids did."
Legal tussles aside, Harris was a selfless servant at heart, dedicated to helping the poor, according to H.C. Massey, a longtime friend.
"He was just a man of energy," said Massey, who persuaded Harris to consider a run for the Utah House in the mid-1970s. "He didn't think about himself. His agenda was his people."
Despite serving only one term, Harris had a knack for getting noticed. And he knew it.
Asked once why he chose to demonstrate with lie-ins, the reverend was frank: "I get the media's attention."
AnnaBelle Weakley-Mattson » Ogden nightclub owner
After the trains steamed to a stop below 25th Street in Ogden, blacks and whites would walk on opposite sides of the bustling strip.
But in that era of segregation, from the late 1930s until the '60s, the Porters and Waiters Jazz Club became a proud exception.
To this day, African-Americans thank AnnaBelle Weakley-Mattson, the "Queen of 25th Street," who welcomed black railroad workers, airmen and jazz greats alike to her colorblind club in the crossroads of the West.
"AnnaBelle never did try to segregate the club from day one," said Ogden's 89-year-old saxophone standout Joe McQueen. "They gave me sessions whenever I wanted."
While black porters and waiters worked Ogden clubs and hotels, they could not come as customers. That changed with Mattson and her husband, who also would feed black college students and military men.
"It kind of became a safe place for people in the black community to come and relax," recalled Betty Sawyer, president of Ogden's NAACP branch.
But Mattson was hardly content as a nightclub novelty. Her civic spirit quickly spread to work with the Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA, Salt Lake Senior Center and the Legal Aid Society. Mattson also was named to the governor's Black Advisory Council, where she specialized in substance-abuse counseling. From there, she joined the state prison as an ethnic-minority specialist.
"She was definitely a pioneer in the substance-abuse scene and also the economic and cultural scene in Ogden," Sawyer recalled.
For McQueen, who still lives near downtown Ogden, the bond with Mattson lasted 60 years before its sudden end. In November, Mattson was killed when McQueen overcorrected on a drive home from Wendover, flipping the car five times. She had taken off her seat belt to remove her coat.
McQueen, who says Mattson was in poor health, calls the accident bittersweet, if not divine intervention.
"I was just a vehicle for the good Lord to take her, because I just got my shoulder hurt," he said. "She did so much for so many people, it wasn't even funny."