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a lifetime of achievement The March Goes On

50th anniversary of election to Milwaukee common council 1956 - 2006

Vel Phillips

“I want my foundation to serve as an economic hand of justice that seeks to eliminate invisible barriers between disadvantaged people and their goals, clearing the path for educational, occupational, social, and political parity.”

Vel and Hank.

Hank Aaron

“While I was fighting for equality from the baseball diamond, Vel was rooting for me. While she marched for justice on the streets of Milwaukee, I cheered her on. It is time for all of us to step up to the plate to support what Vel stands for by contributing to her foundation to assure that the “March Goes On.”

“The March Goes On.” Dear Friends, Throughout my life, I have been blessed with support from many people, beginning with my great grandfather, who in the 1800s was a bishop and missionary to Africa for the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. My mother and father taught us the value of education, the importance of a solid work ethic, the significance of integrity in all matters and the rewards of following our dreams. Thank you very much for your interest in my newest dream, The Vel Phillips Foundation. So much has changed in our world and in our city since I first embarked upon a political career when I was elected to the Milwaukee Common Council 50 years ago (April 3, 1956). While I am proud of the strides that we have made during these 50 years, there is still much work to be done. For example: • In the Milwaukee area, 17 percent of African Americans were unemployed in 2002, the highest of 12 metropolitan areas studied (Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce) • Milwaukee is among the 10 U.S. cities with the highest percentage of African Americans living in concentrated urban poverty (Brookings Institution, October 2005) • Only 40% of African Americans in Wisconsin are high school graduates (2000 U.S. Census) The Vel Phillips Foundation will focus attention and resources on finding intelligent solutions to these problems. We also will make every effort to unite and energize individuals to make a meaningful difference in our community. Together, with my friend Hank Aaron and our board of directors, we will lead the 21st Century March toward equality and opportunity for minorities and certainly continue to make positive and lasting change. I have learned that doing the right thing is very often not easy, but it is indeed possible with persistent effort and vigilant commitment. When you work collaboratively, approach problems intelligently, and treat people with genuine respect, remarkable things can happen. We invite you all to contribute your time, your talent and your financial resources to support the work of The Vel Phillips Foundation. The Board of Directors and I look forward to collaborating with you in this significant effort that can truly revolutionize our city. Together, we can create a community that is a beacon of equality and economic strength for each one of us. Very sincerely,

Vel R. Phillips The Vel Phillips Foundation


The Vel Phillips Story Velvalea Rodgers was born in Milwaukee, the second of three daughters, and grew up in a supportive and loving home. Her father was a businessman who at one time owned a garage and a Young Vel restaurant. Her mother was a homemaker but also active in politics, and the seed of a future career was planted in young Vel as she watched her mother campaign for Milwaukee Common Council candidate James W. Dorsey. When she was at North Division High School, Vel was recognized for her speaking skills and won a national oratory scholarship sponsored by the black chapter of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. She used it to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C. and returned to Wisconsin for law school. In 1951, she became the first black woman to graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School. While in school, she met and married her first and only love, fellow law student W. Dale Phillips. Their engagement made the society pages of the Milwaukee Journal, the first for an African American couple.


Vel and Dale awaiting Common Council election results

In 1953, Vel ran for a seat on the school board, and although she lost the final election, she was first black candidate to make it past the primary. Both she and her husband became active locally in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in support of a city redistricting referendum to increase black political representation. In law practice together, Vel and Dale also began a family.

Vel with sons Michael and Dale

On April 3, 1956, Vel became the first woman and the first African American elected to the Milwaukee’s Common Council, and local officials dubbed her “Madam Alderman.” Shortly afterward, her first son, Dale, was born. Approximately two years later (June, 1958) while Vel was involved in another political campaign, her son Michael was born. Throughout the 1960s, Vel participated in nonviolent protests against discrimination in housing, education, and employment that culminated in the violent summer of 1967. Arrested at a rally following the firebombing of a NAACP, Vel, as the only arrested city official, brought national media attention to the city, which had earned the nickname the “Selma of the North.” The following year, Milwaukee aldermen finally approved the Open Housing Law that she had proposed six and a half years earlier, pushed toward acceptance only by the passage of the Federal Open Housing Bill the week before.

“The March Goes On.”

Vel and Father James Groppi

After nearly 16 years on the Common Council, in 1971 Vel was appointed to the Milwaukee County judiciary, by Governor Patrick J. Lucey, and became the first woman in Milwaukee County and the first African American in Wisconsin to serve in the judiciary. In 1978, Vel made national history as the first woman and first African American elected secretary of state in Wisconsin. During the absence of both the governor and lieutenant governor, she served as acting governor, though only briefly, she noted, as “the men hurried back” when they realized they had left a woman in charge. As of 2006, Vel still remains the only African American ever elected to a statewide constitutional office.

Today, Vel is on the go with her law practice and her community involvement: America’s Black Holocaust Museum, NAACP, The Haggerty Art Museum, The Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, The Joshua Glover Memorial Committee, Community Shares of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Chapter LINKS Inc., The Girlfriends Inc., Jack and Jill of America Inc. Associates, and the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, where she is a lifelong member. She also is actively involved (vice-chair) and a vocal participant in the grass-roots political educational group, Community Brainstorming Conference (CBC). In 2002, Vel was awarded a distinguished professor chair at the Marquette School of Law, charged with producing a first-person memoir of Milwaukee’s civil rights struggle. She also chaired the ultimately successful congressional campaign of Gwendolynne Moore, Wisconsin’s first African American and second female Congressional representative.

Robert Young, Gwen Moore, Vel and Katherine Nelson

In 2006, the 50th anniversary of her landmark election to the Milwaukee Common Council, Vel celebrates another milestone with the launch of the Vel Phillips Foundation. The Foundation will continue her leadership and commitment to social justice, education, jobs, fair housing, and equality for minorities and women. Vel with Julian Bond

Photo credits: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Harry Kemp


Vel Phillips, civil rights pioneer and community activist, demonstrates by example that justice can be achieved through gracious persistence and personal integrity. Her Foundation will continue to reflect her devotion to improving the community and the world in which she lives.

Mission and Values Consistent with Vel Phillips’ commitment to justice for minorities and women, the mission of the Vel Phillips Foundation is to help establish equality and opportunity for minorities and women through social justice, education, fair housing opportunities, jobs, and financial literacy.

We value: • People of all genders, races, ethnicities, orientations, and faiths • Racial and community unity • Humility and respect toward all human beings • High standards and unimpeachable actions • Diversity as a natural part of life • Social justice achieved through passion, collaboration, and action

Initiatives The Vel Phillips Foundation operates on the belief that we can do more together, by uniting our efforts and talents, than we could ever accomplish individually. Seeking collaboration and cooperation across the community, the Foundation will support and expand on the work of the committed people dedicated to high standards and hard work.


As such, an important part of the Foundation’s work will be to clarify community needs, evaluate progress of current efforts, and creatively develop new, collaborative ways to address unmet needs within the community. The Foundation will also fund cutting-edge initiatives, individual or collaborative, that will enhance harmony among people of different socio-economic levels, races, sects, and ethnicities. It will seek to establish programs to perpetuate and promote social justice and equal opportunity across the community, and provide funds or volunteers to support new or existing programs. To achieve its mission, the Vel Phillips Foundation also will engage in activities such as providing scholarships for minorities and women, seeking mentors and role models for youth, providing venues for youth to serve in organizations that carry on the vision, and collaborating to increase minority and women participation in the economic strength of the community.

Board of Directors • Vel Phillips • Hank Aaron • Geneva Johnson • Michael Phillips • Katherine Nelson • Martin Schreiber • Robert Young

Founding Sponsors Clear Channel Communications M&I Bank Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Vel Phillips Foundation Gala Launch Event

“The March Goes On.”

Hank Aaron Baseball Hall of Fame great Henry L. “Hank” Aaron joined the Milwaukee Braves in 1954, building his baseball career as Vel Phillips made her name in Milwaukee politics. Hank enjoyed a matchless 23-year career and holds more major league batting records than any other player in the game’s history, including most home runs (755 lifetime) most runs batted in (lifetime, 2,297). Born in Mobile, Alabama, he currently lives in Atlanta where he has been an influential business and civic leader for more than 20 years. With his wife Billye, he is co-founder of The Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation, and has received numerous civic awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Presidential Citizens Medal.

Masters of Ceremonies Vivian King, currently Director of Public Affairs for Roundy’s Supermarkets, Inc., spent more than 10 years as reporter and host at Milwaukee’s WTMJ-TV, where she won numerous awards for her work. Active in the community, King currently serves on several boards and is the current president of the Delta Memorial Endowment Fund of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. She earned her Bachelor of Journalism Degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she made history as part of the school’s first black homecoming couple in 1985.

DeMarco Morgan, co-anchor and reporter at WISN – TV, Ch. 12, came to Milwaukee from WJTV in Jackson, Miss. He received a M.S. in journalism and a B.S. in mass communications from Jackson State University in Mississippi. Morgan has dedicated his community service to area youth, volunteering with groups including the local YMCA, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the American Cancer Society Sankofa Project. He serves on several Milwaukee community boards and was recently named one of Ebony Magazine’s Top 30 Future Leaders. He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.

Musical Entertainment ADEKOLA ADEDAPO


jazz singer, teacher, storyteller, and winner of the Wisconsin Area Music Industry’s 2001 award for “Female Vocalist of the Year.”

Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra double bassist and soloist, educator, gospel singer and devoted servant of those in need.



Exclusive group of young musicians from the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, sponsored by State Farm Insurance.

Members Paul Lundin and Mary Pat Michels, Jenna Dick, David Bebe Michael Britz , and Anna Newbury.


Vel Phillips Foundation Gala Launch Event April 7, 2006 6:00 p.m. Cocktail Reception — Second Level Atrium Entertainment courtesy of State Farm Quartet Wine tasting with Vance Sharp III, Sharp Cellars


Dinner Menu Wild Mushroom Chowder with Thyme and Firewood Honey Tossed Field Greens with Heirloom Tomatoes Lemon Sorbet Pan Seared Halibut Paired with Grilled Chicken Breast with a Roasted Garlic Sauce Mashed Potatoes Steamed Asparagus Spears with Roasted Red Pepper Key Lime Cheesecake


Dinner wines courtesy of Sharp Cellars, Sonoma Valley, California and African American Vintner Vance Sharp III 2003 Pinot Blanc from Tyla’s Point Vineyard 2004 Pinot Noir from Keenan’s Cove Sonoma Coast

“The March Goes On.”

Celebration Program 7:00 p.m. INVOCATION...................................................................................................Chaplain Gloria Krasno Milwaukee Jewish Chaplaincy Rev. Darryl R. Williams St. Mark AME Church

7:15 p.m. Welcome and Special Introductions .....................Masters of Ceremonies: Vivian King Demarco Morgan Salutes to Vel and Hank ............................................................ Dignitaries and Special Guests

Introduction to the Vel Phillips Foundation

Walk Down Memory Lane ............................................................. Vel Phillips and Hank Aaron

Thoughts by Vel Phillips Benediction .............................................................................................. Father Matthew Gottschalk House of Peace

Musical performances: Waukesha Symphony Orchestra Ensemble Laura D. Snyder and Waukesha Symphony Ensemble – Medley of Songs and Tribute to Marty Stein Adekola Adedapo – Tribute to Vel Phillips


Vel Phillips Foundation Founding Sponsors

Table Sponsors AT&T R. W. Baird Churches of God in Christ, Inc., Milwaukee Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Foley & Lardner, LLP GE Healthcare Frank Gimbel Harley-Davidson Johnson Controls Legacy Bank MATC Major League Baseball Marquette University

Midwest General Construction Miller Brewing National Association of Minority Contractors Northwestern Mutual Potawatomi Platt Construction Martin Schreiber & Associates, Inc. Time Warner Von Briesen & Roper, S.C. Martha Watts We Energies Wisconsin Career Academy

Special Thanks to Gala Dinner Committee Katherine Nelson, Co-Chair Robert Young, Co-Chair Michelle Barnes Millie Coby Clifton Harrison Gina Wanyee-Jones,

Vivian King Tiffany L. Koehler Kris Martinsek DeMarco Morgan, WISN Julie O’Rourke Well, Danbridge Communications

Going the Extra Mile Adekola Adedapo BVK, Benjamin Gray, Webmaster Clear Channel Outdoor, Paul Sara Clear Channel Radio, Bailey Coleman Focus on Diversity, Troy Shaw Hyatt Regency Milwaukee Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin and Brown Joe Kennedy MC Services, Duane Maas and Andy Pfeffer M&I Volunteers Midwest Airlines


Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Let’s Party Milwaukee Art Museum Pfister Hotel Sharp Cellars, Vance Sharp, III Laura D. Snyder Usinger’s Waukesha Symphony Orchestra Volunteers Wisconsin Conservatory of Music’s State Farm Quartet WISN

Introducing: Vel Phillips Foundation’s On-line Auction!

“The March Goes On.”

It’s a fun, convenient way to support the Vel Phillips Foundation! Enjoy the excitement of bidding on a wide array of select items, memorabilia and special event opportunities while you help continue Vel’s important work and foster her 21st Century March. Bid now on these exclusive auction items – deadline is April 14! Just register at, click on the item and make your bid. Winners will be contacted by phone or e-mail. Visit often to check your progress on these exciting launch event prizes!

Hank Aaron Autographed Bat From the valuable artifacts of Hank Aaron, an autographed baseball bat has been selected for you. Value: $1,000 Opening bid is $300

San Francisco and the Wine Country This escape for two in California’s lush Sonoma Valley takes you to a special place where premium, organically grown grapes are transformed into estate-quality wines by Vance Sharp, III. You will stay two nights at the guest house on his 55-acre slice of heaven and join him for an exclusive wine tasting. (Timing subject to availability.) Value: $2,500 Opening bid: $800

Dine with Vel at the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee Chef’s Table Your party of eight can join Vel at the chef ’s table set in the kitchen of the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee for an intimate view of the chef at work. Enjoy an expertly prepared meal, including drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Value: $1,500 + Opening bid: $400 Pastel by Evelyn Terry A winning bid for “A Passionate Building Up,” (30” x 44”, Pastel, 2003) by one of Milwaukee’s outstanding African American artists will make you the owner of an original piece of art that will only go up in value. Value: $3,600 Opening bid: $2,000

Keep Your Gala Ticket for our Online Raffle! You may win a year’s membership to Milwaukee Art Museum Log on to Enter your four ticket numbers. You’ll be notified by e-mail if you win. Prize courtesy of the Milwaukee Art Museum


Vel Phillips Milestones

First Husband-Wife Law Practice Vel was the first African-American woman to graduate from the University of Wisconsin Madison law school in 1951, and moved to Milwaukee with her husband and fellow attorney W. Dale Phillips. Together they became the first husband-wife team admitted to the federal bar in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee Open Housing Marches In 1967, Father James Groppi joined Vel and the NAACP Youth Council in leading marches for fair housing, enduring the city’s race riots, hostility and violence. She finally saw Milwaukee’s open housing bill passed two weeks after Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968. 10

First Woman and African-American on Milwaukee Common Council Vel began her march for justice in 1956 when she was elected the first woman ever to sit on Milwaukee’s Common Council, for which she was recognized on the cover of Jet magazine. During her tenure on the Common Council, Vel made strides – large and small – for women and minorities. In 1962, she introduced the city’s first openhousing ordinance.

YWCA The Vel Phillips YWCA was built in 1969 as the North Side Branch YWCA. It was renamed and rededicated on April 28, 1974 in honor of Vel Phillips.

“The March Goes On.” First African American Judge in Wisconsin In the 1970s she became the first woman judge in Milwaukee County and the first African American to serve in Wisconsin’s judiciary. In 1978 she was the first woman and African American elected to a statewide constitutional office as Secretary of State.

Nationally Recognized Political Leader A supporter and friend of Dr. King, Vel also distinguished herself on a national level in the civil rights era. She was the first African American in the United States elected to the National Committee of either of the two major political parties, and knew three presidents on a first-name basis: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Jimmy Carter. Tireless Advocate, Educator and Community Servant Through the years Vel has continued her law practice and actively advocated for various causes and organizations, in the process working closely with numerous leaders at the national, state and local levels. Vel assumed a distinguished professor chair at Marquette’s School of Law in February 2002, and in 2004, she was honorary chair of the successful campaign of U.S. Congresswoman Gwendolynne Moore of Milwaukee. In 2005, Vel received the second Pioneer Award of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. In 2006, Vel celebrates another milestone, the founding of The Vel Phillips Foundation to continue her legacy.

Photo credits: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, M&I Bank


Every Person Has Something to Contribute “Never, for the sake of peace and quiet, deny your own experience or convictions.” Dag Hammarskjold, Statesman and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Vel Phillips’ vision of a community where diversity is a natural part of life led her to make courageous decisions and to stand by her convictions. Now, 50 years later, she has chosen The Vel Phillips Foundation as a way to continue her commitment to social justice, education, fair housing opportunities, economic parity and financial literacy. The Foundation seeks to create a united community that promotes equality for all its citizens, knowing that in the end helping the

least of us helps all of us. This is the kind of community that will shine like a beacon, lighting the path to economic strength for everyone. With your help, we can make this vision become a reality. Through the Vel Phillips Foundation, people of all ages and experience will find many avenues to contribute their own time, talents, and resources. Those who are committed to social justice, diversity and equality are invited to follow in Vel’s footsteps through volunteer efforts and financial contributions.

For more information, to volunteer, or to make a contribution, contact the Foundation at: The Vel Phillips Foundation 1224 N. Prospect Avenue, Suite Q, Milwaukee, WI 53202 414-273-1321 ·

In Loving Memory Dale F. Phillips 1956 – 2005 Vel’s beloved son Mother, we are one. Worry not for me, for I am well, for I am free, for I am loved, for I am understood. Rejoice in the victory of eternal life, of meeting my maker, of being with Dad, of being with all my ancestors. From here, I am seeing you with a new perspective, I am joining you in the struggle, unencumbered. I am banding with the angels in comforting you. I am where love knows no bounds.


Celebrate God’s plan, God’s mercy, God’s grace, God’s providence. I can see you, I can hear you, I can love you, I can hold you . . . from where I am. Though you do not know it, you and I are in the same place. Look for me, I am around, helping you. All of God’s people are living in the eternal Kingdom. You are a part of us and we are part of you. You cannot see us, but we can see you.

Martin Stein 1938 - 2006 Supporter and friend

Photo courtesy of Milwaukee Magazine

The Vel Phillips Foundation 1224 N. Prospect Suite Q Milwaukee, WI 53202 414-273-1321

VPF Gala Program  

Program booklet

VPF Gala Program  

Program booklet