Teesee’s Town: Dempsey Travis celebrates ‘Year 88’ at gala b’day party

Dempsey J. Travis, entrepreneur, philanthropist, historian, author of over 20 best-selling books, real estate tycoon, jazz aficionado and self-made multi-millionaire, among many other interests, marked his 88th birthday at Harold Washington Cultural Cente

Dempsey J. Travis, entrepreneur, philanthropist, historian, author of over 20 best-selling books, real estate tycoon, jazz aficionado and self-made multi-millionaire, among many other interests, marked his 88th birthday at Harold Washington Cultural Center, 47th and King Dr., across the street from where it all started, his first Sivart Mortgage and Travis Realty offices. Proceeds from the gala dinner celebration funded the Mittie, Moselynne and Dempsey J. Travis Scholarship Foundation. Two past recipients, Atty. David Askew, director of Pro Bono Community Service at the law firm of Wildman Harrold & Associates, and Monica Heady, compliance director with Abbot Labs, shared their appreciation for the funds they received for their education. A video presentation, "Life and Times of Dempsey Travis," told his story from birth in 1920 through his success and accomplishments to his current activities. John Davis, former television anchor, narrated. A photo of the honoree at 11-months old was indeed la piece de resistance.

Other highlights: a resolution from Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, unveiling of a portrait of Travis by Pam Rice, artist; remarks by Dorothy Tillman, Geraldine DeHaas, Jazz Unites Inc.; Bennett Johnson, Third World Press; George O’Hare; Roland W. Burris; Joe Green, Columbia College Chicago; and Chancellor Wayne Watson, Chicago City Colleges.

Music was provided by the HWCC Orchestra, headed by Jimmy Tillman, playing favorite songs from the Duke Ellington era, and Ralph Walker, Calvary Church Men’s Choir director. Among other guests: Everett Rand, a long-time friend and former business partner, who donated wine and cocktails for the evening; Dr. Carl Bell, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Caldwell, Mr. and Mrs. Lester McKeever; Mamon Powers, Clarence Strahm; Dr. Lewis Baskin; Rev. Al Sampson; Laura Washington, Alvia Baker, Howard Brookins Sr.; Johnny Brown, Rev. David Coleman; Clyde El-Amin, Michele Simon, Atty. Wanemond Smith and Dr. Debra Ware.

Donna Todd’s Melon Express Catering provided the delicious buffet dinner. What a very special evening for a very special gentleman!

Walk On!–An extraordinary display recognizing “foot soldiers” of the Civil Rights Movement, entitled "The International Civil Rights Walk of Fame Exhibition," will be hosted by Macy’s on State Street in the seventh floor Archives from March 6-15. Lerone Bennett Jr., executive editor emeritus of "Ebony" Magazine, and Rev. Jesse Jackson, president of Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, are among the 13 whose shoes are featured in the exhibit. The Walk of Fame was created in 2004 to honor “foot soldiers of the movement.” Their footprints, marked in granite at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, have become one of the most visited tourist attractions in Atlanta. Other “foot soldiers:” U.S. Sen. Edward W. Brooke III, Xernona Clayton, Sammy Davis Jr., Atlanta’s Mayor Shirley Franklin, Benjamin Hooks, Clarence B. Jones, Cong. John Lewis, Bernard Parks, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Cong. Maxine Waters and Richmond’s Mayor L. Douglas Wilder. Lerone Bennett and Xernona Clayton, founder, president and CEO of the Trumpet Awards Foundation Inc., which sponsors the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame, now in its fifth year, are the special guests at Thursday’s private reception which kick-starts the exhibit. More than 50 “foot soldiers” have been inducted to date. Others will be added each year.

Congrats–to Attys. Rita A. Fry, president and CEO of RAF Consulting Inc. and Eileen Letts, founding partner of Greene and Letts Law Firm, who will be saluted “for public service work and dedication to the community” at the Chicago Bar Association’s 2008 Earl Burrus Dickerson Award Luncheon on Thursday at the Standard Club. The event recognizes minority lawyers and judges in memory of the late lawyer and one of the first African American members of CBA whose life and professional career were devoted to the law and helping others gain equality and justice. For $65 luncheon tickets, call (312) 554-2057 or visit www.chicagobar.org. Book Look–In celebration of Women’s History Month, University of Illinois at Chicago’s Jane Addams Hull-House Museum has chosen an ideal author and topic to launch an inaugural lecture named for reformer Ida B. Wells. On Monday, 6 p.m., Paula Giddings, professor of Afro-American Studies at Smith College, author, historian and scholar, will discuss and sign her latest book, A Sword Among Lions: Ida B Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching. The free lecture, co-hosted by UIC’s Depts. of African American Studies and Gender and Women’s Studies, will be held in the Residents Dining Hall of Hull-House Museum, 800 S. Halsted, followed by a reception and book signing.

Ida B. Wells, one of the most fearless crusaders for civil and women’s rights in U. S. history, was a newspaper editor and publisher, investigative journalist, co-founder of the NAACP, political candidate, mother, wife, and the single most powerful leader in the anti-lynching campaign in America. Giddings, former book editor, journalist and UNCF Distinguished Scholar at Spelman College, is best known for her authoritative social and political history of African American women, "When and Where I Enter" (1985) and "In Search of Sisterhood: Delta Sigma Theta and the Challenge of the Black Sorority Movement." She held the Laurie Chair in Women’s Studies at Douglass College/Rutgers University, and taught at Princeton and Duke Universities before coming to Smith College. RSVP to (312) 413-5353.

For Openers–Markham’s Mayor David Webb Jr. along with the city administration and the Library Board’s trustees celebrate the Grand Opening of the Bradford Anderson Oglesby Public Library, 16640 S. Kedzie, on Saturday noon. It’s been built in honor of the late Dorothy Bradford, Ruth Anderson and Mary Oglesby, three community stalwarts. For info, call (708) 331-0130 or visit www.markhamlibrary.org.

Condolences–To the family of Dorothy Bennett, whose funeral service is Saturday, 11 a.m., at Sixth Grace Presbyterian Church, 35th and Cottage Grove. “Dottie B” died Feb. 28 in her Hyde Park home from cancer. After retiring from the University of Chicago, she worked as a travel consultant. What a loss! She will truly be missed!

Show Biz Buzz–Chicago’s Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winning Mavis Staples, soul and R&B vocalist who received the coveted Americana Music Association’s “Spirit of Americana Free Speech Award,” is off to Australia as a headliner at Womadelaide, the annual festival of world music, dance and arts, which begins Friday. Prior recipients of the Free Speech Award include icons Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Judy Collins and Charlie Daniels. Before coming home in early May, Mavis and Yvonne, her sister and back-up singer, will have performed in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Germany, France, Denmark and Norway. Whoa!

Jerry Butler sheds his Cook County Commissioner hat and wears his famed soul singer’s lid on March 10 when he inducts architects of the Philly Soul Sound, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, founders of the Philadelphia International record label, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It all takes place at the 23rd annual induction dinner in NYC’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Mary J. Blige and Jay-Z’s tour, dubbed “Heart of the City” and initially slated for only 10 dates, has been extended to 16, culminating here at the United Center, April 26-27. The tour kick-starts March 22 in Miami. Jay-Z’s latest release is "American Gangster." Blige’s eighth studio album, "Growing Pains," hit stores in December.

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