PITTSBURGH – Gary L. Lancaster, the first black chief U.S. District judge in western Pennsylvania, has died.
The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office says Lancaster apparently died of natural causes at his Pittsburgh home after his son found the judge unresponsive Wednesday evening.
Lancaster was born in Brownsville and educated at Slippery Rock University and the University of Pittsburgh law school. He was appointed to the federal bench by President Clinton in 1993 and became the 25-county district’s chief judge in 2009.
Lancaster was known for his no-nonsense demeanor.
Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Manning says, “Judges watch what other judges do and he was fair and decent and he treated people with respect. He was the Walter Payton of the federal bench – he was tough but he was a sweet guy.”
Bronx assembly woman Diggs
NEW YORK – Estella Diggs, the first African American woman to be elected to the New York State Assembly from the Bronx, has died. She was 97.
Lawrence Diggs says his mother died April 18 in a Bronx hospital after a long illness.
Diggs was first elected to the Assembly in 1972 and served four terms in Albany representing the Morrisania section of the Bronx. She helped write more than 70 bills and was responsible for the first Women’s, Infants, and Children’s program in the state and the first sobering-up station in the Bronx
After she retired, she continued to work as a community volunteer for many years.
In 2011, the Estella Diggs Park in Morrisania was named in her honor. Diggs says her mother remained devoted to her community all her life.
$20K for African burial ground
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – A group trying to bring attention to an African burial ground in Portsmouth, N.H., has been approved to receive a $20,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to help create a memorial park. Archaeologists and historians believe the remains of at least 200 people could be buried beneath Chestnut and State streets. The graves were discovered by construction workers in 2003. It’s believed African slaves or free Africans were buried in the area from 1705 until the 1790s.
A formal committee of residents and city representatives was created to explore ideas to commemorate the site. The plan is to create a memorial on Chestnut Street.
Tupelo unveils rights marker
TUPELO, Miss. – A new civil rights marker in Tupelo commemorates a 1960s sit-in by blacks at the lunch counter at the local F.W. Woolworth store.
Reed’s Gumtree Book Store is now located at the downtown site of the old Woolworth’s. The marker was placed Friday.
The sign has the full story of the event.
The sit-in was one of many staged around the country to protest Woolworth’s policy to racially segregate seating at lunch counters.
Protest participant the Rev. Robert Jamison of Tupelo says the sit-in was peaceful, compared to others around the South that often resulted in violence and arrests. He credited that to “good-thinking, true individuals” in the city.
The marker is the first installed as part of the local Heritage Trails Enrichment Program.