Five individuals and the Lincoln School Marching Mothers were inducted into the 2018 class of the Highland County Historical Society Hall of Fame in ceremonies held Sunday afternoon at the First Presbyterian Church in Hillsboro.
A highlight of the program was a standing ovation accorded to the two surviving mothers who participated in the daily marches from Lincoln to Webster elementary schools each day over the course of about two years in the fight for school integration in the 1950s, Elsie Young and Zella Mae Cumberland.
A large crowd gathered inside the church to honor Edwin Billingham Ayres for enterprise, Moses Carothers for enterprise, Judge Richard L. Davis for leadership, Helen Blackburn Hoover for arts and entertainment, Wesley T. Roush for leadership, and the marching mothers for leadership.
After welcoming remarks by Denny Kirk, chairman of the historical society board of trustees, emcee Steve Roush noted that the hall was established in 1985. Roush, who had written profiles of the inductees that appeared in both local newspapers, noted that just one of the individual inductees, Davis, was on hand Sunday, the others being deceased.
Judge Richard L. Davis, a civic leader in Highland County, practiced general law for four years, and then was elected prosecuting attorney for Highland County for 12 years. He served as Common Pleas Court judge, Juvenile and Probate Divisions of Highland County for 30 years. He also served as a visiting judge in many counties after he retired. He was a member of the Ohio State University basketball team that won the Big Ten Championship in 1944. He is currently retired and living with his wife, Kathryn, in Hillsboro.
On Sunday, Davis expressed his appreciation for the honor, and noted that he and his wife have been married 70 years, drawing applause. He responded with his trademark humor, “She’s the one who deserves the applause.”
Edwin Billingham Ayres (1891-1964) was a longtime pharmacist and civic leader who owned and operated Ayres Drug Store in uptown Hillsboro. The business was known as one of the oldest continuous drug stores in the state of Ohio. He was also a standout track star at Hillsboro High School and at the 1909 state meet, he won gold medals in the high jump and pole vault and a silver medal in the broad jump. In 1957, he was the first member elected to the Hillsboro High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
Ayres’ grandson, Chris Duckworth, offered remarks on behalf of his grandfather, calling him “an amazing athlete,” and recounting memories of walking through Hillsboro with him.
Moses Carothers (1792-1843) founded the first newspaper in Highland County 200 years ago this year. It was the first newspaper printed in southern Ohio outside of Cincinnati and Chillicothe, and was the forerunner to The Times-Gazette.
Gary Abernathy, Times-Gazette publisher and editor, spoke on behalf of Carothers, thanking local historical Jean Wallis for nominating Carothers and noting that the newspaper’s founder could not have foreseen his enterprise surviving for two centuries or having the kind of audience reach newspapers enjoy in 2018 thanks to the internet.
Helen Blackburn Hoover (1910-1984) was an author and metallurgist. She graduated from McClain High School in 1927 and earned a degree in chemistry at Ohio University. She married Adrian Hoover in 1936. During World War II, when Adrian was in the military, she studied at the University of Chicago, where she earned a degree in metallurgy. Known as a wilderness writer, she authored seven books, including three children’s books. Several were printed in Readers Digest.
Wesley T. Roush (1910-2006) spent more than four decades as an educator and administrator in Highland County, mostly as a longtime principal at Washington Elementary School in Hillsboro. He graduated from Hillsboro High School in 1928, earned his bachelor’s degree in 1932 from Miami University, and received his master’s degree in education and administration in 1940 from Ohio State University. He started teaching in a one-room schoolhouse during the early 1930s and later taught and was an administrator for Hillsboro City Schools. As principal, he was known as a positive influence on countless number of students who came through Hillsboro City Schools.
Roush was the grandfather of Sunday’s emcee, and Steve Roush noted that his grandfather “wasn’t a big man as far as physical stature, but he had a huge heart.” Ken Roush, Wesley Roush’s son, recounted his father’s career and the impact he had on generations of students, as well as the inductee’s appreciation of hard work and the attitude of looking at responsibilities as opportunities.
The Lincoln Marching Mothers were a group of African-American mothers who fought for school integration in 1954 in Hillsboro. For two years, the mothers and their children marched every day, despite segregationist redistricting, cross burnings and legal threats. Their lawsuit against the school board was the first northern test case of the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954, which had declared school segregation illegal. The efforts of these mothers helped not only end segregation in Hillsboro, but their efforts and sacrifice ended segregation in other northern cities.
Along with the two surviving mothers who were on hand, several of the children who had made the daily march were in attendance Sunday, along with other family members and friends. Surviving mother Elsie Young said that while the struggle was difficult, it led to better opportunities for children today.
Following the ceremony at the church, a reception was held at the historical society’s Highland House museum.
The Hall of Fame Committee consists of Nancy Wisecup, chair, Kati H. Burwinkel, Steve Roush, Jean Wallis and Vicki Knauff, society director.
Biographical information provided by Steve Roush is included in this article.