Letha Ridley (1911-2015), second ever African American principal in the RCSD. And a 1958 photo with Martin Luther King.

ridleyLetha Ridley (1911 – 2015) had quite a life. Born in the Taft Administration that followed Theodore Roosevelt, Mrs. Ridley would live to see Barack Obama speak in the White House’s Roosevelt Room.Screen-Shot-2015-11-25-at-12.24.37-PM


1955 University of Rochester Yearbook [courtesy of the Rush Rhees Library Rare Book Room. Original in the general stacks.]

In 1963 becoming the second ever black Principal in the RCSD, Mrs. Ridley dedicated her life to primary school education. In 1955, she also received a master’s degree in elementary education from the University of Rochester.

At the same time, her retirement was quite the second act. Mrs. Ridley celebrated her 100th birthday in China!

Mrs. Ridley may also have been present at a noteworthy event in Rochester history.  In January 1958, Dr. Martin Luther King spent the evening at the home of Dr. Charles T. Lunsford after having given a talk at the Colgate Divinity School.


Martin Luther King during his 1958 visit to Rochester. Dr. Lunsford is to his left, kneeling. Woman # six may have been Mrs. Ridley [Photo: Charles Price]

A couple of years ago, Charles Price, who in 1948 became the first African-American police officer in Rochester, showed me a picture he took of King, Lunsford and company. (Incidentally, 1948 was the same year Mrs. Ridley began teaching in Rochester.)

While Charles’ memory is keen, he said it was possible–but could not recall for certain–that Mrs. Ridley was in the photo. Maybe # 6.  There is a definite resemblance. She may also have been among the guests who did not appear in the photo.

On a less bright note, having retired in 1973, Mrs. Ridley also lived through 1971, the RCSD’s most tumultuous year when mandatory busing failed.Untitled

Whether or not Mrs. Ridley was there at the Lunsford’s home, she had quite a life full of good works.

When Martin Luther King was at the home of Charles Lunsford

Reflecting on the RCSD’s most tumultuous year, 1971

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