James P. Humphrey
First Black Mayor of Sidney
On March 1, 1834, the state of Ohio passed
legislation incorporating Sidney as a city and
provided for the election of the new citys first mayor.
James P. Humphrey, a proud descendant of Randolph slaves, No. 421 Carter (Lee) and his wife No. 422
Pheobe, was born in New Bern, just outside Sidney, in 1921. As a lifelong resident he has
striven diligently, giving time and money, to preserve the gallant and tragic saga of the
Randolph slaves. While the slaves heritage is alive today in many of Sidneys
black citizens, Humphreys countless lectures and presentations to community groups
has brought this remarkable story to the attention of many people throughout the area,
reinforcing its importance as an integral part of Shelby Countys local history.
A native of Sidney, Jim attended Morris
Brown College, Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science and received a degree from
Central State College in Physiatrics. A W.W.II veteran, Jim served in city government for
12 years as councilman-at large, vice mayor and finally retiring as (Sidneys
first black) Mayor in December, 1987. Employed at Amos
Press as Community Relations Director, he retired in August, 1987, with nearly 30
years of service.
A deacon of the Mt. Vernon Baptist Church for over 40 years, Jim has been
involved in countless community organizations such as the Salvation Army, NAACP and the Sunset Kiwanis. He was selected for inclusion in "Whos
Who Among Black Americans" and was honored in 1987 with the establishment of a
scholarship fund in his name. The James P. Humphrey Scholarships are awarded each year to
black Shelby County students as incentives for achievement. He has earned countless honors
and awards, including Black Mayor of the Year for Ohio, Sidneys Black Achiever of
the Year, Man of the Year, Outstanding Senior Citizen in Shelby County, etc.
Jim is married to Louise (Strickland Lloyd) and is
the father of six children and six step-children. From slave descendant to city councilman
in 1976, and from councilman to Sidneys mayor in 1981, Humphrey speaks proudly of
his accomplishments from 1981 to 1987 as Sidneys first black mayor.
He talks passionately of the many
indignities, struggles, inhumanities, and derogatory terms, that his ancestors and, in
time, himself, along with fellow blacks, suffered over the years. He relates the following
memories. "We were all in the band," Humphrey said. "I played the E flat
Sousa horn and Tom Swander the trumpet. But I didn't ride the band bus, because of that
racial business. Clarence Nofsinger (Band Director), Arnold Henke or Dr. Ralph Kerr who
were on the school board gave me a lift in their cars to any band event. But then at some
point they decided I would have to ride the bus. I'll never forget that it was Tom
Swander, Bill Ross, and Roscoe Dodds who came to me and said, "If anyone starts
anything on the bus, we're going to help you out." And they did. My buddies were all
lined up around me and they had influence over the rest of them. I never had a problem
after that. Tom, Bill, and Roscoe came to my rescue. They looked out for people who
couldn't help themselves.
I was also a member of the national conference of
black mayors when I was mayor of Sidney. I knew Coleman Young, Tom Bradley, Andy Young.
I met Jesse Jackson in Washington, D.C. We had
invited him to talk and he started soliciting funds for his organization. I told him I
wouldn't give anything because that was bad manners for him to be a guest and ask for
money like that. Well, that appeared in the Washington Post the next day about what this
mayor from Sidney, Ohio, told Jesse Jackson. And of course Oliver Amos (Amos Press owner)
heard about it. I worked at Amos Press. After
that, when I went to a meeting like that, Oliver always cut me a big check, one was for
$1,500. He told me he didn't want me to be the low man on the totem pole anymore.
Why, I introduced President Reagan when he was on that whistle-stop
trip through Sidney." The date of the Sidney visit was October 12, 1984.
Unable to eat comfortably inside a restaurant (he was denied access
to The Spot restaurant in Sidney as a child),
separate entrances to buildings for blacks, job discrimination, refusal to rent or sell
property to blacks, separate water fountains, unequal education, these were just some of
the obstacles faced by blacks throughout the nation from the end of the Civil War into the
'Black History' segment
written in June, 1998 by David Lodge
[ Back to Black History Index ]