Follow up on
Henry and the
Henry West, the 3-year-old featured in an article called “Member’s son inspiresfirefighters’fundraiser” (March
Spotlite), passed away Feb. 26. He had leukemia. Henry’s father, aunt and both grandfathers are SPEEA members. His picture hung
in the Columbia Tower stairwell during the
Scott Firefighter Climb March 6, which raised
money to find a cure for leukemia and lymphoma. Members of the Boeing Fire Department,
which gave Henry a special party at the fire station, requested the poster hang in the stairwell
during the climb as an inspiration. The Boeing
team raised more than $31,000 – exceeding its
goal of $25,000.
Book highlights struggle for civil
rights in Wichita history
By Ben Blankley
Wichita Council Rep
Iread a fascinating book recent- ly that you all might be inter- ested in.
It's called "Dissent in Wichita:
The Civil Rights Movement in the
Midwest, 1954-72" by Gretchen
Cassel Eick, a current professor
at the Quaker-affiliated Friends
University here in Wichita.
The book is a full, rich history
of a portion of the civil rights
movement in Wichita, and the
nation, that is rarely discussed
in literature. It's based on local,
personal interviews and research
newspapers of the day, because
the major news outlets here
opted to not cover the movement
much at all.
It describes how it took over two
decades to pass and enforce a fair
housing ordinance over strong,
sustained opposition from local big businesses.
It describes sustained racism against Wichita-based activists, including Chester I. Lewis, for
whom the Dockum Drug Sit-In municipal park
The IAM was instrumental in pushing to
get Wichita blacks in aircraft manufacturing during World War II and beyond. They
advocated for highly skilled workers to be
in highly technical jobs, regardless of race.
The book describes the Wichita John Birch
Society member and local business owner
Robert D. Love claiming that the civil rights
movement was communist, and then creating
his own conservative-based private school, now
called Wichita Collegiate School. Surprisingly,
the brand-new Downtown Wichita YMCA is
still named after Robert D. Love.
The latter half of the book describes the decades-long federal intervention in the local school
district to desegregate. Wichita
implemented via the first major
mandated desegregation busing plan in the United States
in the 1970s. It even describes
an effort by the Wichita school
board in the 1970s, when they
asked Senator Bob Dole to
pressure the Nixon administration to fire moderate Republican
Leon Panetta (yes, THAT Leon
Panetta) from the Office of
Civil Rights. Panetta had been
one of the primary architects of
Wichita's desegregation busing
At the tail end of the book, it
talks about the extreme disconnect between middle-class and working-class
people, and how it fractured the civil rights
movement in Wichita in the 1970s.
The book really gave me a good basis for going
deeper into the history of our city. Wichita ended
its 37-year desegregation busing plan in 2008,
after the city's black, Hispanic and other margin-alized groups grew to be more than 60% of the
school population. It was a contentious decision
that still has strong echoes today.
Ben Blankley is a member of the SPEEA Diversity
Committee and a Midwest Council Rep.
Midwest MAC event draws crowd
More than 50 members and their families enjoyed St. Patrick’s Day bingo at the SPEEA Wichita office March 12. The
Midwest Membership Activities Committee (MAC) hosts this event each year to bring together members and their families
for fun, games, refreshments and prizes. The MW MAC members include Joe Abbott, Pat Clough, Daryl Doshier, Aaron
Kitterman, Rick Nelson and Dan Ryan.
SPEEA plans to update online salary charts for the Wichita Engineering Unit (WEU) and Wichita Technical and Professional
Unit (WTPU) by October. Salary adjustments
are scheduled to take effect in July. See Article
12 in both the WEU and WTPU contracts. The
online salary charts are accessible to members
only – password requires last name and Spirit
AeroSystems employee ID.