Longtime Dayton civil rights activist dies

Alyce D. Lucas. Contributed photo
Caption
Alyce D. Lucas. Contributed photo

Alyce D. Lucas, a longtime Dayton civil rights activist and YWCA of Dayton Lifetime Achievement award winner, died on Friday in Honolulu, Hawaii.

She was 95.

The YWCA honored Lucas with the award in August 2016.

Lucas came to Dayton in 1944 after moving from Anderson, Indiana, to take a job at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where she worked to integrate the armed forces. After World War II ended, she began working for the city of Dayton Human Relations Council, where she ensured contract compliance and that companies worked with minorities and women.

General Motors later recruited Lucas to work in the Frigidaire division to help move women and minorities into higher roles in the company. At the time, Lucas told a Dayton Daily News reporter in 2016, they had 14,000 employees at Frigidaire, with only one minority and no women in supervisor positions.

She said she recruited minorities off the line and promoted them, but they had to go outside of the company to hire women. It wasn’t easy, but Lucas had backing from the chairman of the board of GM at the time.

In the mid 1980s, she retired early from GM. But she didn’t really retire. In 1984, then Gov. Dick Celeste appointed Lucas to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, where she investigated complaints of race and gender discrimination.

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She also was one of the first Black women on WDAO radio in the mid-1960s, and was actively involved in calming West Dayton communities after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

Lucas wanted to help young people. In 1976, Lucas founded an organization called Twentig Inc, which established an endowment fund with the Dayton Foundation for scholarships for Black students interested in the arts. She created Beautillion, for young African American men, a scholarship and mentoring program that is now national and part of Jack and Jill of America Inc.

She also served on the Montgomery County Children Services Board for 22 years, during which the county children’s home, Shawen Acres, was closed.

Lucas also golfed much of her life and was important in eliminating the “Whites Only” clause from the Professional Golfers Association bylaws, which helped Black professional golfers play in tournaments.

Her husband, Leo Lucas, died in 2008. He was an accountant, the proprietor of L.A. Lucas & Co. and a life member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.

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Lucas spent the last three years of her life living in Honolulu with her daughter, Lea Ann Lucas, a psychology professor at the University of Hawaii. Lea Ann Lucas said her mother was a “beacon of light.”

Anywhere her mother would go, she would touch people, and it was a memorable interaction, Lea Ann Lucas said. She would tell everyone they had to make it happen, her daughter said.

“I’m just so proud to be her daughter,” Lea Ann Lucas said.

Lea Ann Lucas is working with Nuʻuanu Memorial Park & Mortuary, 2233 Nuuanu Ave., Honolulu, HI 96817. Memorials can be made to the Dayton Foundation for the Leo Lucas and Alyce Lucas fund, number 7732.