On Saturday, the Town of Mason will salute three African-American women trailblazers from West Tennessee at its first Black History program.
“We indeed have three unique women of color who have left their mark on history,” said Kelvin Willis, special liaison to the mayor.
The program will honor Gwendolyn Kilpatrick, Covington Alderwoman Minnie Bommer and Judge Bernice B. Donald of Memphis.
Elected to the position of alderman and vice mayor of Mason in November 2014 and succeeding David Smith as mayor after his February 2015 resignation, Kilpatrick was the first woman and first African-American to serve as mayor not only in Mason but in all of Tipton County.
“Assuming this position came with many challenges, but Mayor Kilpatrick has turned those obstacles into opportunity,” Willis said. “The financial picture of Mason has improved greatly under her administration. The misconception of corruption and incompetence has been eliminated. Mayor Kilpatrick has brought new ideas and energy to Mason and has implemented many innovative programs.”
A lifelong resident of the town, she is a graduate of Munford High School, Anthem Career College and Strayer University.
Kilpatrick is a mother and grandmother who devotes a great deal of time and energy to civic and political endeavors that benefit Mason, Tipton County and West Tennessee. Her mentors consider her a rising star on the political agenda, said Willis.
A longtime alderwoman, activist and civic leader, Bommer has been a champion for civil and human rights, children, persons with disabilities and others for decades, he said.
A graduate of Frasier High School, she attended Area Vocational School and graduated as a practical nurse. Bommer went on to further her education at Memphis State University with a degree in professional studies and went on to earn her masters degree from Antioch University in Ohio.
“Always the innovator, she developed a statewide 501(c)3,
the Support Center for Disparities Elimination, to struggling minority agencies seeking to provide enhanced community services,” said Willis. “She has served as the state coordinator for the Tennessee Minority Health and Community Development Coalition and also co-founded and served as board chair for Children and Family Services, Inc.”
A widow after 53 years, Bommer has three children and is a member of Canaan Baptist Church in Covington, a life member of the NAACP and Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
She has served on the Tennessee Housing Development Authority, the WestStar Leadership Program and numerous other boards and organizations.
Bommer holds the distinction of being the first African-American elected to the Covington Board of Mayor and Aldermen and is the first and only woman to serve on the board.
Rounding out the honorees at Saturday’s event, Donald has served since 2011 as a circuit judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which includes Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan, said Willis.
Prior to serving in this role, Donald served on the U.S. Federal Court for the Western District of Tennessee and is the first African-American woman to hold these positions.
She received her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Memphis and has served on the faculty of the National Judicial College, the Federal Judicial Center and the Judge Advocate General Legal Center and School.
She has also been a member of the adjunct faculty at the University of Memphis, Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. In addition, she has served on the faculty for international
programs representing the best of American jurisprudence for more than two decades.
“Judge Donald is the recipient of more than 100 awards for professional, civic and community activities, including the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of
Memphis, the Martin Luther King Community Service Award and the Benjamin Hooks Award from the Memphis Bar Foundation,” Willis said.
Donald is married and is a member of Zeta Phi Beta sorority and Greater Middle Baptist Church in Memphis.
“This is a unique opportunity to be amid real history makers,” Willis said. “This would be great exposure for young people, especially young girls, to see persons who look like them achieve greatness.”
Also at the event, which is free and open to the public, Kilpatrick will deliver the first State of the Town address.
It will begin at 11 a.m. It will take place at Cedar Grove Baptist Church, 122 Washington Street, Mason.