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Fri, 11.11.1910

Edwin C. Berry, Administrative Activist born

Edwin C. Berry

*Edwin Berry was born on this date in 1910. He was a Black administrative activist.

In Oberlin, Ohio, he was born to John A. Berry, an attorney, and Kitty Berry, a homemaker. Edwin C. "Bill" Berry was one of five children. At the age of six, Berry's father died. Kitty struggled to make ends meet, working as a boarder, seamstress, and cook.

Berry grew up in Oberlin and attended Oberlin College on an academic scholarship. In 1935 he moved to Pittsburg and graduated from Duquesne University in 1938 with a degree in education. Berry began his career with the Pittsburgh Urban League as a group work secretary. In 1945 Berry moved to Portland, Oregon, to build the Portland Urban League.

His new Urban League branch lobbied the Oregon legislature to adopt a Fair Employment Practices law. In 1949 the legislature approved the measure. In 1953 Berry and the Portland Urban League, along with others, successfully campaigned to adopt a statewide Public Accommodations law. In 1956 the Chicago Urban League offered Berry the position of executive director.

Berry accepted and relocated to Chicago, where he confronted racial problems on a much larger scale. He also contended a much more divided Black community and a political machine run by Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley. Berry and his staff and other organizations worked to pass the Fair Employment Practices Commission Act in Illinois and fought discrimination in housing.

Under Berry's leadership, the Chicago Urban League wrote a controversial report proving that predominantly white schools in wealthy neighborhoods were practically empty. In contrast, predominantly black schools in poor neighborhoods remained severely overcrowded. The report was a catalyst for significant educational change and the removal of the superintendent of Chicago Public Schools.

After retirement in 1969, Berry moderated a talk show on WGN-TV and served as a goodwill ambassador for the Johnsons Product Company in Chicago, a black-owned national cosmetics firm. Bill C. Berry died in Chicago on March 14, 1987.

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