June Boyd with her great granddaughter, Leilani, photographed at the Toledo Museum of Art on October 27, 2021. “I’m a fighter and I’m looking to provide a better future not only for my family, but for all these little children I spend time with.” June Boyd, Second Wind, Interview by Rev. Donald L. Perryman, PhD, Sojourner Truth, Sept. 18, 2019 (Note that baby Leilani came along after the publication of that interview two years ago. She now has a new great granddaughter, one month old, so when June Boyd says she wants a better future for the kids, she means business!)
June Boyd is one sharp octogenarian. Two years ago, she ran for city council at age 84. She’s a great grandmother raising two of her great grandchildren. She’s an activist for children and is fighting the blight and violence she has seen grown out of control in Toledo.
After 60 years in politics, June Boyd is very wise. She has experienced many firsts in her long Toledo history. When she was just two years old, she moved to Toledo with her mother from Georgia to the shiny new Brand Whitlock housing project on Junction Avenue behind the Toledo Museum of Art. It was a great place to live, with all the modern appliances. The first generation growing up at Brand Whitlock reads like a who’s who in the history of Black Toledo.
June Boyd was the first African-American to graduate from St. Ursula Academy high school, in 1953. To get her enrolled in the what was then an all-white girls Catholic school, in 1948, her mother called and asked if they would take black girls. The nun answered, “I don’t see why not!” When Ned Skeldon, president of the Lucas County Board of Commissioners, put out the word in 1959 that the county board would like to hire African-Americans, she was the first to be hired, and she worked for Skeldon himself. She paved the way for many black women working in politics. In 1993, she along with Edna Brown were the first two black women elected for Toledo City Council.
She did not win the election in 2019, but still works her agenda in the community to improve conditions for children in Toledo’s central city. She writes letters and gives interviews. Lucky for us, she keeps on keeping on, and she does it for the kids.
“I recall Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz stating it was his intention to hire 30, 40 and 50 year olds in his administration totally excluding senior citizens or anyone over 50 who just might have the wisdom and knowledge to address the foregoing,” Letter to the Editor from June Boyd, Sojourner’s Truth, Sept. 30, 2021
Toledo sadly lacks the wisdom and knowledge of what once made it great. The city eschews the hiring of senior citizens or anyone close to being a wise elder. Memory of the past is the first to go in times of corruption, and we are living in corrupt times.
Golden Rule Jones
Who knows about Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones? He was the Mayor of Toledo from 1897 until he died in 1904.
Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones is ranked the 5th all-time best mayor in the United States. Jones built Toledo’s first city playgrounds and public swimming pools.
Jones was a millionaire who gave away his entire mayoral salary every month to needy people. He built the Golden Rule Park for his employees and gave them instruments for their newly-formed Golden Rule Band. He gave his workers 8-hour work days, paid vacations, health insurance and Christmas bonuses. He made his fortune in the oil business, a consequence of the oil monopoly that would not be broken up until five years after his death. Rich through monopoly ugliness at age 43, Jones had an existential moment where he saw clearly that he had to live by the golden rule. Thus, he was elected mayor.
Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones died of a sudden illness at age 57, but he had a protege – the young lawyer and novelist, Brand Whitlock.
Whitlock was an artist and intellectual at heart, without much interest in money. He served as Mayor of Toledo from 1906 to 1914, when President Wilson appointed him minister/ambassador to Belgium. He then served overseas throughout the Great War until 1921, when he moved to the French Rivera to write his books. He died in Cannes at the age of 65. Two years later, in 1936, Franklin D. Roosevelt named Toledo’s magnificent new housing project, the “Brand Whitlock Homes.”
Whitlock and Jones served during 15 years of the Progressive era. Their spirit was similar to that of the Toledo Museum of Art, founded in 1901, the foundation of which embraced his time and literally, his space. It was right beneath the Peristyle.
The real deal
Golden Rule Jones made the City of Toledo livable — he sought to turn love into municipal policy, feeling that “each person could reach a kind of perfection just as plants reach perfect beauty.” By building parks, playgrounds, public swimming pools and the zoo, he helped children and families thrive.
Jones advocated for municipal ownership of utilities, to do away with the corruption of “closed backroom deals” made by city council members and their buddies. A good utilization of municipal ownership today could be city-owned broadband that would cover the entire city. Imagine the savings as well as the access. Like healthcare for all! Ha ha!
Jones and Whitlock fought for “home rule” to protect the rights of the city against the state. It’s a right we need to have our city invoke today in regard to the county’s over-reaching ditch petition, which appears more like a closed backroom deal between the city and the county, and now we the citizens of Toledo need to be protected from them!
For a while, Toledo became a better place to live, all because of the innocent, pure vision of Sam Golden Rule Jones. He was the real deal. The entire city came to his funeral, he was so loved.
Today when we hear the name, Brand Whitlock, instead of it conjuring up this great progressive mayor and novelist, we tend to think of the failed Brand Whitlock housing project instead. The Brand Whitlock Homes were once was great, then pushed down the memory hole. June Boyd remembers.
A happy childhood at the Brand Whitlock Homes is the reason why June Boyd advocates so diligently for Toledo’s youth —
“We need a total overhaul: Swayne Field could have a bowling alley; Warren Sherman could have a skating rink; there are dozens of vacant land that could be putt putt golf and go karts for our kids. I personally have to drive my grandchildren a long way to get the go karts they love. Why do we not have them in the central city which would not only create employment, it would be a boost to our neighborhood, and something we could teach our young to appreciate.” Letter to the Editor from June Boyd, Sojourner’s Truth, Sept. 30, 2021
How about more police, to police the outrageous crime spiking in Toledo? How about cleaning up the central city blight? Can’t the city make parks and playgrounds safe? Why such a low percentage of police in our community compared to the 8.8 million population in New York City, a city with nearly twice as many police officers per capita than Toledo, and less per capita crime?
“There are many adults around here who graduated from school and they are illiterate, and then you wonder why they can’t get any jobs, and not to mention the drug problem, the homelessness, the abandonment and the fact that people have gotten so beat down until they don’t have any encouragement to do anything else.” June Boyd, Second Wind, Interview by Rev. Donald L. Perryman, PhD, Sojourner Truth, Sept. 18, 2019
The Wisdom of elders
It means a great deal to know someone as wise and experienced as June Boyd and to be able to benefit from her perspective. I asked Ms. Boyd if she could identify people in this photo I shot at this groundbreaking ceremony on October 31, 1978. She gave me three names. Who else could do that — she was there 43 year ago, and she is still here with us. Although two men, Wayman Palmer and Bill Copeland, are not. How great June Boyd is for her wisdom alone! If only she had won city council instead of her opponent who won, who actually got arrested a year later for fraud along with three other city council members — talk about corruption!
“It’s time to pay attention to the children. Teachers, ministers, grandparents, and responsible parents, notice what children are doing. If they have a gun, where did it come from? If they are neglected, they become pawns for adults who want to take advantage of them for their own profit… We must take an interest in our youth… Do something!” June Boyd, Let’s come together to save Toledo’s children, The Blade, Oct. 9, 2021