Mr. Bishop (GA) – Mr. Speaker, it is with a heavy heart that I rise today to pay tribute to an outstanding educator and public servant, Dr. Yvonne Kennedy. Sadly, Dr. Kennedy passed away on Saturday, December 8, 2012. A number of tribute events will be held in Mobile, Alabama starting December 14, 2012 and culminating with a State Funeral on Saturday, December 15 at 11:00 a.m. at the Mobile Convention Center.
Dr. Yvonne Kennedy was born on January 8, 1945. A Mobile, Alabama native, she and I were schoolmates in high school. She received an Associate’s degree from S.D. Bishop State Junior College, a Bachelor’s degree from Alabama State University and a Master’s from Morgan State University. She also earned her Ph.D. from the University of Alabama and was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters from Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee.
Dr. Kennedy was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in April 1979, representing the 97th District in Mobile County. Dr. Kennedy was at the forefront of the fight against Alabama’s voter ID law. She was also a strong advocate of extending voting rights to ex-felons in Alabama. She served as Ranking Minority Member of the Economic Development and Tourism and the Children and Senior Advocacy House Committees. She also served on the Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure Committee.
Dr. Kennedy served as president of Bishop State Community College from 1981 to 2007. She was appointed as the second president after the passing of the first president, my father, Dr. Sanford D. Bishop, Sr., for whom the college was named. During her tenure, the college was expanded from one campus to three and dramatically broadened the curriculum.
After being initiated into Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. in 1964 at Alabama State University, Dr. Kennedy served in several leadership positions from the local to the national level. She served as the sorority’s 19th National President from 1988-1992. During her tenure as president of Delta, she launched SCHOOL AMERICA, a program to promote literacy issues. Under her leadership, Delta Sigma Theta completed the renovations of its national headquarters and made significant achievements in advancing its global impact.
Dr. Kennedy loved her community dearly, and in addition to representing it in the state legislature, she was actively involved within it. She served as Chairman of the Mobile County United Negro College Fund Campaign, Youth Director for the Board of Christian Education – Southeast Alabama Conference, and former Chairperson of the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus. She was also a member of the Board of the American Association for Higher Education and America's Junior Miss Scholarship Foundation, Inc., as well as a Trustee of Miles College in Fairfield, Alabama. She was a lifelong member of Stewart Memorial Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
On a more personal note, I first met Yvonne as a 12-year-old having to speak behind her on a Youth Day program at the Stone Street Baptist Church in Mobile. She wowed the congregation and made me determined never to follow her on a program again! While she matriculated at Bishop State Junior College, she was a student assistant in the President’s Office. The President, my father, spoke often and proudly of her intellect, eloquence and leadership potential. While he died before she was named to succeed him, he was proud that she and another former student were among the final candidates. Moreover, upon my father’s death, she faithfully supported and assisted my mother, Mrs. Minnie S. Bishop, a “Delta Dear,” during the sunset years of her life.
Dr. Benjamin E. Mays often said: “You make your living by what you get, you make your life by what you give.” Dr. Yvonne Kennedy certainly made a life worthy of emulation. We are all blessed that she gave so much to the Mobile community, the state of Alabama, and our great nation. The world is better because she passed this way. She will be missed.
Mr. Speaker, my wife Vivian and I would like to extend our deepest sympathies to Dr. Kennedy’s family and friends during this difficult time. May they be consoled and comforted by their abiding faith and the Holy Spirit in the days, weeks and months ahead.