Six Palo Alto community members who are African-Americans will receive honors during a ceremony commemorating Black History Month at Palo Alto City Hall on Thursday, Feb. 23 from 5:30-6:45 p.m.
The ceremony will honor Pastor Paul Bains, Roy Clay Sr., Caretha and Ken Coleman, Loretta Green and Clarence Jones, the city has announced. The event is hosted by the City of Palo Alto and Youth Community Service.
The honors will highlight the contributions of a broad range of individuals including a police chaplain, Silicon Valley pioneers, a journalist and a noted civil rights attorney.
Pastor Paul Bains is a third-generation reverend who serves as chaplain to the Palo Alto Police Department and has a long-standing involvement in programs in neighboring East Palo Alto. He and his wife, Cheryl, started Project WeHOPE in 1999, a nonprofit organization in East Palo Alto offering services to help people without homes and those at risk to rebuild their lives through a customized supportive housing program. The organization also has a weekend nutritional program for children and runs Dignity on Wheels, a free mobile shower and laundry for homeless persons living in encampments, rotating between shelters and out of vehicles, which travels throughout the Midpeninsula, South Bay and East Bay.
Bains also collaborates with other community organizations and recently helped facilitate meetings in East Palo Alto to ease youth who fear police after multiple shootings nationwide by law enforcement that targeted men of color. Palo Alto and Menlo Park police have been part of the effort that effort.
Roy Clay Sr. rose to prominence in Silicon Valley despite early years of experiencing prejudice. He had been admitted to St. Louis University and was one of the first blacks to attend the school.
"I learned to appreciate what difficulties kids have being bused to school," he said in a 2009 Weekly cover story interview.
When he graduated with a degree in mathematics in 1951, he applied for a job at McDonnell Aircraft and was invited to an interview. But once he got there and the interviewers saw he was black, "I was told, 'Sorry, Mr. Clay, we have no jobs for professional Negroes,'" he said.
McDonnell eventually did hire him in 1956, where he and everyone else learned computer programming. Clay moved to the Bay Area in 1958 and became Lawrence Radiation Laboratory's lead programmer for the fastest computer built at the time, writing programs to simulate radiation and explosive activities of atomic bombs. He worked for Control Data Corp. developing computer languages, and in 1965 applied for a position at Hewlett-Packard Co. when they advertised a startup computer division. He was offered the job as director.
When company co-founder David Packard began to aggressively recruit from historically black colleges and universities, Clay expanded on that policy. He became known as the "godfather of black Silicon Valley" for opening doors to many African-Americans in the industry.
According to a City of Palo Alto biography, at HP, Clay wrote the software and led the team that designed the company's first step into the computer market with the 2116A computer in 1966. He became Palo Alto's first African-American council member in 1973 and was the city's vice mayor in 1976 and 1977. He was featured in a monthlong exhibit at City Hall in 2009 as a Silicon Valley tech pioneer.
Clay has continued a lifelong practice of recruiting African-Americans, particularly from East Palo Alto, to work for him. He started EPA Electronics in the 1970s to hire East Palo Alto youth in the industry; and he has hired 50 East Palo Alto residents for Menlo Park-based ROD-L Electronics through the nonprofit OICW (now JobTrain), despite the residents' educational disadvantages.
Ken and Caretha Coleman have played a long and storied role in Silicon Valley and local philanthropy. Ken Coleman was among the first African-Americans in Silicon Valley when he was hired by HP in 1972. He previously served as a U.S. Air Force captain in Vietnam, according to a City of Palo Alto biography.
He became a special adviser to private venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, and he was a top executive at Silicon Graphics and other tech firms. He is currently chairman of Saama Technologies.
Coleman has supported STEM programs through his philanthropy. He and Caretha also support early-literacy programs through Reading Partners.
Caretha Coleman is a Silicon Valley tech executive who met her husband at HP. She was the second black female tech executive in the region in the early 1980s. She became a director at Dignity Health and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. She now runs venture strategy consulting firm Coleman Consulting.
The Colemans helped raise $15 million toward the development of the YMCA in East Palo Alto, according to a biography of their accomplishments.
Loretta Green served the Palo Alto community as a longtime journalist who worked for the San Jose Mercury News. She previously was a reporter for the Palo Alto Times and Peninsula Times Tribune. A longtime Palo Alto resident, Green's human-interest columns for the Merc "reflected the pulse and sentiment of the public," former state Senator Joe Simitian said in 2004 after she received the 21st District Woman of the Year Award. He called her "the voice of our community."
As a journalist, Green won recognition from the Associated Press, the Peninsula Press Club and the Association of California Newspaper Editors. But her contributions to the community have gone well beyond her work. Now retired, she has worked for the nonprofit The Links Inc., and as senior fellow of the American Leadership Forum of Silicon Valley. She was on the board of directors of the Museum of American Heritage and is a former board member of Stanford University Hospital, according to a press release from Simitian at the time of her award.
Green received the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce Tall Tree Award in 1991 for outstanding professional and the Chamber's Athena Award in 1988. Other honors include the Mid-Peninsula YWCA’s outstanding Black Woman Award, the East Palo Alto Teen Home Positive Image Award, and the Career Action Center’s Woman of Vision Award.
Clarence B. Jones has a distinguished pedigree steeped in the civil rights movement. As a close associate and adviser of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and as his attorney, Jones participated in writing King's historic "I Have a Dream" speech and took part in helping to defend one of the most significant political and social movements in the country through landmark legal cases.
Jones coordinated the legal defense for King and leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference against libel suits filed by the Birmingham, Alabama, police commissioner and city officials, according to his biography by the global speaker agency American Program Bureau. The resulting Supreme Court ruling, "Sullivan vs. The New York Times," culminated in a landmark decision on current libel law. He also drafted the settlement agreement between the City of Birmingham and King in 1963 that ended demonstrations and the desegregation of department stores and public accommodations, the biography noted.
Jones was the first first African-American partner in a Wall Street investment banking firm, Cogan, Berlind, Weill & Levitt, and was twice named Fortune magazine's Business Man of the Month. He has also founded successful financial-, corporate- and media-related ventures, according to the biography.
He is now a Palo Alto resident and scholar in residence at The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford. His work there continues to challenge Silicon Valley on employment and equality issues.
Jones has been a frequent columnist for The Huffington Post and has authored two books, "What Would Martin Say?" and "Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation." He has received many honors, including a Letter of Commendation from former President Bill Clinton; induction into the Walk of Fame at The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia, and becoming an honoree at the National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., according to the biography.
The ceremony for the honorees is open to the public and it is free. It will take place in the City Council Chambers, 250 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto.