Saving Stories: Political Trailblazer Harry Sykes

Feb 5, 2021

In this Black History Month edition of WUKY's award winning series Saving Stories we hear how Harry Sykes became Lexington's first African American to be elected to the city council. Wait until you hear how the one-time Harlem Globetrotter accomplished that feat. Doug Boyd is the director of the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History in the UK Libraries. He shares and talks about the audio with WUKY's Alan Lytle.


Harry Sykes
Credit lexingtonky.gov

From the Kentucky Notable African Americans Database:

Sykes, Harry Nash

(born: April 1, 1927  -  died: November 28, 2012) 

Born in Starkville, MS, in 1963 Harry N. Sykes became the first African American elected to the City of Lexington, KY, Council; he also served as mayor pro-tem, 1967-1969. Harry N. Sykes ran unsuccessfully for Mayor of Lexington in 1971. He founded the Lexington Fayette County Urban League in 1968, serving as president from 1968-1972. Sykes was also a member of the Harlem Globetrotters, 1952-1954. Harry N. Sykes was a 1952 graduate from Kentucky State University, where he attended school on a basketball and track scholarship. He earned his masters degree in mathematics from the University of Minnesota. He taught high school mathematics at the Lexington Public Schools and coached junior high basketball. Harry N. Sykes died November 28, 2012. He was the son of Pinkie K. and Parkay M. Sykes, and the husband of Geraldine Higgins Sykes. For more see Harry Sykes, Lexington Herald Leader, 08/02/03, Final Ed., p. B1.   

In 2017 Lexington honored Sykes by renaming a street after the trailblazing politician.