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No African-Americans now serve on UM Board of Curators

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 8, 2009 -As a result of his first three nominations to the University of Missouri's Board of Curators, Gov. Jay Nixon has broken a 38-year trend:

For the first time since 1971, there will be no African-Americans serving on the nine-person board. Each hails from one of the state's nine congressional districts, and all require confirmation by the state Senate. There also is a non-voting student representative.

The only African-American curator that had been on the board, Cheryl Walker, is officially off now that Nixon on Tuesday named her successor, former state Sen. Wayne Goode of Normandy, who is white. Both reside in the racially diverse 1st congressional district, where past African-American curators often -- but not always -- have resided. (All but one have come from the St. Louis area; the exception was one African-American curator, Angela Bennett, from Kansas City.)

All told, there have been eight African-American curators appointed by governors since 1971. The terms of at least two overlapped.

A spokesman for Nixon indicated Wednesday that the matter of race did come up while the administration deliberated on its selections.

"The Governor consulted a number of African-American leaders about who they thought might be best to fill the St. Louis-area slot on the Board of Curators,'' said press secretary Scott Holste in a statement. "Almost to a person, those leaders thought Wayne Goode would do a great job representing the St. Louis area, and UM-SL in particular."

Goode, 71, is a 42-year veteran of the Legislature and widely respected for his early involvement in  the creation of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, which was in his old Senate district and is within the 1st congressional district.

Still, St. Louis lawyer Jerry Hunter, who is an African-American and a Republican, made note Wednesday of the resulting lack of diversity among the curators in a state where African-Americans make up roughly 12 percent of the state's population.

"This would be the first time since 1971 that there has not been an African-American on the Board of Curators," Hunter said. He pointed out that two of Nixon's predecessors, Democrat Bob Holden and Republican John Ashcroft each chose two African-Americans as curators during his tenure.

Nixon's nominations also mean that there also now is only one woman curator, Judith Haggard.

Nixon's two other recent curator appointees also have been white males: Don M. Downing, a lawyer from Webster Groves; and David Bradley, a publisher from St. Joseph, Mo.

During his current term, Nixon will make at least three more nominations to the board. Of the remaining six curators, three hold terms that expire on Jan. 1, 2011. The other three will remain in office until Jan. 1, 2013, which is after the next gubernatorial election in November 2012.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.