Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Black History Month: Pierre Whiting

Pierre Whiting: Local Black History Folk Hero

Pierre Whiting (Retrieved from: http://www.kentucky.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/tom-eblen/article129881284.html, February 7, 2017.)
Pierre Whiting (1861-1949) wasn't an innovator or an explorer, but his story is so compelling that we had to share it. Born in 1861 in Woodford County, Pierre was hired by the University of Kentucky in 1888 as a janitor. He was UK's first black employee, and he holds the record for length of employment at the university–57 years! He retired in 1945. He lived in Adamstown, a black community, in then-segregated Lexington, KY. Adamstown no longer exists. It was purchased incrementally by UK, starting in the 1920s, and UK finished its purchases in the 1940s. Memorial Coliseum, which opened in 1950, sits on the site of Adamstown. According to local records, Pierre's house was purchased by UK in 1943 for $1,800 ($25,715 in today's money).

During his 57-year career at the University of Kentucky, Pierre became a beloved figure on campus. He acquired the moniker of "Dean Whiting." He became a treasure trove of information about UK's history. In fact, editors of the Kentucky Kernel, UK's student newspaper, would regularly interview him for his memories of working at UK. Most of his janitorial work took place at White Hall, a dormitory then, and the Main Building, one of the four original buildings on campus and the only survivor of the four.

He retired in 1945, and died on April 7, 1949. He lived long enough to witness the enrollment of UK's first black student, Lyman T. Johnson.


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