Lexington Street Renamed for Late Civil Rights Leader Harry Sykes
Travelers along Lexington’s busy Red Mile Road are being reminded of a civil rights leader who is remembered for his community-wide message. The recognition comes through renaming a street “Harry Sykes Way”.
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray unveiled the street sign Friday honoring the late Harry Sykes, the city’s first African American city commissioner, mayor pro tem, and vice mayor. “You cannot talk about the history of civil rights in Lexington, without talking about Harry Sykes,” said Gray.
Sykes moved to Lexington in 1954, after two years playing with the Harlem Globetrotters. He taught math at the original Dunbar High School. He founded the Lexington chapter of the National Urban League. Sykes passed away in 2012. His wife, Geraldine attended Friday’s event at the Family Care Center. “He made a great difference and he did it for everybody, black and white,” said Sykes “He was a people’s man.”
Porter Peoples, who’s led the Lexington Urban League for almost half a century, said Sykes, at a height of six-foot-nine, also stood tall in character, integrity, and dignity. Peoples said Sykes could walk the thin line to satisfy people throughout the community. “One of the things that we know that African American politicians had to deal with during the sixties was, they caught hell from white people and they caught hell from some black people. Because no matter what you did, it was never enough or it was too much,” said Peoples.
One of his sons, Kevin Sykes, participated in the tribute. He said his father talked to him a lot about judging character in people. “My father used to tell me that people will tell you who they are. And so, you don’t have to worry about what color they are, what religion they are, they will let you know who they are. And he’s talking about their character,” said Sykes.
The new green sign listing the former Red Mile Place as Harry Sykes Way went up earlier in the week.