A life of struggle became a career of achievement for Alice Allison Dunnigan, and now her legacy of pioneering accomplishments in journalism has been immortalized in her hometown of Russellville.
Thirty-six years after her death, Dunnigan was honored Friday evening as a crowd of nearly 200 people (including some 40 relatives) witnessed the unveiling of a bronze statue of a woman who was the first African American female journalist to receive White House press credentials.
Dunnigan covered presidents from Harry Truman to John F. Kennedy, enduring the indignities that were a natural part of those times of civil rights struggles to earn respect and numerous awards for her work that spanned the 1940s, ’50s and ’60’s.
“Her time was way past due,” Alicia Dunnigan, one of Alice’s four grandchildren, said as she stood near the statue depicting her grandmother holding a copy of The Washington Post newspaper while standing on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. “It’s fitting that it comes from a place where she started. This is where she got her inspiration to pursue her dreams.”
The daughter of a father who worked as a sharecropper and a mother who took in laundry for a living, Alice Allison Dunnigan dreamed as a teenager of being a journalist but spent nearly 20 years as a teacher in Logan and Todd counties before realizing that dream.
She served from 1947 to 1961 as chief of the Washington bureau of the Associated Negro Press and later worked for the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity and the President’s Commission on Youth Opportunity.
That work history paved the way for both women and African Americans, and inspired at least one of her grandchildren to emulate her.
Soraya Dunnigan Brandon, the youngest grandchild, works as a freelance journalist and educator in North Carolina, largely because of the example set by Dunnigan.
“The example she set was one of professionalism,” Brandon said. “She instilled in me the importance of having a voice and always being prepared. She was persistent, and she taught me to never give up.”
Dunnigan was also an example for Sonya Ross, the keynote speaker at Friday’s event. A longtime Associated Press reporter and current leader of the Black Women Unmuted organization, Ross called Dunnigan a “visionary.”
“She was a woman ahead of her time,” Ross said. “She was a bona fide American hero. I’ve been able to have the amazing career I’ve had because of the audacity of Alice.”
Now others can be inspired by the work of Dunnigan through the statue at the corner of East Sixth and South Morgan streets and the historical information about her displayed in the nearby Payne-Dunnigan House that is part of Russellville’s SEEK (Struggles for Emancipation and Equality in Kentucky) Museum.
J. Gran Clark, president of the Historic Russellville Inc. organization that oversees the SEEK Museum, said the statue honoring Dunnigan has been in the works for four years. He’s happy with the final product produced by Lexington artist Amanda Matthews, saying it fits well with the goals of the museum.
“Our goal is to make the museum part of the education and curriculum in our schools,” he said. “This sends a message that we’re a small town but you can still dream big and do big things.”
The statue has found a permanent home in Russellville after first being displayed in the Newseum, a Washington facility dedicated to preserving the history of American journalism, and at the University of Kentucky, the Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Missouri and Kentucky State University.
Matthews, commissioned by Historic Russellville Inc. to create the statue, said she tried to capture the twin elements of Dunnigan’s small-town roots and her accomplishments as a journalist.
“I wanted to capture the image of her standing on the Capitol steps but also capture her humble beginnings,” Matthews said. “She came from humble beginnings but made an indelible mark on our nation.”
Despite criticism from alumni, Western Kentucky University’s Board of Regents unanimously approved Friday changing the name of the university’s School of Journalism and Broadcasting to the School of Media.
The change sparked concerns among several WKU journalism alumni that the school is deemphasizing journalism in favor of other programs within the school, such as film. But during regents’ third quarterly meeting Friday, WKU President Timothy Caboni sought to dispel the complaints and touted his “unwavering” commitment to the journalism program.
“Western Kentucky University’s journalism program is something we’re proud of, something we will continue to support and elevate at this institution,” Caboni said. “Just because we’re changing the name of a school doesn’t mean we’re changing our focus on the program.”
He added: “My commitment and our commitment to journalism and this program is unwavering, and it will continue to be unwavering.”
Several alumni, including some prominent journalists, personally petitioned campus leaders by writing letters in opposition to the name change.
Among them was WKU graduate Al Cross, a well-known Kentucky journalist and director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky.
In his letter, Cross raised concerns about faculty, administrators and regents viewing journalism as “a declining discipline.”
“When a university maintains a School of Journalism, it is saying that journalism is a public good,” Cross wrote. “When it removes the word from the name of a J-school, it is saying something else, something that can easily be inferred as a lack of confidence in journalism as an essential servant of democracy. So, if the name of the School is to be changed, let it be the School of Journalism and Media.”
A Board of Regents agenda item explaining the name change noted that faculty in the School of Journalism and Broadcasting unanimously agreed to the change. Robert Dietle, the school’s interim director, previously told the Daily News that the new name was the result of a faculty-led process and that “School of Media” is meant to more fully capture the scope of the school’s programs.
In defending the new name, journalism professor and program coordinator Mac McKerral said faculty remain steadfast in their commitment to teaching journalism but that change is needed.
When McKerral meets with parents of prospective students, he said he often pitches the program as a pathway for developing marketable job skills that will make them employable in several fields, not just in new media.
“They’re going to have a transferable skill set that any of you would want an employee of yours to have,” McKerral told the board. “They’re going to be great communicators. They’re going to understand the technology and how to use it effectively. They’re going to know how to find things. They’re going to know how to separate the essential from the non-essential. They’re going to know how to deal with people, and they’re going to know how to deal with people who are in positions of power and authority. We couldn’t ask for more in a skill set.”
McKerral said the faculty understand alumni concerns and asked for their continued support, vowing to improve communication with them going forward.
In other business, the board installed a new slate of officers, including naming Gillard Johnson as chair – replacing former chair Phillip Bale – and Frederick Higdon as vice chair. Will Harris, WKU’s student body president, was also sworn in as the board’s student regent.
In a third-floor auditorium at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine-Bowling Green Campus, educators welcomed 30 first-year students into the medical school.
The students walked into the auditorium in full view of attending friends and family members, white coats draped over their left arms.
JK Phillips, a 1974 graduate of the UK College of Medicine who is now a practicing physician in Bowling Green, welcomed the students to the medical school.
“Seated before us are the brightest and the best future physicians with eyes full of hope and excitement who today begin their official medical education,” he said.
Phillips also warned of the heavy workloads ahead of them.
“Some words of advice for you students: Enjoy this weekend,” he said. “Because Monday, they’re going to get you. Things will accelerate rather rapidly, like lightspeed.”
Phillips said none of the students were as prepared as they thought they were, though he told them what they’d need to pull through.
“What will be successful is a positive attitude, fully operational work ethic and the new thing here: time management skills,” he said.
Dr. Mark F. Newman, executive vice president of health affairs at UK, spoke as well, congratulating the students and imparting some advice that has been helpful to him through his career.
“Even on your worst day as a physician, you will help people. You will make a difference and that is a great part of the great profession that you’re becoming a part of,” he said.
During the ceremony, each of the students was introduced by name as they walked up to the stage, where they would shake hands with a range of UK administrators and educators, who would then help them into their coats.
Med Center Health, the University of Kentucky and Western Kentucky University are partners in the program.
Dr. Todd Cheever, associate dean of the UK College of Medicine-Bowling Green Campus, said after the ceremony that the 30 students will join the 30 others who began the program last year.
“We are so excited,” he said. “We had an amazing first year that exceeded our expectation and we’re essentially as of today doubling our student enrollment because we’re going from our 30 students this last year to 60.”
Across the state, a total of 203 students are being accepted to the UK College of Medicine out of roughly 2,600 who applied, he said.
“So some of the lecture material is beamed via technology from Lexington but we deliver a lot of the classes, small groups, physical exam instruction, interview instruction locally here so we have amazing teachers,” he said.
The Bowling Green Campus is one of the UK College of Medicine’s three satellite locations established in an effort to train doctors who will work in underserved rural communities throughout Kentucky.
“We want to train Kentuckians but what we’ve seen a great deal already in two classes is a number of individuals from southcentral KY have wanted to come to med school here and it’s our hope that when they finish med school and residency they’ll turn around and go home and practice because we know a lot of the rural counties are desperate for doctors,” Cheever said.
After the ceremony, Tiara Moore, who has a bachelor’s of science in biology and a bachelor’s of science in chemistry, said she’s thrilled to start medical school.
From Morganfield, Moore said she appreciates the UK College of Medicine location in Bowling Green.
“I think it’s a good opportunity that they built this program in Bowling Green,” she said. “It gives more people the chance to join the UK medical program.”
Moore said she still isn’t sure what exact medical field she wants to go into but will have time to find out while a medical student.
“I’m still trying to figure out what different fields I’m interested in so in these next four years, I’ll have time to shadow people and figure it out,” she said.
After the ceremony, Sydnie Jameson, said she’s excited about starting medical school Monday.
“I’m just ready for classes to start and I’m ready to serve my community,” she said. “I’m ready to be a doctor.”
While she’s nervous about the prospect, she said she has faith in the support she’ll receive from her friends in the program.
“I’m really nervous about it but I have a lot of friends in the program and I know we can get through it together,” she said.
Jameson has a bachelor’s of science in chemistry and is interested in pursuing a career in either pediatrics or family medicine.
Jameson said she wants to work in a rural community after med school and plans to either stay in Bowling Green or go back to Taylorsville, where she’s from.
“Rural communities don’t have much access to health care so I want to be able to provide that,” she said.
An Allen County man accused in a deadly 2017 shooting has been charged with drug offenses in a separate criminal case.
Jackie Mutter, 64, of Scottsville, is set to be arraigned Aug. 13 in Allen Circuit Court on an indictment charging him with first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance (greater than two grams, meth), convicted felon in possession of a handgun, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and endangering the welfare of a minor.
The drug charges arose from an investigation involving multiple law enforcement agencies.
On April 17, members of the Barren River Drug Task Force, Allen County Sheriff’s Department, Scottsville Police Department and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives executed a search warrant at Mutter’s Old Hartsville Road residence.
According to an arrest citation, law enforcement seized about 22 grams of crystal methamphetamine, marijuana, drug paraphernalia, a handgun and a shotgun.
Two small children were at the residence as well, Mutter’s arrest citation said.
Mutter has pleaded not guilty in a separate case charging him with murder.
He is accused of shooting Wendell Jackson, 38, on Jan. 2, 2017, at Jackson’s Scottsville residence on Hade Bell Road.
Mutter has been in Allen County Detention Center since his April 17 arrest.
Police investigating Jackson’s death were able to arrest Mutter after an informant came forward with allegations that tied Mutter to the homicide.
Deputies were dispatched to Jackson’s residence five days after his death on what was originally believed to be a suicide call.
Jackson’s partially frozen body was found in the garage with a pistol lying under one of his feet.
Detective Bill Francis of the sheriff’s office was contacted to come to the scene after deputies found blood on both of Jackson’s hands and around his chest.
In an affidavit, Francis said Jackson’s left leg appeared misshapen, and law enforcement found an apparent compound fracture and multiple bullet wounds on the leg.
Mutter had been interviewed earlier in the investigation, but he made no admissions, court records show.
“Other than blood there was not very much evidence at the scene,” Francis said in the affidavit. “There were five empty casings found around the garage and there were two fired casings found in the revolver. For the past two years there have been several individuals interviewed and leads looked into but none panned out to anything, however the key name that kept coming up was Jackie Mutter.”
A forensic analysis of the gun determined last year that blood belonging to two people was found on the weapon. One blood sample belonged to Jackson while the other sample belonged to an unknown person.
On April 5, Francis and drug task force detectives spoke with an inmate at Barren County Detention Center in Glasgow who claimed to have information about the shooting.
The informant told detectives that Mutter and another person were present with Jackson when the shooting occurred and that afterward the informant was brought a pair of boots to burn.
A week after the shooting, the person who was with Mutter visited the informant at his house and asked him to get rid of the gun, but the informant “thought he was being set up and refused to help,” court records show.
The informant went on to tell investigators that he and his wife had gone to Mutter’s house on the night of the shooting and saw that Mutter had a gunshot wound to his left arm.
Mutter reportedly admitted to the informant that he shot Jackson, according to the affidavit.
“There was an issue between Mr. Jackson and Mr. Mutter,” Francis said in the affidavit. “The issue is a girl ... who was dating Mr. Mutter and messing around with Mr. Jackson.”
The handgun found at Mutter’s house when law enforcement executed the search warrant fit the description of a gun that Kentucky State Police Crime Lab analysts determined fired the rounds at the scene of the homicide, according to an arrest citation.