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2005 blog


Keeping up with Jewish officeholders
Feingold salutes Wisconsin's Phillips'
as inspirational Civil Rights figure,  
Feb. 10, 2005

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) marking Black History Month, began a saulte to  Vel Phillips, 81, on Wednesday, Feb. 9 by noting she was "the first African-American woman to graduate from the University of Wisconsin Law School. She and her husband Dale moved to Milwaukee, where they became the first husband-wife attorney team admitted to the federal bar."

Feingold said that Vel Phillips also "was the first woman and first African American elected to the 
Milwaukee Common Council. Vel literally came under fire as she fought for open housing in 
Milwaukee, when gunshots left a bullet lodged in her oven. But no threats, no matter how real or 
how terrifying, could change Vel's unshakeable commitment to making Milwaukee a more just city and to making the world a better place."

The senator said that during that open housing campaign, Phillips "was arrested at a rally at the burned-out NAACP Freedom House, the site of a previous night's retaliatory firebombing. Two weeks before Dr. King's assassination, the Milwaukee Common Council passed the open housing bill. 

"In 1971," Feingold related, "Vel Phillips was appointed Wisconsin's first African-American judge. In 1978, she again reached another milestone with her election as secretary of state, first statewide office held by an African American. Now, at 81, Vel continues to make a difference in Milwaukee, and it is a privilege to call her a friend. 

"Vel Phillips is a distinguished figure in the progress of the civil rights movement in Wisconsin. Her life of firsts and steadfast determination to make a difference is an inspiration to me and a reminder of the need to advance and protect the civil rights of all Americans as we celebrate Black History Month."                 —Donald H. Harrison