If you had a question about history, Dr. J. Blaine Hudson was on the short list of those to call. Whether it was civil rights; the history of Kentucky’s favorite native son, President Abraham Lincoln; or thoughtful commentary on the nexus of race, class and politics, Dr. Hudson’s name came immediately to mind as one of the most prolific voices of Kentucky’s academic community. Our commonwealth lost this great scholar, activist, and community connector on January 5th, 2013.
Many programs that have aired on KET displayed Dr. Hudson’s vast knowledge of our past in abundance.
His contributions to “Living the Story: The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky,” a partnership with the Kentucky Oral History Commission and the Kentucky History Center were many.
He was a guest on at least two “Connections” programs — one about the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday and the other about the pictorial odyssey traced in the book “Two Centuries of Black Louisville, ” of which he was one of three author/editors.
Today, I’ll emcee the state celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History. I do so with appreciation and remembrance of Dr. Hudson, a brave foot soldier in Louisville’s sojourn to integration who later became the Dean of the University of Louisville College of Arts and Sciences.
To paraphrase what a Louisville public radio journalist said about the late academic: If you’re looking for a an activist, Dr. Hudson earned his stripes on the front lines of the civil rights movement. If you’re looking for a scholar, Dr. Hudson was quoted and contributed to literary and historical works by the dozens. And, if it’s a community builder you’re seeking, Dr. Hudson’s “Saturday Academy” programs invested in transforming young, bright minds often in dim circumstances. It was Dr. Hudson who stood to protest in the late 1960’s the very college’s dearth of black administrators that he would later join as faculty and dean.
I had the pleasure of sitting among Dr. Hudson and other civil rights warriors this time last year in a special program that aired on MLK day in 2012. I remember my throat tightening with emotion toward the show’s end when I glanced at the esteemed collage of elders with wisdom overflowing who paved the way for me to host them before a television audience.
As I write this now, I imagine Dr. Hudson and Dr. Martin King in Glory swapping stories of how they made it over, with prayers for us to keep on keeping on.