Honoring the trailblazers

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By Dedra Cordle
Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of the village of Urbancrest Dawn Sharp-Heard accepts an award on behalf of her father, Louis Sharp, from Urbancrest Mayor Joseph Barnes Sr. at a ceremony held on Feb. 28.
Photo courtesy of the village of Urbancrest
Dawn Sharp-Heard accepts an award on behalf of her father, Louis Sharp, from Urbancrest Mayor Joseph Barnes Sr. at a ceremony held on Feb. 28.

The village of Urbancrest honored those who have blazed trails in and out of the community during the sixth annual Black History celebration.

Among those honored was Louis Sharp, who served as mayor of the village from 1980 until 1983.

Under his guidance, the amenities of Urbancrest changed dramatically. He helped usher in an upgraded lighting system, he oversaw the regulation of cutting into streets, drains and curbs, and he entered the village into an agreement with CATV Systems and Associates to operate and maintain a cable television system.

Joseph Barnes Sr., the village’s current mayor, said Sharp had “done amazing things” during his term, but it was what he accomplished before he came to Urbancrest that truly made him a trailblazer.

In 1955, Sharp was a young man looking to support his growing family. Having an interest in law enforcement, Sharp sets his sights on the Ohio State Highway Patrol. His cadet class – the academy’s 44th – was the first to accept African-American applicants. To say he faced hardship is an understatement.

For 13-weeks, he endured the rigorous training of the academy’s standards and the relentless taunts by fellow recruits. He was determined to make it through despite the hostile environment and that he did. On Nov. 4, 1955, Sharp graduated with the 44th class and became the first African-American Ohio State Highway Patrol Officer.

Capt. Richard Fambro, who came to the ceremony to speak about his friend and mentor, said he owes his career at the State Highway Patrol to Sharp.

“If not for the path he forged, I would not be allowed to be here today,” Fambro said.

Upon his graduation, Sharp was assigned to work at the Findlay Post where he stayed for nearly a year before leaving for another job that provided better financial security for his family.

Sharp’s daughter, Dawn Sharp-Heard, accepted the award on her father’s behalf.

She said her father was sorry he was not able to make it to the ceremony, but said it was a privilege to be honored and he was privileged to have served as mayor of Urbancrest.

Sharp was inducted into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2011.

Also honored was Veronica Shepherd, who was the mayor of the village from 1988 through 1991.

During her term, she fought to monitor trash, waste, and refuse haulers coming in and out of the village; she established a parking ban for heavy commercial vehicles in residential areas; she oversaw additional streetlights; and her administration purchased the land at 3357 Central Ave., which currently houses a substation for the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department.

Additional awards were given to Fredrick Ransier and Donna West. Ransier was given the Distinguished Service Award for his term as the village’s law director from 1978 through 1997. As the law director, he helped the village navigate the annexation for the I-270 project, which later brought a tax base to the village.

West was the recipient of the Ellen Walker-Craig Jones Community Service Award. Barnes praised West for her efforts in helping children get to their bus stops safely.

A dedication also took place at the ceremony: The new municipal complex will now be named the William H. Johnson Village Municipal Hall in honor of the village’s first elected mayor. Johnson oversaw the incorporation of the village in 1948 and helped shape the development of the streets and the water and sanitary district.

A commemorative plaque will be mounted to the front of the building for all who visit the municipal hall to see.

“The first thing people see will be his face and the last thing people see will be his face,” said Barnes.

He said the placement of the plaque was significant as the village began with him and will be carried on by what he has helped build.

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