PLBC honors the late House Speaker Irvis with day of action

HARRISBURG, May 23 – State Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Phila., chair of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, and colleagues from the PLBC today commemorated the 45th anniversary of the inauguration of the late Speaker K. Leroy Irvis with a day of action.

“This inaugural day of action not only commemorates the accomplishments of the first and only Black speaker in the Pennsylvania legislature to date,” Bullock said, “but it is also an opportunity to amplify the voices of Black Pennsylvanians and the issues that are important to our communities."

Irvis was born in New York and graduated from the State University of New York at Albany. He moved to Baltimore and taught high school English and history until World War II. He was a civilian flying instructor for the War Department.

After, he settled in Pittsburgh where he earned a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh. In 1958, he was elected to the state legislature, eventually being elected by his peers as speaker of the House. He served in the legislature for 15 consecutive terms.

“Forty-five years after his historic election as House Speaker, K. Leroy Irvis’s leadership is still felt by countless Pennsylvanians. He was a man of great character who forged a path that many of us have worked to emulate,” said House Democratic Leader, Rep. Joanna McClinton, D-Phila/Delaware. “To fully recognize his contributions, we should view Speaker Irvis’s legacy as a call to action. A call to ensure his greatest achievements endure and that we are not satisfied by all he achieved but continue to build on those achievements at every opportunity.”

“As the newly elected representative for Speaker Irvis’s district, I feel deeply the solemn responsibility we have as elected officials to work together, not just for the people in our own communities, but for every Pennsylvanian in our commonwealth,” Rep. Aerion Andrew Abney said. “Speaker Irvis may have been a trailblazer, but it is up to each of us to not just continue in his footsteps, but to widen that path so that others can walk it as well. We cannot rest, we cannot take what we are given, but we must continue to strive until everyone -- every Pennsylvanian regardless of race, color or creed, has a seat at the table. Because in our diversity lies our strength.”

The K. Leroy Irvis Day of Action will be held every year in commemoration of the late speaker’s accomplishments and to support advocacy for issues that affect Black Pennsylvanians.