Monday, July 27, 2009

Remembering Edna Pincham

Edna D. Pincham, a member of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society’s Board of Directors since 2007 and a passionate community leader, educator and advocate, passed away on June 24, 2009, after a short illness. One of Edna's great passions was local history. She was a key member of the committee which produced the research for an Ohio Historical Marker to honor decorated Civil War veteran Oscar D. Boggess, the first historical marker dedicated to an African American in Mahoning County. The photograph shows Edna on the left at the marker unveiling and dedication in September 2006.

Edna’s published tribute noted that among the proudest events of her life was her inclusion in an exhibit produced by the Mahoning Valley Historical Society in 2001 titled Far From Home: Stories from Immigrant Children to the Mahoning Valley. This exhibit chronicled the migration experience of several young people who left their homes in Europe, the Middle East and the American South to resettle locally in the 20th Century. To honor her memory, following is the text copy that told Edna’s story in the exhibit:

"Edna Pincham grew up in a community full of faith, family and love in southern rural Georgia—the town of Quitman in Brooks County. This rural and religious lifestyle was all Edna knew in her first 18 year of life. Life in Quitman during the 1950s was slower and tight knit, with neighbors around all of the time. There were only three churches in town, and everyone gathered between the three on Sundays. Edna had never left her family before coming to Youngstown. Outside of Florida, she had never been further than Atlanta. She came to Youngstown at the age of 18 in 1954 to attend Youngstown College and live with her sister. Edna’s first experience with racism was when her family took her to a train station for her journey north. There at the station, African Americans were asked to remain in a back room, while white travelers were allowed to sit in a waiting room with plush chairs. The room was small and cramped and they could look through a window at those in the larger room.

Edna took the B&O Railroad from Georgia to Washington DC—a very long trip. She was alone, and had to change trains by herself. Her mom made sure she had enough food until Washington. In a shoe box, she had fried chicken, biscuits, pound cake, and apples and oranges. At that time, African Americans were not allowed in the dining car, so Edna ate the contents inside the shoebox. She even drank the orange juice because she refused to go to the fountain labeled “colored.” On the train from Washington DC, she was able to go to the dining car and water fountain. When she finally arrived in Youngstown, her whole family was waiting to see her, including her sister and brother-in-law. She was excited to see a city with streetcars and was even more thrilled to be picked up in a car. She found a job almost immediately at LaFrance Cleaners and attended school at Youngstown College. Though she continued to face some discrimination at school and in work, she eventually got a job with Dr. W.P. Young who supported her career as a lab technician. Edna went on to have a successful family, co-own a successful moving company, and pursued a career in politics as well. Today Edna is known for her commitment to volunteerism and concern for the welfare of young children in the Mahoning Valley."