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Mayor Greg Fischer Newsroom

Mayor to Present Freedom Award to Rev. Chatham at Concert Honoring King

Thursday January 10, 2008

Presentation during Louisville Orchestra’s free Dr. King concert

Mayor Jerry Abramson today announced that Reverend James O. Chatham is the 2008 recipient of Louisville Metro’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Award. Rev. Chatham is a retired minister of the Highland Presbyterian Church, former chair of the Louisville Human Relations Commission and an author. He has spent decades improving race and class relations.

Abramson will present the award Sunday, Jan. 20, during the Louisville Orchestra’s annual concert honoring Dr. King. The free concert, “I, Too, Have a Dream,” will be conducted by Jason Weinberger and will feature pianist Stewart Goodyear. It begins at 3 p.m. at the Brown Theatre, 315 W. Broadway.

“Dr. King had a dream, and Rev. Chatham was a voice in Dr. King’s vision to build bridges in race relations and human relations of all kinds,” Abramson said. “Over his decades of ministry, countless lives have been improved through Rev. Chatham’s tireless efforts to fight racism, poverty and inequality.”

Abramson presented the first Freedom Award in 1987 during his initial administration as mayor. The award recognizes citizens that have dedicated their lives to promoting justice, peace, freedom, non-violence, racial equality and civic activism. Previous winners include Ben Richmond, Raoul Cunningham, Georgia Davis Powers, Ed Hamilton, Lyman T. Johnson, Beverly Watts, Sam Watkins and Deborah Todd. This year’s award is a glass sculpture created by artist Ken vonRoenn.

“Good human relations is an ongoing task. We have done much to desegregate our lives, and expand the opportunities available to all people. The great challenge remaining is to desegregate our minds and the ways we think about one another. I am grateful that the Mayor's Freedom Award acknowledges both past efforts and the challenge still ahead,” said Rev. Chatham. “Given the truly distinguished people who have received this award, I am humbled to join the group.”

Chatham served for three years as pastor in the small southwest Mississippi town of Fayette beginning in 1965. He joined and supported the few moderate voices during Charles Evers’ economic boycott of the town and during the counter-campaign of the White Knights of the Green Forest (Ku Klux Klan). He worked to bring Head Start to the county.

In Louisville, Chatham was the pastor at Highland Presbyterian Church for 25, years from 1977 to 2002, when he retired. He established a close working relationship with the Rev. C. Mackey Daniels and West Chestnut Street Baptist Church. The two congregations worshipped together, spent time in each others homes, established the Court Education Project, and joined in recreation and many community service projects.

With David Givens of Green County, Chatham established a rural-urban relationship with Ebenezer Presbyterian Church of Greensburg, Ky., aiding in the Green County economic development effort and setting up meaningful rural-urban interchange.

“Rev. Chatham is one of the early pioneers in bringing diverse congregations together in the pulpit and outside of churches,” said friend and colleague William Gatewood, director of the Presbyterian Community Center. “He’s been involved in every aspect of creating change in race relations and class relations in Louisville. Not only is he an accomplished teacher and writer, but his preaching was lived in the real world.”

Chatham served on the Presbyterian Community Center board and also served for 15 years on the board of Kentucky Refugee Ministry. He led Highland Presbyterian Church in repeatedly sponsoring refugee families.

He served for six years on the Louisville Metro Human Relations Commission, five years as chairman, where he led an assessment of police-community relations. In addition, he worked with Dr. Madeline Maupin as co-chairman of QUEST (Quality Education for all Students), the group initiated by former state senator Georgia Powers to maintain desegregation in Louisville’s public high schools.

He’s the author of several books, including one about his days as a pastor in the South, called Sundays Down South, a Pastor’s Stories by University Press of Mississippi.

For more information about the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration concert, contact MetroCall 311 or 574-5000, or visit

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If you go

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Concert

“I, Too, Have a Dream,” performed by the Louisville Orchestra and conducted by Jason Weinberger with Mayor Jerry Abramson presenting the Freedom Award after the concert’s introductory number.

Sunday, Jan. 20, 3 p.m.

Brown Theatre, 315 W. Broadway

Admission is free, no tickets required. Arrive early for the best seats.

The celebration begins at 2 p.m. in the lobby with the Louisville Leopard Percussionists.

Pianist Stewart Goodyear will perform Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. The concert will also feature the local choir, Messengers for Christ Choir and the world premiere of Make Gentle the Life of This World by Louisville Orchestra trombonist and composer Raymond Horton.

TARC is providing free round-trip transportation to the concert from six area churches, community centers and the University of Louisville. For information on pick-up and drop-off times and locations, visit

TARC will provide free transportation to the concert from the following locations:

Route A:

University of Louisville 2:15pm

Student Activities Center

Route B:

Wesley United Methodist Church 2pm

1201 Locust St, Jeffersonville, IN

Nia Center 2:30pm

2900 W. Broadway

St. Stephens Baptist Church 2:35pm

1018 S. 15th St

Route C:

St. Matthews City Hall 2pm

3940 Grandview Ave

Jewish Community Center 2:15pm

3600 Dutchmans Ln

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Stewart Goodyear Residency & Public Concerts

This year's celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. will be preceded by a one-week community residency with Stewart Goodyear that will serve schools, churches, community centers and more. This will be the second year that the Gheens Great Expectations Project has provided the opportunity for the Louisville Orchestra to extend the impact of the MLK Celebration through community engagement activities. Goodyear has performed with many of the countries finest orchestras including the Philadelphia Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

The public is invited to attend the following residency activities:

Jan. 13, 7 p.m. Concert: Louisville Orchestra String

Quartet & Stewart Goodyear

Cathedral of the Assumption, 443 S. Fifth Street

Jan. 15, 6:30 p.m. Piano Master Class

The Academy of Music at St. Francis in the Fields

6710 Wolf Pen Branch Rd.

Jan. 16, 12 p.m. Lunchtime Classics Concert

Louisville Orchestra String Quartet & Stewart Goodyear

WUOL Public Radio Partnership, 619 South Fourth Street

Jan. 17, 6:30 p.m. Concert: Louisville Orchestra String

Quartet & Stewart Goodyear

Douglass Community Center, 2305 Douglass Blvd.

Stewart Goodyear is presented by the Louisville Orchestra with support from the Gheens Great Expectations Project, a program of the Kentucky Center and The Fund for the Arts. Sponsored by the Gheens Foundation.

Additional sponsors: E-ON US, MSD, Kentucky Arts Council, Republic Bank and the Public Radio Partnership.