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TWO PIONEERS

L. Howard Bennett was born in Charleston, S.C., on February 22, 1913, the son of an A.M.E. minister and grandson of a slave. Bennett graduated from Fisk University in Nashville in 1935. After working as a field representative for Fisk, Bennett was hired as Director of Avery Institute in Charleston, and later as field representative for the American Council on Race Relations. While working for the Council on Race Relations, Bennett first visited Minneapolis. He helped Mayor Hubert Humphrey set up the Council on Human Relations, and they became life-long friends. Bennett worked on Humphrey's first presidential bid, in fact.

Bennett enrolled at the University of Chicago in 1947. Three years later, with a Master's Degree in Political Science and a law degree, Bennett moved to Minneapolis and began practicing law. His star rose quickly. From 1956 to 1958, Bennett headed the local chapter of the NAACP, then moved on to the Urban League. He also worked for the United Negro College Fund. In 1957, Governor Orville Freeman appointed Bennett to the municipal court of Minneapolis. Bennett was the first black judge in Minnesota's history. Six years later, Bennett again made history. He ran for the Minneapolis School Board, and won a 6-year term.

Bennett had served as School Board Commisioner for only a few months when President Kennedy named him to a post at the Department of Defense. His title: Special Assistant to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Civil Rights. Bennett stayed on the School Board until February 1964. After retirement, Bennett removed to Pensacola, where he owned a nursing home. He died on Dec. 1, 1993.


Brian Coyle grew up in Moorhead, Minnesota, in a Republican household. While studying at the University of Minnesota, Coyle joined anti-war groups, and was arrested for dodging the draft. His opposition to the Vietnam War changed Coyle's politics. He championed left-wing causes through the 1970s, including the fight against high-voltage power lines in western Minnesota, snowmobiling in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and the building of the Humphrey Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis. In 1978, Coyle ran for U.S. Senate and 3 years later tried for a seat on the City Council. He lost both races, but won the 6th Ward race for Alderman in 1983.

Coyle and the Sixth Ward of Minneapolis were a good fit. Coyle fought to good effect for the issues that concerned his constituents. He worked relentlessly for homeless shelters, money for urban renewal and affordable housing for the poor. In addition to poverty issues, Coyle championed a Domestic Partnership Ordinance, which the City Council passed in February 1991.

Meanwhile, Coyle's health deteriorated. The first openly homosexual alderman in Minneapolis, Coyle was diagnosed with AIDS in 1986, Coyle went public with his condition in April 1991. His struggle with the AIDS virus ended with his death on Aug. 23, 1993.

— Neal Baxter

Highwood Press — Minneapolis, MN — (612) 872-9156

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