2014 Juanita Gray / Blacks in Colorado Hall of Fame Award Winners

Juanita Ross Gray

On February 1, 2014 the Denver Public Library honored five African American community leaders at the Juanita Gray Community Service Awards and the Blacks in Colorado Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The event was held at the Ford-Warren Branch Library and kicked off the library’s celebration of Black History Month.

Juanita Gray Award Winners

Lauren Shobe, Youth Award
A junior at East High School, Shobe is active in her church choir and dance ministry in addition to volunteering in East’s library and after school programs. Her volunteer work at the Pauline Robinson Branch Library earned her a spot as a teen assistant for the After School is Cool program, which creates connections with young children.

Selena Dunham
In addition to a successful career in banking, Dunham is active in Colorado and Denver politics, serving as a Deputy District Director for Congresswoman Diana DeGette and Chief of Staff for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. She volunteers time to several nonprofits and has received numerous honors such as being named Business Leader to Watch by the Rocky Mountain News and Business Woman of the Year by the Colorado Black Women for Political Action.

Phillip (Phil) Washington
In 2009, Washington became the chief executive officer and general manager of the Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) and was recently elected by the members of the American Public Transportation Association to serve as the first vice chair of the organization. Washington has devoted more than 10 years to defining and improving public transportation in Colorado. Under his direction, RTD is moving forward with the FasTracks program, one of the largest transit expansions in the nation.

The following community members were nominated for Juanita Gray Awards:
Christel Benjamin – Youth
Lauren Shobe – Youth
Joshua Wayne Wilson – Youth
Selena Dunham
Rev. Josephine Falls
Azie Hammock
Elizabeth A. Lee
Phillip (Phil) A. Washington

Blacks in Colorado Hall of Fame Inductees

Ruth Cousins Denny (deceased)
A teacher with the Denver Public Schools, Denny was deeply affected by discrimination and spent her life fighting for equality. Her experience in the Civil Rights Movement in the 50s and 60s inspired her to start the Denver branch of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE); she later became chair of the chapter. She led a group of Coloradoans to the March on Washington in 1963 and served the Denver community through her retirement from DPS. She also co-founded Rebels Remembered, a film project chronicling the Colorado Civil Rights Movement.

The Honorable Elbra Wedgeworth
In 1999, Wedgeworth was elected to Denver City Council for District 8, the first African American woman elected to the district, and in 2003 was unanimously elected Council President. She served as President 2003-2005, providing oversight for the multimillion-dollar city council budget, revising rules and restructuring council committees. She served as president/chair of Denver 2008 Convention Host Committee for the Democratic National Convention, the largest convention in Denver’s history. In April 2012, the Denver Post named her one of Colorado’s most influential women and was also named one of Denver’s 25 most powerful women by the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce.

About the Awards

Former Denver Public Library staff member and community advocate Juanita Gray helped start the Blacks in Colorado Hall of Fame in 1973 which honors new inductees every other year. Members are Colorado residents who have made an impact on the African American community.

The Hall of Fame honor is bestowed upon a Coloradan who has been the first African American to accomplish a professional goal in their field and/or who has actively supported the African American community while achieving his or her goal.

The Juanita Gray award honors African American men, women and youth who make outstanding contributions to the Denver Metro area and who exemplify the ideals and spirit represented by Gray’s commitment to the community. A community-driven committee works with the Library to nominate and select the winner of the award and the Hall of Fame winners.

Previous recipients of the Juanita Ross Gray Community Service Award.