Cincinnati Chamber unveils the new five-year strategic framework to foster regional growth

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Recognize & Celebrate businesses & people

Great Living Cincinnatians: Honorees

Celebrating the leadership, vision, tenacity, and love of community shared by the recipients of the Great Living Cincinnatian Award, presented annually by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber since 1967.

Theodore M. Berry

Awarded In 1984
1906 – 2000

Theodore M. Berry was born in Maysville a small town on the banks of the Ohio River. His father was a white farmer he met only once. His mother was deaf and communicated with him only in sign language. As a child, he sold newspapers, shined shoes, shoveled coal, delivered laundry, shelved books in local libraries, and worked as a desk clerk at the “Black” YMCA in Cincinnati where he roomed during high school. He was commencement orator and senior-class valedictorian of Woodward High in June 1924 – the first African-American valedictorian in the school’s history.

Berry paid his way through the University of Cincinnati law school by working at Newport steel mills. He graduated from the University of Cincinnati College of Liberal Arts and College of Law. He began practicing law in 1932 and served as assistant prosecuting attorney in Hamilton County from 1939 until 1975. He served three times on Cincinnati City Council, was vice-mayor from 1955-1957, and mayor from 1972-1975.

In addition to his local service, Berry was appointed Assistant Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity during the Johnson administration. He was also Director of Community Action programs during its formative years.

From 1979-1980, Berry served as the Interim General Counsel from the National Association of Colored People (NAACP) in New York City. He also chaired the Ohio Committeee for Civil Rights Legislation from 1949-1965. This committee is credited with securing the passage of Fair Employment, Housing and Public Accommodation laws in Ohio.

Berry also served as a director of the Southern Ohio Bank and Warner Amex Cable, president of the board of trustees of the Cincinnati Southern Railway, trustee of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, counsel with the firm of Tobias & Kraus, member of the board of directors of the Charter Committee of Greater Cincinnati, trustee of the Legal Aid Society and director emeritus of both the NAACP National Board and the Cincinnati Better Housing League.

Berry married Johnie Mae Newton and raised three children: Faith D. Berry, Gail B. West and Theodore N. Berry.

Nominate a Great Living Cincinnatian

Recipients are selected from candidates by the Cincinnati Chamber’s senior council based on the following criteria: – Community service – Business and civic attainment on a local, state and national or international level – Leadership – Awareness of the needs of others – Distinctive accomplishments that have brought favorable attention to their community, institution or organization