Friday, February 22, 2008

It's the Kenneth T. Whalum Sr. Post Office Building Now

Posted By on Fri, Feb 22, 2008 at 4:00 AM

In a ceremony at City Hall on Friday morning, the main Memphis post office building at 555 South 3rd St. was formally redesignated in honor of the late Kenneth T. Whalum Sr., pastor emeritus of Olivet Baptist Church, former city councilman, and longtime official of the U.S. Postal Service.

Presiding over the dedication was 9th District congressman Steve Cohen, who introduced the enabling legislation, H.R. 2587, that became law on October 24 of last year, one day after the death of Rev. Whalum. Among the others taking part in the ceremony were Memphis mayor Willie Herenton; city councilman Myron Lowrey, Memphis postmaster Tom Pawlowski, Olivet Fellowship Baptist Church senior pastor Rev. Eugene Gibson, Jr., and Brenda Dupree of A-Plus, a postal workers’ organization.

On hand to represent the late honoree were his widow, Rose Whalum, and sons Kevin, Kirk, and Kenneth Jr.

In his remarks made on the floor of Congress, Cohen had noted the unusual fact that few post office buildings had been named for postal employees. “Most are named for political figures, war heroes. Kenneth Whalum was a political figure, a clergyman of great renown, but also a man who spent a career in the postal service and was respected by the rank-and-file and rose to prominence in the postal service.”

That same theme was alluded to at Friday’s ceremony by Cohen and the other speakers. When he was named director of the Postal Service’s Office of Personnel in the South in 1968, the Rev. Whalum became the first African-American to hold that position, and several of the speakers noted his efforts on behalf of diversifying the postal ranks.

As Dupree said, the late honoree’s name was something of an acronym: “Working Hard At Lifting Up Minorities.” When it came his time to speak, postmaster Pawlowski suggested that the acronym might well end up appended to the bottom of the plague that henceforth will greet visitors to the main post office.

After the unveiling of the plague on the City Hall stage, Kenneth Whalum Jr. accepted it on behalf of the family and threw a verbal bouquet at Cohen for his sponsorship of the dedication and re-naming. Whalum, pastor of New Olivet Baptist Church and a city school board member, called Cohen “the embodiment of the word ‘representative’” and announced his support for the congressman as “my man” in the 2008 congressional race.

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