Mae Street Kidd : biography
Mae Jones Street Kidd (February 8, 1904 – October 20, 1999) was an innovative businesswoman, a civic leader, and a skilled politician during a time when both her gender and her inter-racial background made such accomplishments more difficult than they would be today. She had a distinguished career in public relations, served in the Red Cross during World War II, and was a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1968 to 1984, representing Louisville’s 41st state legislative district.
During her tenure in elective office, she was known for her sponsorship of landmark legislation. House Bill No. 27 which became law in 1972 created the Kentucky Housing Corporation (KHC) which promotes and finances low-income housing in the state. In 1974, this particular bill was officially designated as the "Mae Street Kidd Act."
Representative Kidd also led the campaign for Kentucky to ratify the United States Constitution’s 13th Amendment (abolishing slavery), 14th Amendment (defining citizenship) and 15th Amendment (granting all men the right to vote regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude). Known collectively as the "Reconstruction Amendments," all three of those constitutional amendments had become law shortly after the conclusion of the Civil War when a sufficient number of lawmakers in other states had ratified them. Representative Kidd offered and secured a resolution in 1976 of a resolution to ratify the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People presented to her its Unsung Heroine Award at a National NAACP Women’s Conference, and she received a Louisville Mayor’s Citation for Outstanding Community Service. She has also received a Top Ten Outstanding Kentuckians Award; and the Humanitarian Service Award from the United Cerebral Palsy Association.
Two years later, at the dawn of a new civil rights era with federal laws barring racial discrimination in all forms, Kidd was invited by a number of Louisville Democrats to run for a seat in the House of Representatives in Kentucky General Assembly. She declined several times, but her husband thought it would be a good opportunity for her talents. So Kidd agreed, and won her first election after campaigning with a carload of neighborhood children, who helped her pass out flyers nightly in different sections of her Louisville district. "Their youth and energy boosted me when I was exhausted," she recalled. "They liked riding in my car and meeting people and being part of an important project."
Elected that fall, Kidd went to Frankfort and took her seat in Kentucky’s General Assembly. She was one of just three African-Americans in the legislature at the time. The first bill she sponsored prohibited racial discrimination in housing. After several of Kentucky’s cities passed their own local open-housing legislation in 1966 and 1967, Kidd worked with Senator Georgia Davis Powers and Representative Hughes McGill to introduce the Kentucky Fair Housing Act to the Kentucky General Assembly. Kidd’s bill passed in 1968, making Kentucky the first Southern state to enact such laws on its own.
In the early 1970s, she sponsored a low-income housing bill that created a state agency to provide low-interest mortgages to first-time home buyers. Kidd struggled for some time to get this bill passed, and only with the election of a new governor in 1972 did she finally succeed in seeing it signed into law. She also sponsored a proposal to make the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. an official state holiday. In her career in Kentucky’s General Assembly, Representative Kidd’s "firsts" also included being the first female on the Rules Committee.
Re-elected until 1984, when she lost after her district was gerrymandered several times, Kidd made civil rights her focus. In the mid-1970s she learned about a little-known historical quirk—Kentucky had never ratified the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. These abolished slavery, and gave U.S. citizenship and the vote to African Americans. It was a symbolic oversight, and Kidd was determined to correct it. She launched a campaign in 1976 to have the amendments officially ratified, and it passed unanimously. "It was especially important to me because I am a proud Kentuckian, and I didn’t want that blot to remain on our history," she wrote in her memoir. Kidd also introduced a bill to make Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday an official state holiday.