Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Life and Legacy of Dr. Yvonne Kennedy

(MOBILE, Ala.)--Often referred to as the “Black Jackie Onassis” for her style and grace, the state of Alabama is mourning the loss of Dr. Yvonne Kennedy who passed away Saturday following a brief illness.  Yvonne Kennedy, known for her eloquent, refined Southern demeanor, passed away exactly one month to the day prior to what would have been her 68th birthday, January 8th.

Her standards of excellence extended beyond the halls of the Alabama legislature. For 25 years, she rose to prominence and became the President for Bishop State Junior College in Mobile and then later the National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. A woman who wore many hats, Dr. Kennedy is also being remembered for her work as past chairwoman of the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus. 
Yvonne Kennedy

Yvonne Kennedy lived in the community she loved and worked hard to become a 'beacon of hope" for the people in her community.  She believed in her community because she was committed to the belief "change comes from the inside-out, not the outside in." Her life was a testimony of her beliefs because she worked hard in expanding the Mobile Community and bringing a quality education, health care and the right to vote to ex-felons incarcerated in the state of Alabama.   

Yvonne Kennedy, a woman Mobile Mayor Sam Jones called a "pillar of the community and will be remembered for her leadership and commitment to the city.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley remembered Kennedy in a tweet. "She was a fine lady who represented her district well," he wrote. Bentley is expected to call a special election in the coming week to fill Kennedy's seat.

A longtime state representative, she was elected to the state house in 1979. Kennedy was the second permanent president of Bishop State Community College, appointed in 1981 after its namesake Sanford D. Bishop, Senior.  She has been credited with overseeing major growth to the campus. She retired from this position amid a financial scandal in 2006.

She will be greatly missed by me and many other Black professional women who always had her as "the best example" of how to be a lady in the mist of a male dominate business and political world.  She was instrumental in giving me an early start in my career as a journalist following high school.  Dr. Yvonne Kennedy also encouraged me to "strive for excellence" in everything and for that I'm eternally grateful.

Dr. Yvonne Kennedy, a tireless servant of the people who rose in the national spotlight, but never forgot where she came from because she never left.  



  1. It has always been a joy and privilege to be around and cover news events involving Dr. Yvonne Kennedy, whom I considered my friend.
    It might interest folks to know this wonderful and dedicated woman, a true servant of the people, passed away exactly one month to the day prior to what would have been her 68th birthday, January 8th. She will be greatly missed by this community of Mobile for her professional talents and abilities as an educator and state legislator, but primarily I believe people will miss her warm smile and genuine ability to demonstrate her care for others, reflecting the love of the Lord in her daily life. I am positive as she entered the gates of His kingdom, she heard His words... "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."

    1. Ron, I know she earned your respect many years ago. Her death came as a shock to me. Her passing is much bigger than Mobile. Here's a woman who adopted, believed and lived the philosophy "each one teach one!" Long after gaining national prominence as the National President for Delta Sigma Theta she could have left The Port City for a larger city. She didn't. She stayed and believed in a "better day" for many of Mobile's underprivileged. I'm sure Dr. Kennedy would appreciate you remembering her good works. Thanks for sharing.

    2. Tennie Lindsey/December 11, 2012December 11, 2012 at 1:25 PM

      I first saw Dr. Yvonne Kennedy in action from a distance at a Delta Sigma Theta Regional Meeting. I was newly initiated into the sorority and was very impressed with Dr. Kennedy and the skillful and professional manner she took charge as the leader she was. When she walked to the podium complete silence. Later, I had the opportunity to meet her up close and personal. Oh, what an experience. With all the characteristic attached to her, she took charge of the situation and dared anyone to stop her. With professionalism, respect from her peers, charm, grace, and knowledge of the situation she removed all obstacles. It was an awesome task but she remained steadfast and unmoveable until the situation was resolved Dr. Kennedy was a "Drum Major" for justice and truth. Her legacy will definitely live on in our hearts. We will always love her.


    3. Please continue to remember Dr. Yvonne Kennedy's good works.
      Statement made in the write up about Dr. Kennedy resignation and financial scandel could have been omitted.
      Please THINK before you write.

    4. Varion, this is a wonderful tribute to such a phenomenal woman. Dr. Kennedy was one of my early inspirations. I did research on her for school years ago. I never forget how she gave me an 8 X 10 photograph of her that I still have to this day. When I rise to speak, I attempt and I mean attempt to speak as eloquently as she did. She was the epitome of a lady with grace, class, beauty and sophistication. Her legacy shall never die!

  2. It is with great sadness my heart is feeling right now after learning the lost of someone who I considered a family member. I am a member of Stewart Memorial C.M.E church family and have been since birth. I am now a 46 year old woman that was born and raised in that church. Every Sunday while preparing to go to church, my siblings and I would ask our mother if “Aunt Yvonne” was going to be at church. To us (at that time) she was bigger than the pastor.
    No matter what she was involved in, she took time out of her busy schedule to make sure the children at Stewart Memorial C.M.E. as well as children in the community was always taken care of. Whether it toys for Christmas or baskets & eggs for Easter; she would personally see that we all had what we thought we needed or wanted.
    I grew up watching her every move. She played a role in my life that is continuing this day. When I was 18 yrs old, I will never forget I was really upset about a situation and I went to her office at S.D. Bishop State to discuss it with her. She sat in her “BIG” chair in her office and listened to me until I was done venting. She told me in her mild matter tone, “Change what you see, by changing how you see”. I didn’t understand what she meant until the situation got resolved. From that day to this one, I use that philosophy and it has allowed me become a better women. I will never, never forget that day.
    For many of us young ladies have watched her over the years as she would gracefully walk across our paths and we wanted to be her. To us, she was our Coretta Scott King. Before Michelle Obama, we had Dr. Yvonne Kennedy.
    Many Mobilians does not know she is the reason we still have the parade on Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd. When it was taken off the “Avenue” she was the Drum Major that marched Downtown Mobile and fought to have it put back in the neighborhoods it was originally for. She was a woman of integrity, resilience, and determination.
    Tears are sometimes an inappropriate response to death. When a life has been lived completely honestly, completely successfully, or just completely, the correct response to death's perfect punctuation mark is a smile.

    Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal. We will forever miss you Dr. Yvonne Kennedy. Thank you for just being you.

  3. Soror Kennedy was very intelligent, hardworking, focused and very honest. She did not take any shortcuts. She applied her Christian beliefs to her work. I remember a Delta National Convention where Soror Canady (another classy lady) was the National President and Soror Kennedy was Vice President. During this meeting, an issue came up and the sorors were debating "intensely". Soror Canady looked to Soror Kennedy. Soror Kennedy approached the podium and just simply and honestly laid out the problem behind the issue. She did not sidestep or attempt to "sugar coat" the issue. After she did this, the whole mood of the auditorium changed and the sorors ended this session singing joyously. I have highly respected her every since.

    Debbie Townsend, Belleville, Illinois