(Kansas City, Mo. – May 6, 2015) For more than 50 years, Ray Harris Jr. has been a living monument to racial integration in Kansas City.
On May 3, 1960, four years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that bus segregation was illegal, Harris and four others became the first African-Americans to take a seat behind the wheel of a Kansas City bus. Harris is the last survivor of that class of bus drivers, who still faced resentment from some riders angry over efforts to integrate public transportation.
The KCATA on Friday, May 8, will recognize Harris for his place in Kansas City transportation history with an event marking his 90th birthday. His birthday was May 3.
“As we join Ray to celebrate 90 years of life, we honor him for his commitment to sharing his legacy with generations of KCATA employees,” said Cindy Baker, vice president of communications.
Two years ago, Harris received one of KCATA’s first Rosa Parks Spirit Awards, presented to someone who epitomized the courage of the woman who refused to give up her seat to a white passenger and set off a chain of events that led to the historic Supreme Court case integrating public transportation.
The event will run from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the KCATA, 1350 E. 17th St. A formal program will start at noon. It will feature remarks from the KCATA’s President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Reardon and Johnny Walker, president of the Local 1287 of the Amalgamated Transit Union. A reception will be held before and after the program.
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The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority is the largest of the four public transportation providers serving the Greater Kansas City metropolitan region. Created in 1965 through special state legislative action in both Missouri and Kansas, the KCATA today operates a fleet of more than 270 Metro buses providing more than 55,000 customer trips per weekday.
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