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October 25, 2013

Oct. 25, 2013

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Contact: Natalie Lester
Moxley Carmichael
(865) 544-0088


Nichols_Middlebrook_HaslamThe Rev. Harold A. Middlebrook Sr., an iconic civil rights figure, received the prestigious Whitney M. Young Jr. Lifetime Achievement award at the Knoxville Area Urban League’s Equal Opportunity Awards Gala at the Knoxville Convention Center.

“I am grateful to all of those who have come before me, who have struggled,” Dr. Middlebrook said Thursday when accepting the award. “Many have given their lives that we might be able to sit in this place, in this hour and share together without regard to our race, our religion or our background.”

Dr. Middlebrook, 71, a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., witnessed King’s death at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis in 1968. He has dedicated his life to serving as a civil rights leader. Dr. Middlebrook led campaigns for voter registration and employment equality, helped to form the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and worked for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

He moved to Knoxville in 1977 to become pastor of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church. In 1980, Dr. Middlebrook became the founding pastor of Canaan Baptist Church of Christ and has served the church for decades, while continuing to lead the civil rights movement on a local, regional and national level.

“We are so grateful for everything Harold Middlebrook has done for the civil rights movement,” said Knoxville Area Urban League CEO Phyllis Nichols. “From Memphis and Atlanta in his youth to Knoxville for 36 years, he has been a blessing to each community he served.”

The Whitney M. Young Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award is the most prestigious of all Urban League awards and is not presented every year. It is named in honor of the fourth executive director of the National Urban League, Whitney M. Young Jr., who served from 1961 to 1971.

Past winners include Love Kitchen sisters Helen Ashe and Ellen Turner in 2011; and author, historian and former legislator Robert Booker in 2008.

The annual gala is a major fundraiser for the Knoxville Area Urban League and honors community members who have made a significant impact in three categories: Volunteer of the Year, Minority Business and Corporate Leadership. Those winners, respectively, were Alexis L. Goetz of Enterprise Holdings; Helping Hands Home Assistance; and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.

The event always provides top-flight entertainment, and this year’s featured musical guest was jazz artist Boney James. The saxophonist, songwriter, producer and three-time Grammy Award nominee has sold more than three million records. Eight of his 12 albums went to No.1 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart.

The Knoxville Area Urban League, founded in 1968 and an affiliate of the National Urban League, promotes equal opportunities for African-Americans and disadvantaged others. There are more than 100 affiliates of the National Urban League located in 35 states and the District of Columbia providing direct services to more than 2 million people nationwide through programs, advocacy and research.

For more information on the Knoxville Area Urban League and its programs, call 865-524-5511 or visit