Mayor Joe Meyer hands Bennie Doggett her proclamation during a ceremony held at the addition under construction at The Victorian at Riverside, where she now lives.
Social justice advocate Doggett honored for service to Covington residents
COVINGTON, Ky. – Back in the day, the woman known simply as Miss Bennie was a thorn in the side of the City of Covington.
But today, leaders there awarded her a ceremonial Key to the City for her service, plus a framed certificate officially proclaiming today as “Bennie Doggett Day” in Covington.
“Oh my goodness, this is beautiful,” gushed Doggett said about the socially distanced ceremony, which was attended by a handful of family, friends, and former “co-workers” (with a larger audience tuning in via handheld electronic devices).
“She is truly the embodiment of the Christian scripture: Romans 12:9-11 ‘Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor ...’ ” Mayor Joe Meyer said, reading from the proclamation.
As the social services director for nearly 20 years for the now-defunct Northern Kentucky Community Center located in the Eastside neighborhood, Doggett developed a reputation as the person to see if you had an issue, concern, or quarrel with any government agency, a utility, a health-care provider, the court system, or any bureaucratic organization … or if you needed a lawyer, money, food, counseling, or health care … or if you needed help filling out forms or finding a job.
Doggett – an entrepreneur who also owned Personal Touch women’s clothing shop on Madison Avenue – spent decades fighting for justice, equal treatment, and dignity for Covington residents.
And she did it with courage, persistence, and downright stubbornness.
“I just don’t have a spirit of fear and never have,” Doggett told author Steve Flairty for his 2008 book, “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes.”
Among those in today’s crowd were two former newspaper reporters with The Kentucky Post who used to write about Miss Bennie’s efforts on behalf of the disenfranchised and vulnerable. One of those reporters was quoted in Flairty’s book saying this: “Bennie Doggett has spent a lifetime being a sort of untrained social worker, lawyer and ombudswoman/problem solver for poor people in Covington’s African-American Eastside neighborhood. She’s a gem, a fighter and stubborn.”
Now 77, Miss Bennie lives at The Victorian at Riverside (formerly the Covington Ladies Home).
Calling her a “civil rights hero,” officials at the residence for senior women had long wanted to honor Doggett for her lifetime of service to the community. Given that Doggett is a member of the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame and was appointed to the former Kentucky Martin Luther King Jr. Commission by then-Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton, they decided that Black History Month was a good time to do it. CEO Carrie VanDerzee said.
Doggett was previously named an Outstanding Woman of Northern Kentucky and one of 100 Kentucky Women of Distinction by the Girl Scouts of Kentucky’s Wilderness Road Council. She was also active at Ninth Street Baptist Church and the O.A.S.I.S. outreach center.
These days, she serves as a self-appointed and active “ambassador” to new residents at The Victorian who sometimes feel anxious when they move in, VanDerzee said.
“If she sees someone new, she takes them under her wing and shows them around,” VanDerzee said. “She’s just so comforting to people.”
True to form, Miss Bennie had hugs for all at the ceremony. “Oh we used to cause trouble,” she told one of the former Post reporters. “I’m still ready.”
# # #