Kenneth O. Stratton

Stratton, Kenneth O.

Kenneth O. Stratton was born on December 18, 1927. He was the youngest of six children born to Christopher C. and Bessie Furrell Stratton, Sr. He completed his elementary and high school requirements in Elkville, Illinois. In 1945, he enlisted in the United States Army, where he served for two years and earned the World War II Victory Medal.

Kenneth married Genevieve Reid on December 28, 1946, in Champaign. Together, they had three sons.

Mr. Stratton received his bachelor's degree in 1950 and his master’s degree in 1952 from the University of Illinois. During 33-year long career with the Champaign Unit 4 School District, Kenneth served as both a teacher and an administrator. He also served as president of the Champaign Education Association. In 1961, Stratton was elected the first African American council member in the City of Champaign.

Mr. Stratton was active in many civic, social, and political organizations. He was past master of Lone Star Lodge #18, past Exhaulted Ruler of Elk Lodge #619, past adjutant of William F. Ernest Post #559 of the American Legion, has served on the Board of Directors of the United Way, and has served on the Frances Nelson Home Board. He was a charter member of the Don Moyer Boys Club and the Champaign County Urban League. He was also past president of Champaign Education Association and was delegated to the National Education Association meeting in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Denver, Colorado. In 1961, he was elected the first African American councilman in the City of Champaign and was one of the first African Americans elected at large in the United States. In 1965-66, he was promoted to president of the Champaign Education Association, and was tasked to develop the first contract between teachers and the school boards in the United States. 

Mr. Stratton was active in the civil rights movement in many capacities. He was active in the organization for integration in the Champaign School System, integration in the Housing Authority and integration of Burnham Hospital (now Covenant Medical Center). He was also involved in the hiring of minority clerks for Downtown Champaign Stores. He was a member of the Black Coalition for Equal Opportunity Employment. Stratton Elementary School was named in his honor.

Mr. Stratton was a member of the Champaign County Community Foundation and a member of Bethel A.M.E. Church, serving as a trustee for many years. He was also one of the founders and a chartered member of the Thursday Night Supper Club.

Kenneth O. Stratton passed away on October 21, 1991. He is survived by his wife, Genevieve Reid Stratton, their three sons, Kenneth O. Stratton, II, Leslie H. Stratton, and Dennis A. Stratton, four sisters, three grandchildren, one aunt, and many nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.