Strangers to Us All
Lawyers and Poetry

K. Leroy Irvis


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Thursday, March 16, 2006

K. Leroy Irvis served as Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1977-78 and again in 1983-88. During his 30-year tenure as a state lawmaker, he held a number of leadership positions, including Democratic majority leader (six years) and minority leader (four years). Irvis was the first African American to be elected Speaker of a state legislative body. He was a teacher, lawyer and poet.

Philadelphia Daily News, March 17, 2006, Obituary:

Irvis was born in Saugerties, a small village in New York's Hudson River Valley. He became only the second black to attend New York State Teachers College, where he studied history and English and graduated magna cum laude.

In 1939, he received his master's degree in teaching from the University of New York at Albany.

He began his teaching career in the Baltimore public schools. During World War II, his teaching was interrupted to serve as civilian attache to the War Department, where he taught aircraft riveting.

In 1945, Irvis moved to Pittsburgh to direct public relations for the Urban League.

He organized the first demonstration against downtown Pittsburgh department stores for their discriminatory hiring practices against blacks.

He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh Law School in 1951. In 1957, he became the first black in Allegheny County to be appointed assistant district attorney.

He was elected to the House from Pittsburgh's 19th Legislative District in 1958, and his political career began.

. . . .

Temple University has published 58 of his poems in a volume titled, "This Land of Fire."

K. Leroy Irvis