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Ora Higgins

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Information about Ora Higgins

Profile image of Ora Higgins

Profession

Category:
CivicMakers
Occupation(s):
Personnel Manager

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Pink
Favorite Food:
Oatmeal
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Washington, D.C.
Favorite Quote:
The Lord is my shepherd, and I shall not want.

Birthplace

Born:
9/24/1910
Birth Location:
Birmingham, Alabama

Profession

Category:
CivicMakers
Occupation(s):
Personnel Manager

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Pink
Favorite Food:
Oatmeal
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Washington, D.C.
Favorite Quote:
The Lord is my shepherd, and I shall not want.

Birthplace

Born:
9/24/1910
Birth Location:
Birmingham
See how Ora Higgins is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1910, Ora Higgins was a pioneer in integrating businesses. After moving to Chicago to earn her B.A. degree in personnel administration and her M.A. degree in business law from Northwestern University, Higgins set out on a career that would open doors for countless African Americans.

Higgins went to work for Spiegel, one of the largest mail order retail businesses in the world, after earning her degrees. In 1945, Spiegel began a comprehensive integration of its facilities, and Higgins was placed in charge of the program. In this position, Higgins became the first African American woman to engineer a major industrial integration program. Higgins began her work by initiating an education program for executives and supervisors, helping to break down stereotypes and assuage any fears they might have. From there, she began to manage the personnel, numbering in the hundreds, covering hiring, training, and any problems employees might experience. Spiegel's integration program was complete in every way, paying the same wages to all employees, regardless of race, utilizing the same facilities; she would remain with the company for thirty-one years. In 1950, Higgins was brought in to consult and engineer an integration program for various department stores in the Chicago Loop, the financial and business center of the city. During President Lyndon Johnson's administration, Higgins spoke before the United States Department of Labor on race, poverty, and the need for peace.

In addition to her years of service to Spiegel and her work with integration programs, Higgins was active on a number of organizations and committees. Higgins was a member of the Women's Division of the National Conference of Christians and Jews; the National Chairman of Women in Industry; and a member of the Executive Board of the Metropolitan YWCA. Higgins was also a member of the faculty of Dunbar Vocational Evening School. Clark Atlanta University named a scholarship on Higgins's behalf, and the state of Illinois declared October 27, 2002, Ora Higgins's Youth Foundation Day. In September of 2009, Ora Higgins was honored upon the occasion of her ninety-ninth birthday; at that time she counted a daughter, eighteen grandchildren, and one great-grandchild, among her descendants.

Ora Higgins was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 29, 2003.

Ora Higgins passed away on July 25, 2012.

See how Ora Higgins is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ora Higgins interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ora Higgins's favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ora Higgins talks about her mother's background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ora Higgins talks about her father's background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ora Higgins lists her siblings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ora Higgins remembers her childhood neighborhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ora Higgins discusses her elementary school experiences
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ora Higgins recalls an influential trip with a teacher to Washington, D.C.
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ora Higgins names motivational speakers she heard in Chicago
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Ora Higgins discusses her high school career
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Ora Higgins lists colleges she attended
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ora Higgins explains her late night study habits in high school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ora Higgins discusses her college education
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ora Higgins remembers when blacks could not get jobs in downtown Chicago stores
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ora Higgins talks about volunteering with the Urban League to convince business leaders to integrate
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ora Higgins details how she organized the racial integration of Spiegel
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ora Higgins recalls working as national integration organizer for Spiegel and as an integration consultant for other companies
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ora Higgins talks about recruiting black students for Spiegel Inc.
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ora Higgins talks about the social climate at Spiegel, Inc.
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ora Higgins explains her strategy for recruiting employees
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ora Higgins recalls her experineces at Northwestern University
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ora Higgins discusses working twenty-six years as a night school teacher
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ora Higgins talks about the Ora Higgins Youth Foundation and her other volunteer work since retirement
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ora Higgins shares her hopes and concerns for the black community
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ora Higgins remembers highlights from her political activism work in Washington, D.C.
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ora Higgins recites her poetry
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ora Higgins considers her legacy
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Photo - Ora Higgins, Miss Woods, and an unidentified woman, ca. 1980s.
  • Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Photo - Ora Higgins and Mrs. Spiegel, 1980s
  • Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Photo - Ora Higgins, ca. 1980s
  • Tape: 3 Story: 13 - Photo - Ora Higgins with Ora Higgins Youth Foundation scholarship recipients, late 1970s
  • Tape: 3 Story: 14 - Photo - Ora Higgins's former employer M.J Spiegel, Aaron Payne and Henry McGee, ca. 1980s
  • Tape: 3 Story: 15 - Photo - Ora Higgins and an Ora Higgins Youth Foundation scholarship award recipient, not dated
  • Tape: 3 Story: 16 - Photo - Ora Higgins with Father George Clements and Marion Hall (ph.), ca. 1980s
  • Tape: 3 Story: 17 - Photo - U.S. Congressman Bobby Rush, Ora Higgins's son and an unidentified woman, not dated
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Photo - Crowd shot at an Ora Higgins Youth Foundation event, Lexington House, Hickory Hills, Illinois, ca. 1990
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Photo - Ora Higgins at an Ora Higgins Youth Foundation event held at the Lexington House, Hickory Hills, Illinois, 1999
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Photo - Ora Higgins with Ora Higgins Youth Foundation scholarship award recipients and board members, ca. 1990s
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Photo - Ora Higgins with an Ora Higgins Youth Foundation scholarship recipient, Hickory Hills, Illinois, 2001
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Photo - Ora Higgins with Ora Higgins Youth Foundation's treasurer and a scholarship winner, not dated
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Photo - Ora Higgins with Ora Higgins Youth Foundation's treasurer, ca. 1990s
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Photo - Silas Parnell speaking at an Ora Higgins Youth Foundation event, not dated
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Photo - Ora Higgins's father, ca. 1950s
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Photo - Ora Higgins's husband, ca. 1950s
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Photo - Ora Higgins, ca. 1926
  • Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Photo - Ora Higgins and her husband's wedding photo, not dated
  • Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Photo - Ora Higgins with Muriel Duster (ph.), William Higgins, Jr., and unidentified man, ca. 1990s
  • Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Photo - Ora Higgins with her nephew, not dated
  • Tape: 4 Story: 14 - Photo - Painting of Ora Higgins shaking hands with Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s, painted 1981