1937 – 2017
Joelouis Mattox’s dream as a young man was to teach high school history. Military service altered his course, but history — the pursuit and preservation of Kansas City’s African American past — remained a lifelong calling. Named for Joe Louis, the boxing champion he would come to regard as a hero, Mattox was raised in segregated Caruthersville in southeast Missouri in the 1940s and ’50s.
He studied history and government at Lincoln University in Jefferson City before being drafted into the U.S. Army Signal Corps in 1962. Discharged four years later, he settled in the Kansas City to pursue a career in community development, housing management, and historic preservation. He also emerged as one of the city’s leading champions of African American history, tirelessly researching events and individuals, fighting to save local landmarks, speaking at libraries and other venues, and serving as historian for a number of agencies and organizations, including American Legion Wayne Miner Post 149. The Jackson County Historical Society gave Mattox its Cultural Heritage Award in 2007. A year later, he received the President’s Volunteer Service Award. And in 2014, Kansas City’s Human Relations Department honored him with the Martin Luther King Jr. Spirit of Unity Award.