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Steve C.
Democrat TN 9

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  • Congratulating Jocelyn (Jocie) Wurzburg on Receiving the 2014 Be the Dream Mlk Legacy Award

    by Representative Steve Cohen

    Posted on 2014-01-16

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    COHEN of tennessee in the house of representatives Thursday, January 16, 2014 Mr. COHEN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate Jocelyn (Jocie) Wurzburg on receiving the 2014 Be the Dream MLK Legacy Award. This special award is given to those individuals whose lives have ``embodied the spirit and legacy of service, sacrifice and hope'' that characterized the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As a women's rights and civil rights activist, it is fitting that this award be bestowed upon Jocelyn Wurzburg in recognition of her accomplishments and contributions.

    Jocelyn Wurzburg was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1940, and received her B.A. in sociology and anthropology from Rhodes College in 1965. While she had always been keenly aware of injustices toward minority groups, it was not until the assassination of Dr. King in 1968 that Jocie became moved to take a stand. Later that year, she founded the Memphis Chapter of the Panel of American Women to ``discuss the nature of prejudice and the effects it has on our fellow citizens.'' Over the course of 10 years, the panel met with over 100,000 people and slowly changed attitudes on race in Memphis.

    Jocie was also important in helping to prevent a second sanitation strike in Memphis. She and a group of women organized as the Concerned Women of Memphis and Shelby County (CWMSC) to encourage the City Council and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) to ``negotiate in good faith to avoid a strike.'' While city officials at the time denied CWMSC's role in preventing a strike, Rhodes College history professor Gail Murray says that the city negotiated on all the terms set forth by CWMSC. Then AFSCME national director, Jerry Wurf, confided in Jocelyn, saying that it was CWMSC that warded off a second strike.

    In 1971, Jocelyn was appointed by Governor Winfield Dunn to the Tennessee Human Rights Commission (THRC) and immediately began working on language that became the Tennessee Human Rights Act, which passed the Tennessee General Assembly in 1978. This was the first anti- discrimination law in the state of Tennessee covering employment, housing and public accommodations, and it gave THRC the power to investigate, mediate and litigate claims of discrimination for the first time. She was reappointed to the commission in 2007 by Governor Phil Bredesen.

    After Jocie successfully worked to avoid a second sanitation strike and pass the Tennessee Human Rights Act, she received her J.D. from the University of Memphis School of Law in 1979, and worked to negotiate marital dissolution agreements. Inspired by the belief that mediation was an effective way to avert crises, she gained over 600 hours of Mediation Training and opened Memphis' first mediation firm in 1984. She established the Mediation Association of Tennessee and it has since spread statewide. Her clients include the Shelby County Government, United States Postal Service, the EEOC Panel and the Department of Justice ADA Claims.

    Jocelyn Wurburg has received numerous appointments and awards throughout her career, including an appointment to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and an appointment by President Gerald Ford to the U.S. Commission for the Observance of International Women's Year. There is no doubt that her work is worthy of this award named after Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Mr. Speaker, I ask all of my colleagues to join me in congratulating Jocelyn (Jocie) Wurzburg on being awarded the 2014 Be the Dream MLK Legacy Award.


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