Hortense Houston Young
Died: May 20, 1977
Born in Texas, Hortense Houston Young moved to Louisville in 1929 after marrying Dr. C. Milton Young. She was a graduate of Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., and the University of Illinois.
From 1936 to 1943 she worked as a librarian at the Louisville Municipal College, Louisville's college for Blacks. She wrote a column for the Louisville Leader called Tense's Topics and acted as city editor for the paper. She resigned from her Louisville Municipal College position to become a feature writer for the Louisville Defender.
Politics and Civic Work
Mrs. Young actively participated in local politics and civic activities, particularly in relation to education. She ran for the Louisville Board of Education in 1944, 1946, 1950, and 1966. While she never won, she got her issues in front of people by talking at local events and at candidate forums.
Hortense Young served on numerous boards and committees. As a member of the Education Committee of the Jefferson County Sunday School Association, Hortense advocated for Black citizens to be involved in the course development of the new Central High School and stressed the importance of providing for trade courses. When the new high school opened, Hortense was elected president of its Parent-Teacher Association.
She was elected president of the Young Woman's Christian Association Wheatley Branch in 1955. She also served on Mayor Cowger's Human Relations Commission, and was elected as chair of its Education Committee.In 1960 Governor Combs appointed Mrs. Young to a special commission on education.
In 1947 the Lincoln Institute gave her the Key Award for outstanding service in educating Blacks in Kentucky. Similarly, the Louisville Urban League gave her its Equality Award in 1976 for her work on improving human and civil rights.
Real Estate Broker and Development
Hortense and her husband, Dr. C. Milton Young started Young Enterprises, Inc., a real estate development firm led by Hortense focused on building housing for Black Louisvillians. A major project involved buying Grand Avenue Homes from the City of Louisville. The property at 38th Street and Grand Avenue had served as temporary housing project for Black veterans returning from World War II. The City sold the property contingent on the current buildings being razed and replaced with new apartments for Black tenants. Young Enterprises bought the 3-acre site from the City of Louisville in July 1955, but various issues with zoning and title meant that the City didn't provide them the deed until March 1956. They planned a 52-unit apartment building, but ran into mortgage lending practices that affected many Black people in 1950s Louisville. The best financing they could find required them to pay $32,000 up front. They were able to refinance the project under Section 220 of the National Housing Act underwrote 90 percent of the total cost of urban renewal projects via the Federal Housing Authority. The FHA insured $391,000 of the mortgage and Young Enterprises was able to offer Black families two-bedroom apartments from $70 to $80 per month. Hortense said they'd received 40 applications more than a month in advance of the apartments being ready and that the apartments would not begin to satisfy the need for housing of Black Louisvillians.
In 1956 Hortense took and passed the state real estate examination that licensed her in Kentucky. In 1959 she began trying to join the Louisville Real Estate Board. They did not send her an application until 1963. Her applications were rejected by the Board twice. The 340-member board had no Black members. However, in 1963, the National Association of Real Estate Brokers elected her president.
Daughter Yvonne Young Clark
Hortense's daughter Yvonne (Young Clark) dreamt of aeronautics, but when it came time for her to go to college in 1951 racism stood in her way. She applied to the University of Louisville, but because of Kentucky's Day Law which prohibited teaching two races in the same institution, she was rejected. Yvonne instead attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. where she graduated with honors as the only woman in a class of 300 men — the first woman at the University to finish a degree in mechanical engineering. She went on to claim a number of firsts, including: first Black female to work at RCA, first woman to teach engineering at Tennessee State University, and first Black woman in the Society of Women Engineers. In the summers when she wasn't teaching at TSU, Yvonne Clark worked at a number of government and industry positions, including working for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.