Shobe, Ben

120 minutes
K'Meyer, Tracy
Transcription available:
Civil Rights Movement in Louisville
Series ID:
Interview Number(s):
Ben Shobe was born in 1920 in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He grew up in a rural mountain town called Middlesboro. He earned a bachelor's degree in 1941 from Kentucky State College (now Kentucky State University), a historically black school in Frankfort. During his time at K State, he witnessed the Ku Klux Klan marching through downtown Frankfort and then proceed to burn crosses in view of the campus. After graduating, Shobe attended law school at the University of Michigan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with his law degree in 1946 and returned to Louisville, Kentucky to practice as a trial attorney. He initially joined the practice of his friend, Charles W. Anderson, Jr., who was the first ever black legislature voted to serve in the South. He served as a trial lawyer for many years before being elected as the Judge of the Louisville police court in 1973. In the interview, Shobe mentions some of the cases and issues he worked on during his career. Louisville was an incredibly segregated city during the start of his career and he immediately joined the NAACP and went to work helping to desegregate parts of the city. One such case was the desegregation of the Louisville city parks. He took the case to the U.S. Circuit Court in Cincinnati, Ohio and successful argued that the parks were in fact not “separate but equal” due to the disparity in resources available at the white parks, compared to those available at the single black park in the city. He also recounts various interactions with members of the NAACP, such as Thurgood Marshall and Roy Wilkins, who came to the local Louisville chapter from time to time to go over legal advice and strategy for the segregation cases. Shobe was also involved in various levels on the issues of desegregation at the University of Louisville, the Louisville Bar Association, and the Jefferson County Medical Society.
Civil rights