National Secretary-Treasurer Everett Kelley was honored with AFGE’s 2019 Living Legend Award for his decades of leadership and service to the labor movement.
Kelley was the third person to be honored with this award, which is given every year at the P.O.R.T. Leadership Academy, the very training he started when he was national vice president for District 5 and has now been expanded to be co-hosted by other districts. The 2019 P.O.R.T. academy was held in Prince George County, Maryland, earlier this month.
Kelley thanked attendees for honoring him with this award for making a difference in the union. With all the attacks on workers’ rights and attempts to purge federal employee unions, Kelley said AFGE is at a pivotal point.
“Perspective is everything when you’re confronting challenges. Our perspective needs to be one of strength and optimism,” he said in his acceptance speech. “We need to step up our political and legislative work. We need to mobilize. We need to step up our organizing. We need to step up our representation. We need to step up our training and make the necessary changes and focus of the real issues that we face as a union.”
Kelley has been instrumental in the growth of AFGE. After joining the union in 1981 while working at the Anniston Army Depot, he made history by becoming the first African American to serve as president of Local 1945 and helped grow his local from 1,200 members in 2002 to 2,600 in 2010.
As District 5 national vice president, he helped grow the district’s membership from 38,000 to over 51,000 in seven years. Under his leadership, District 5 became the first and only district to have over 50,000 members. He was also the first African American to serve as NVP for District 5.
A native of Goodwater, Alabama, Kelley moved his family to Sylacauga, Alabama, where he graduated from Sylacauga High School. After graduation, he enlisted in the United States Army and served our country for three years. After his military career, Kelley focused on education. He completed an AA at Central Alabama Community College. He then matriculated to Selma University and earned a Bachelor of Theology and Master of Theology at Rushing Springs School of Theology.
Upon graduation, Kelley honored his learning experience by serving as professor at Birmingham Estonian Bible college and Rushing Spring School of Theology. He continued his education and obtained a Doctorate degree in 2016. NST Kelly was the recipient of the Hubert Humphrey Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.
NST Kelley is a board member of Habitat for Humanity Alabama local chapter and served as board member of the Economic Development Council of Calhoun County Alabama, East Alabama Planning Commission, Association of United States Army. He has also served as the senior pastor of St. Mary Missionary Baptist Church for the past 31 years.