Edith Finlayson’s name is synonymous with community and civic service and evidence of that is the number of organizations that have scholarships named in her honor, from the Links, Inc., of which she was an active member, to Milwaukee Area Technical College. Finlayson worked long and hard to help those less fortunate whether it was assisting as a volunteer at the EB Phillips Child Care Center, or advocating on behalf of women and children. Since 2003, through a partnership with the Fellowship Open and Quarles and Brady Law Firm, the Edith Norman Finlayson award was established which provides a monetary gift to a non-profit organization as part of the award process.
Finlayson was a visionary who used her talents, experiences and resources in education, business, health, women’s and children’s issues, politics and philanthropy to make a difference in the city of Milwaukee.
A champion of social justice and former member of the UW System Board of Regents, Finlayson has passed on, but her legacy remains in Milwaukee in the form of scholarships and awards that bear her name.
She was appointed to the board by former Gov. Lee Sherman Dreyfus and served from 1980-87. She chaired the board’s Education Committee, was instrumental in enhancing UW-Milwaukee’s doctoral programs and helped establish the Leon Sullivan Distinguished Professorship at UWM.
Finlayson was also a founding member of the National Organization for Women; served as a board member of AWARE, a Wisconsin African Relief Effort; and was board chairman of the Milwaukee Foundation.
Always a pioneer, Finlayson also started an investment club, which is made up mainly of black women. The club was sponsored by North Milwaukee State Bank, where her husband, Dr. Dr. William Finlayson, was a founding member and served as board chairman for many years.
Dr. Wesley Scott was a key leader and visionary in Milwaukee during the tumultuous civil rights movement of the 1960s. He helped to open doors of opportunity for African-Americans and improved the lives of all the underserved in the Milwaukee community.
Born in the mountains of Eckman, West Virginia, the oldest of 18 children, Dr. Scott fought his way out of poverty after studying at Bluefield State College and later transferring to Xavier University in New Orleans, where he earned his Bachelor’s degree. After a stint in the U.S. Army, where he served in the South Pacific during World War II, Dr. Scott married the former Mary Robinson in 1947 and then returned to school, earning a master’s degree in social work from Ohio State University. Dr. Scott served as executive director of the Massillon, Ohio Urban League before coming to Milwaukee where he served as the Milwaukee Urban League’s deputy executive director in 1958, and went on to become executive director a year later—a position he held for 23 years. After retiring, Dr. Scott worked as a consultant to the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. Dr. Scott was a pioneer who sought to bridge the gap between the power structure of the community and the Black community, and to advance the Black community. He fought hard and tirelessly for civil rights, education and employment opportunities on behalf of disenfranchised populations. Recently ribbon-cutting ceremonies were held for an 80-apartment, $10 million senior development community, named in Dr. Scott’s honor—The Dr. Wesley Scott Senior Living Community. The development is a partnership between the Urban League and Gorman & Co. A bronze bust, created in the likeness of Dr. Scott is housed at the senior living facility. It’s fitting that a bronze bust was commissioned in his honor, because it serves as a tangible reminder of one man who made a difference in our community.
Martha Toran and her husband were once co-owners of one of the most popular night spots in town—Toran’s Tropical Hut—or Toran’s as it was affectionately called. For years everybody flocked there for lunch, happy hour and on the weekends to meet and greet the movers and shakers in the community. Toran’s was strictly for adults, not the teeny boppers. After her husband died, Martha closed up Toran’s and never looked back. She found another niche—that of community activist—and it’s a role she continues to play today.
At 70-something, Toran remains active in political campaigns, voter registration, senior citizen rights and numerous other activities throughout Wisconsin. While the years have slowed her step some, her vision is as clear and focused as ever. A self-described “senior citizen community activist” and chair of the Central City Transit Task Force Toran is also a staunch supporter of light rail, and has had the pleasure of serving as a delegate at National Democratic Conventions.
On occasion, she rents a scooter to participate in activities to make sure her legs don’t give out while she’s waiting to be heard, picket or stand in line for one event or another. She is active with the NAACP and serves on the City of Milwaukee Ethics Board, and other committees too numerous to name.
Toran may have ended a career as a Milwaukee business owner, but on the second leg of her life’s journey she has truly found her voice—and she makes sure it’s heard as she represents the disenfranchised.