Lexington East End activist named 2022 Community Champion

Lexington East End activist named 2022 Community Champion
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 4:36 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Decades of commitment were recognized in Lexington on Tuesday as Thomas Tolliver was awarded this year’s Lexington Community Champion.

The ceremony was Tuesday morning in Charles Young Park in the city’s East End. Its location is fitting for a man like Tolliver, who’s dedicated the last 28 years to uncovering the community’s history.

“One of the things I’ve worked on and been passionate about in the East End is uncovering and celebrating this neighborhood’s rich history,” Tolliver said.

He moved to Lexington in the summer of 1994.

“Within two or three months of moving here I was just bitten by that history bug,” Tolliver said.

Since then, he’s spent the last 28 years researching and uncovering history in the neighborhood, making it his mission to bring that history to the surface -- and honor people in the community.

He was instrumental in helping to get the Isaac Murphy Art Garden built. It sits on East Third Street, with a 16-foot-tall stainless steel piece of art at the center.

“I say that my impact on the neighborhood stretches from the Lyric Theatre to the art garden,” Tolliver said.

At the Lyric Theatre, a brick sits outside honoring Tolliver.

“It says ‘Thomas Tolliver East End Activist,’” he said.

Because of the work he’s done, the city of Lexington recognized him as the 2022 Lexington Community Champion. The award is founded by American in Bloom Lexington, and awards people who serve their communities, bringing positive news to light.

“Is it all negative news? No, there’s a lot of good going on in our community,” Tolliver said.

The organization will plant a daffodil drift of 1,000 bulbs on Shropshire Avenue for Tolliver. They’ll be planted this November.

“Their life is short, but they give us an immense beauty while they’re here and you can’t not recognize them, and I’m honored to be awarded with a daffodil drift. I can’t think of a more appropriate award,” Tolliver said.

Tolliver knows he won’t be here forever and hopes someone new steps up and takes over the work he’s done.

Last year, late Councilmember Jake Gibbs was the city’s community champion.