Chattanoogans know the story of Ed Johnson. But in 1906, while on trial, Johnson’s father asked a young, black attorney to serve as his son’s lawyer.
His name was Styles L. Hutchins.
Hutchins relocated from Georgia to Chattanooga in 1881 and opened his own law practice at the age of 29. He also served in the Tennessee state legislature and helped start and edit the first newspaper owned and operated solely by African-American men in Chattanooga — The Independent Age.
Long before Chattanooga was dubbed the City of Creators, Styles Hutchins was creating a lasting career path here for himself.
Earlier this year, Mayor Andy Berke held a focus group with the Black Student Alliance at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. During that meeting, students described a mix of outcomes for black students in their class — some felt disconnected from the amenities that Chattanooga has to offer. Others had the good fortune to be connected to a mentor that helped them decide where to put down roots. They all had ideas on how to strengthen Chattanooga’s ability to retain diverse talent.
The Office of Mayor Andy Berke and our partners, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and The Urban League of Greater Chattanooga, want to do just that in a way that honors Mr. Hutchins’ legacy — the pursuit of equity and justice, leadership, and an entrepreneurial spirit — by establishing a Fellowship for African-Americans that will create a successful path for themselves and others to come.
“Young African-American talent should be able to thrive in Chattanooga,” Mayor Berke said. “We want to be one part of a larger support system that helps them find success and stability in our community.”
The Styles L. Hutchins Diverse Talent Retention Fellowship will mark Chattanooga as a city where diverse talent can create a prosperous future after college and thrive as professionals. Potential candidates for the Fellowship are black undergraduate students in the second semester of their junior year, any semester of their senior year, or first-year graduate students and must be in good standing with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
“To improve our success rate for recruiting and retaining African American talent in early-career stages, our community will continue to support and encourage efforts like these,” said Christy Gillenwater, President and CEO, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. “We look forward to continuing our work to level the playing field to create upward economic mobility for all.”
Candidates should also possess a specific passion for diversity, equity and inclusion and enjoy civic involvement. Fellows will receive $15 per hour for a 16-week period and up to $400 for travel and professional development reimbursement. The selected college fellows will work with the Mayor’s Office, the Chamber and The Urban League to launch high-caliber research and outcomes-based project to identify and implement strategies to help attract, recruit and retain early career black talent in Chattanooga.
“For interested students, ‘The Styles L. Hutchins Fellowship’ represents an awesome opportunity to help build the foundation for Chattanooga becoming a city of choice where economic opportunity and avenues of growth potential for people of color is evident throughout all aspects of the community,” said Warren E. Logan, Jr., President and CEO of The Urban League of Greater Chattanooga. “Successful applicants will be able to look back one day and say, I helped to rebuild this City into an oasis of inclusion and diversity. ”
“I am incredibly excited that a Fellowship will be named in honor Styles L. Hutchins. Mayor Berek’s genuine commitment to retaining black talent while preserving Mr. Hutchin’s legacy is truly commendable,” said LaFredrick Thirkill, co-chair, The Ed Johnson Project. “Over the last 20 years, I have been blessed to witness our city’s progress towards racial reconciliation. The creation of this Fellowship guarantees the opportunity for more black students to participate in the Chattanooga dream.”
This part-time experience will help Fellows build connections throughout the city and encourage creative problem-solve in a collaborative and real-world environment. Additionally, Fellows will help to broaden participation of black professionals in city government for policy, research, and leadership development experiences while contributing to city-wide initiatives such as Velocity 2040, ULGC Young Professionals and The Chattanooga Dream.
Applications for the Fall 2019 cohort are now open. For more information about the Fellowship and to apply, visit cha.city/styles.