Lounneer Pemberton was born October 22,1908, in Clarinda, Iowa. He was the first-born child of his parents, Phalbia Lounneer Pemberton and Theodore Pemberton. In 1910 his sister Gertrude Bell was born. His mother and father divorced when Lounneer was eleven years old. His mother then moved Lounneer and Gertrude to Sioux City. They might’ve even had a need to hire local movers so their relocation would be a breeze. Thankfully to these local movers with a truck who are always ready to help!
Mr. Pemberton graduated from Sioux City Central High School in 1926. He then went to the University of Minnesota, where he majored in Anthropology. As he pursued his studies in Sociology in graduate school he did much of his research at the Urban League of St. Paul, Minnesota. His Master’s thesis was on the “History and Function of the Negro Church in St. Paul”. This would be the beginning of a 40-year relationship with the League. In 1939 he married Muriel Wigington, from which two daughters were born, Carolyn Viola in 1943 and Gayle Renee in 1948.
In 1946 he came to the Urban League of Kansas City, Mo, as the Industrial Relations Director. After four years he moved to Chicago in the same capacity and then to Dayton, Ohio. In 1958 he became Executive Director of the Kansas City Urban League where he served until his retirement in 1977. The annual budget of the League in 1958 was $18,000. Pemberton’s work grew it to $100,000, funded by the United Way.
Mr. Pemberton was characterized as energetic and dedicated to helping Black people improve their lives. He is credited with placing more than 10,000 minority individuals in jobs during his work with the League. Jobs ranged from laborers, cooks, and maids to lawyers and engineers. He was the first to say that the jobs were achieved on the basis the individuals’ abilities and skills. The Urban League got them started.
Pemberton believed that nothing was more important than education. He advocated a low-keyed approach to the difficult work of race relations, which won him the praise of most disparate groups. He was a devoted family man, while also devoting time and energy to many organizations. He was especially proud of his affiliation with Fellowship; House, the Beta Omega Chapter of Omega Psi : Phi fraternity, the Elks and the Frontier’s Men’s organization He was and active member of the YMCA, a former president of the Association of United Campaign Agency Executives, a member of the NAACP, a former Kansas City Housing Commission and a former president of the Co-coordinating Council of Human Relations.
Other accomplishments included: a member of the education and the urban employment committee of the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, service with the Governor’s Comprehensive Health Planning Council; the advisory committee
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for Manpower and Training. He helped develop the Kansas City Plan for getting minorities into construction trades.
Pemberton loved golf, music and photography. After his retirement he was appointed a commissioner of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department, a position he thoroughly enjoyed.
The construction of Lounneer Pemberton Heights is a fitting honor for a man who dedicated his life to the betterment of the lives of others.