The trailblazing leadership of Luska Twyman: Kentucky’s 1st black Mayor

GLASGOW, Ky. – Kentucky made history in 1968 when Luska Joseph Twyman was elected as the first African American city council member in Glasgow. His subsequent election to mayor paved the way for Black leadership across the state and nation.

Born in 1913 in the small community of Hiseville Twyman was educated in the segregated public school system. As principal of the then-segregated Ralph Bunche School, Twyman played a critical role in leading the merger to integrate the Bunche public school system.

Twyman made national headlines when he became the first Black city council member in Glasgow. And in 1968, the politician, educator, and World War II veteran garnered a new title: Kentucky’s first black mayor.

Barren County Historical Society President Sam Terry said, “When he went back to school after being sworn in, he thought he was going to complete his day as the school principal. And when he walked in, he found his office was absolutely filled with reporters and photographers from all over the country.”

Glasgow’s current Mayor Henry Royse recalled, “When I was in school there to sixth grade, that’s when we had ABC, CBS, NBC, all of them came to our little school to film this world famous gentleman becoming the mayor of Glasgow, Kentucky. It was unreal. Never will forget it.”

Over the years, his support seemed to only grow, Twyman serving a total 17-year term as mayor.

“In 1969, Luska Twyman carried every precinct in the city of Glasgow, which had 90 percent white voters,” informed Terry.

Glasgow-Barren County Tourism Director of Administrative Services Tina Wood remembered, “Even though I was young, it was a big impact not only for the city, but for the African-American community. Seeing that for the first time in the community opened up possibilities for anything that we wanted to achieve and accomplish.”

During his tenure as mayor, Twyman ushered in a new era of industrial development.