Throwback Thursday – Kentucky’s first African American mayor: Luska Twyman

Kentuckian Luska Joseph Twyman was the state’s first African American mayor. Elected in Glasgow in 1968, his victory made national news headlines and paved the way for Black leadership across the state and country. This week Throwback Thursday tells the story of Luska Twyman.

Born in 1913 in the small community of Hiseville in Barren County, Luska Twyman was educated in the segregated public school system. His family moved to Frankfort, where he graduated from Mayo Underwood High School. Valuing higher education and motivated to change the state’s education system, Twyman earned his bachelors degree from Kentucky State University, and then his masters from Indiana State University. His post-graduate work was done at George Peabody College in Nashville.

After serving four years in the Army in the South Pacific during World War II, he returned home to Barren County to serve as Principal of the then-segregated Ralph Bunche High School. He led the merger to integrate the public school system and became assistant principal at Glasgow High School.

Twyman’s leadership inspired a run for city council, and he was the first African American to win a seat. That led to a mayoral run, and a 17-year term thru 1986, as the first Black mayor of Glasgow and first Black mayor in Kentucky. 

Twyman also held leadership roles on the Kentucky Education Association Board, the U.S. Commission of Agriculture, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and the Kentucky State University Board of Regents. He passed away in 1988 and was buried in Bear Wallow Cemetery in Barren County.

A Luska Twyman historical marker and Memorial Park can be found in Glasgow.