The Legacy of Stephan “Steve” Honore
Hill Street in Urbana has been the home to many distinguished African Americans throughout the community’s history. Business and civic leaders who broke down barriers and persevered leaving their mark not only upon their hometown, but the world. Among those inspirational stories is Stephan “Steve” Honore. The grandson of the Rev. Martha Cunningham Dolby, Steve would heed the call of President John F. Kennedy with the establishment of the Peace Corps and become a pioneer in the field of international volunteer service by doing so.
Born in 1938, Steve was the oldest of 8 siblings. He graduated 7th in his class from Urbana High School in 1956. He then completed his degree at Capital University with majors in Mathematics in Physics in 1960 and started his master’s degree at the Ohio State University when he made a life changing decision. In June of 1961, Steve was named as one of the very first Peace Corp volunteers in the nation. He would also be the first Ohioan to be chosen and the first person of color as well. After two months of intensive training at Rutgers University in New Jersey, he was assigned with 60 other delegates to Colombia. There he received additional training and worked on community development projects for his first six months in the Andes Mountains. In a 1962 interview with the Urbana Daily Citizen, Honore described his work with the Peace Corp as, “a democratic movement that promotes progress of the total community through maximum initiative and participation of the community in defining its problems, making decisions, planning courses of action, and actually implementing with government support and technical help provided as needed.”
During Steve’s first months on the job in Colombia, tragedy struck when two friends in the Peace Corp were killed in a plane crash in the country. Steve was part of the search party who located the wreckage and bodies in the jungle where the plane had crashed into a cliff. The conditions and access to the site were so limited at the time, the wreckage nor the deceased could be safely recovered. Steve would remain in Colombia through 1963 and continue working with the Peace Corps as an Associate Director in the Dominican Republic following. He would go on to work with the U.S. Agency for International Development also in the Dominican Republic. It was also the time and place where he met his wife, Flor. They married in 1967.
The following year, the couple returned to the United States where Steve worked as a community organizer during the President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty in the Model Neighborhood in Toledo. While there, Steve would graduate with a law degree in 1974 from the University of Toledo. Following that accomplishment, he was offered a law teaching position at the historically black college of Texas Southern University in Houston. A few years later he was offered the Country Director position with the Dominican Republic through the Peace Corp. The country is his wife’s native land, and the opportunity afforded Steve and Flor’s children to learn Spanish and connect with Flor Honore’s family and the Dominican Republic’s culture. In the early 1980s, Steve and Flor retuned to Houston where Steve resumed teaching and practicing law and serving as a municipal judge. Steve Honore particularly pursued his interests in civil rights, discrimination, immigration, and international law that no doubt shaped his world growing up and his time serving in a global institution such as the Peace Corp. The Honore family home is located at 345 Hill Street in Urbana and is just a stone’s throw away from the Hill Street Church of God led by his grandmother the Rev Martha Cunningham Dolby.
Steve would have known his grandmother during her lifetime. Given her leadership in religious circles, it seems very appropriate that Steve once said, “I may meet with abundant success, or I may be an utter failure . . . But one thing I know. I will put all my available energies in this project (referring to his Peace Corp work in Colombia), aiming for success, so that in the end, at least my conscience (and, I hope, my God) will be satisfied.”