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Halyard, Ardie Clark (1896 - 1989) | Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Halyard, Ardie Clark (1896 - 1989)

Halyard, Ardie Clark (1896 - 1989) | Wisconsin Historical Society
A black and white image of Ardie Clark Halyard.

Ardie Clark Halyard

A black and white portrait of Ardie Clark Halyard

Dictionary of Wisconsin History.

Civil rights advocate, education reformer, business woman; b. 1896 in Covington, Georgia. After graduating from Atlanta University, Halyard co-founded the Columbia Savings and Loan Association where she served as secretary-treasurer for 46 years.

After World War II, Halyard and her husband Wilbur Halyard relocated to Milwaukee where she worked for 20 years at Goodwill Industries as an employment secretary and personnel director.

Ardie Clark Halyard was born on November 24, 1896, in Covington, Georgia, to William and Annie (Jeter) Clark. She was one of ten children, eight of whom survived childhood, and her family worked as sharecroppers. Annie Clark died when Ardie was young, and William Clark relocated to Arkansas, while Ardie stayed behind in Georgia with her aunt. She attended and graduated from Atlanta University.

Ardie Clark married Wilber Halyard on September 1, 1920, and the two moved to Beloit, Wisconsin, the next day. While in Beloit, Ardie joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), serving as a board member. In 1923, Ardie and Wilber Halyard settled in Milwaukee.

In 1924, the Halyards opened the first Black-owned bank in Wisconsin, Columbia Savings and Loan, with just 10 dollars. This Milwaukee establishment helped many African Americans secure home loans free from racial discrimination. Ardie Clark Halyard worked at the bank in a variety of roles for 46 years, donating her time at night. By day, she was employed at Goodwill Industries, where she worked for 20 years.

Halyard is credited with reviving the NAACP in Milwaukee and other Wisconsin cities. In 1947, along with Father James E. Groppi, she established the NAACP Youth Council, whose members were leaders in Milwaukee’s fair housing movement. In 1951, Halyard became the first woman to serve as president of the NAACP’s Milwaukee branch. In addition, she helped to organize the Wisconsin State Conference of the NAACP and served as the conference’s first president and treasurer. She also started the Negro College Fund in Milwaukee, was appointed by Governor John W. Reynolds to the Wisconsin Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women, and was appointed by Governor Patrick Lucey to the Wisconsin State Board of Vocational, Technical and Adult Education, on which she served for eight years.

Ardie Clark Halyard died February 14, 1989, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Sources:

The Black women oral history project : from the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe College. Westport, CT : Meckler, [1991]. Interview online here: Ardie Halyard. Tape 1. | HOLLIS for (harvard.edu); Milwaukee Public Television. The Making of Milwaukee (http://www.themakingofmilwaukee.com/people/historical.cfm); March On Milwaukee Civil Rights History Project. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries (http://www4.uwm.edu/libraries/digilib/march/ index.cfm).

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[Source: Submitted by Cimesha Williams of Alverno College. See citations above.]