The Civil Servant who Served the Poor

Junius Kellogg lived a life filled with connections. For a man who couldn’t gain access to a lot of places due to life in a pre-ADA world, he managed to show up just about everywhere and made connections all over New York City. In future posts, I’ll be discussing more of the connections he made in the world of sports, the world of the physically challenged and even the world of celebrity. For this post, I’d like to talk a bit about his work with the New York City Community Development Agency(NYCDA)

He joined the NYCDA around 1966 after he had been a community organizer at the failed, Project Uplift/HARYOU (Harlem Youth) program. The program was part of Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society.” Project Uplift had so much potential, but it was under-funded and so ill-conceived that Junius’ primary role was helping it to close down.

NYCDA initially started as an organization to help the poorest of the city’s poor apply for assistance in paying their utility bills. As the years passed, the agency greatly expanded and with it, Junius stuck it out and received promotion after promotion.

The same skills and teamwork Junius brought to his playing and coaching career, he brought to the city. When he was forced to retire from the NYCDA in 1997, he had risen to their Director of Strategic Planning. In his career with the agency he was responsible for distributing hundreds of millions of dollars in funds. His work literally saved lives.

I say this, not as a tongue-in-cheek statement, but perhaps the most difficult, non-physical challenge he must have faced in his life was working under five different New York City mayors: Lindsay, Beame, Koch, Dinkins and Giuliani. Interestingly, I believe the mayor he was in synch with the most, was Ed Koch. The only time Junius allowed himself to get into print was during the Koch administration. Junius often presided over community meetings that could get contentious. He was the face of the city and sometimes, that “face” received the brunt of the frustrations of the poor.

Doing the research on Junius’ time with New York City government was quite difficult. People he worked with just didn’t want to talk to me. Most of them formed a protective, bureaucratic shield around him. He had a personal secretary for more than 30 years, and she absolutely would not talk. She told me, through a friend, that Junius was “a very private man.” Fortunately, Junius’ friend, Bob Otten knew a great deal; more, I think, than his secretary realized.

His years with the city took their toll. He was in a position that was almost no-win, and one former co-worker did share that Junius was not universally loved. He hated fraudsters and people who took advantage of the poor. The man who uncovered the 1951 fix, was the same man who was pushed out of the door in 1997.

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