By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Feb 18, 2021 at 10:48 AM Photography: Wisconsin Historical Society

On Thursday, Feb. 18 – the same day that Mayor Tom Barrett will to sign a resolution officially changing the name of Old World Third Street to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive – the Vel Phillips Statue Task Force has announced that it has received more than $100,000 in donations to help fund a statue of Phillips at the capitol in Madison.

The donations announced today were $50,000 each from the Madison Community Foundation and Rennenbohm Foundation.

Before Thursday's announcement – which comes on Phillips' birthday – the effort had raised about $26,500 of its $250,000 goal, thanks to a $25,000 lead gift from the State Bar of Wisconsin.

After the announcement, the total rose to $126,461.

Phillips – who died in 2018 and for whom North 4th Street in Milwaukee was named a few months later – was not only a Civil Rights activist, but also the first African-American woman to graduate from the UW Law School, the first woman judge in Milwaukee County and the first African-American judge in Wisconsin.

She was also the first African-American and first woman elected to statewide office in Wisconsin as the Secretary of State, and first Africa-American and first woman elected to the Milwaukee Common Council.

The task force – of which Barrett is among the members, along with Ald. Milele Coggs and a host of local business and community leaders, including Phillips’ son Michael Phillips – is working to create and erect a bronze statue of Phillips.

The monument would make Phillips the first person of color to be memorialized on the grounds of the capitol.

If you’d like to help support this initiative, visit

Two hours after the 10 a.m. announcement, Barrett and Coggs will sign the King Drive resolution at the Milwaukee County HIstorical Society, 910 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr.

The Milwaukee Common Council unanimously passed a resolution – sponsored by all 15 alders – to change the name of Old Third World Street to North Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive on Feb. 9.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.