Curator Melissa Wolfe talks about the inspiration we can all take away from the Columbus Museum of Arts newest exhibition showcasing the work of home town hero George Bellows. George Bellows and the American Experience through January 4, 2014. This exhibition follows on the heels of a major retrospective of the artist organized by the [...]
Columbus’ Kathy Ransier Overcame To Build An Extraordinary Life
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Columbus attorney Kathy Ransier grew up in Huntington, West Virginia. Challenged there by racism and prejudice, Ransier overcame to build an extraordinary life.
In the 1950s, about 80,000 people lived in Huntington; only about 3,000 were black. The schools were segregated, some movie theaters, and most all restaurants. Kathy Ransier says there was always tension between blacks and whites. She recalls an incident on a city bus.
“I remember an incident with my cousin who wasn’t paying attention when she was approached by a white woman who said, ‘Get up!’ And she didn’t respond because she wasn’t paying attention. And then the woman said, ‘Get up, N-word.’ To which my aunt responded, ‘Don’t talk to her like that, she’s getting up.’”
Ransier says black parents taught their children how to live in this segregated world. She says she’s glad her children grew up in Columbus.
“I hate the idea that my children would have had the experience that I had to endure of fear; of always having to be aware – acutely aware – as a very young person of where you are, what you’re doing, the volume of your voice, you were quiet. You didn’t draw attention to yourselves,” Ransier says.
Visits to Columbus, Ransier says, were freeing experiences.
“We knew every summer that we were going to be able to charter a bus and come up to Columbus. And that was a fun, fun weekend. We did the zoo, we did the amusement park; we’d go to Lazarus and I remember the Toyland at Lazarus. But it was such a different feel; a different feel of walking down the street and not having people expect you to move out of the way. So it’s always held a very positive impression for me.
Ransier was a math major in college and after graduation, she returned to Huntington to work for International Nickel Incorporated. She was one of the first African Americans to work in the business office. Even so, she says, the overt racism continued.
“There was one guy in particular who, he had to work for me, he was subordinate to me. So when I was in the computer room he had to load my disks because they were enormous – big, huge heavy disks. Then he would always make a big deal, even if people were there, about loading it. And so one day we were the only ones in the room. And I walked in and he looked at me and he used his hand to form a gun and he pretended to shoot me.”
After only a few years, Ransier decided to return to college for a law degree. She chose Ohio State University.
“After the experiences I had had, I wasn’t expecting to be well-treated if I was employed by somebody else. So I really went to law school with the idea of putting up a shingle, as we used to call it, and I met a wonderful man, Fred Ransier, that bought into my dream,” says Ransier.
The law firm of Ransier and Ransier opened up shop in German Village and for 26 years husband and wife worked together serving an ever growing clientele. Later the couple became partners at Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease.
Kathy Ransier is now retired from the practice. But she’s still a board member with the airport authority and Huntington Bancshares. A few years ago she was asked to speak to one of the bank’s leadership conferences.
“I came up with the topic “From Huntington to Huntington.” What a long way! What an interesting road I’ve traveled. And just how poignant that is.”
Kathy Ransier says Columbus is home.
“Columbus is like a warm blanket around me. It nurtures me. It’s safe to have stayed here and lived here, had children, enjoyed all the benefits that life is expected to give you. It’s been amazing. And no regrets. No regrets. None.