Activist community

Lexington East End activist named 2022 Community Champion

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) — Decades of commitment were recognized in Lexington on Tuesday as Thomas Tolliver was honored as this year’s Lexington Community Champion.

The ceremony took place Tuesday morning at Charles Young Park in the city’s East End. Its location suits a man like Tolliver, who has dedicated the past 28 years to uncovering the community’s history.

“One of the things I’ve worked on and been passionate about in the East End is discovering and celebrating the rich history of this neighborhood,” Tolliver said.

He moved to Lexington in the summer of 1994.

“Within two or three months of coming here, I was bitten by this story bug,” Tolliver said.

Since then, he has spent the past 28 years researching and uncovering the history of the neighborhood, making it his mission to bring that history to the surface and honor the people of the community.

He was instrumental in the construction of the Isaac Murphy Art Garden. It sits on East Third Street, with a 16-foot-tall stainless steel artwork in the center.

“I say my impact on the neighborhood extends from the opera house to the art garden,” Tolliver said.

At the Lyric Theater, a brick stands outside in honor of Tolliver.

“It says ‘Thomas Tolliver East End Activist’,” he said.

Because of the work he has done, the City of Lexington recognized him as the 2022 Lexington Community Champion. The award is founded by American in Bloom Lexington and recognizes people who serve their communities, highlighting positive news.

“Is all the news negative? No, there are a lot of good things happening in our community,” Tolliver said.

The organization will plant a daffodil gallery of 1,000 bulbs on Shropshire Avenue for Tolliver. They will be planted in November.

“Their lives are short, but they give us immense beauty while they’re here and you can’t help but recognize them, and I’m honored to be rewarded with a daffodil drift. I can’t think of a more appropriate price,” Tolliver said.

Tolliver knows he won’t be around forever and hopes someone new will step in and pick up the job he’s been doing.

Last year, the late council member Jake Gibbs was the town’s community champion.