Xenia community leader who was active in Civil Rights dies

Anison James Colbert Sr.
Anison James Colbert Sr.

Anison James Colbert Sr., a well-known Xenia community leader and former owner of Colbert Funeral Home, died Friday at Kettering Medical Center.

He was 85.

Colbert was one of the first Black Ohioans to earn a national funeral director’s license in 1958 and opened his own funeral home in 1985. He was inducted into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2013, was a member of the NAACP and an active member of the Xenia community.

Colbert was a member of the Zion Baptist Church in Dayton and served on the Trustee board. He also served as executive secretary of the Board of Senior Citizens in Xenia and on the YMCA board.

He was a member of Xenia’s Civil Rights Commission for 20 years. He formed an organization called “Concerned Citizens of Xenia” and served as its director, which meant he was able to take a more active role in addressing community issues. As part of that, he received a grant from Greene County to help find employment for low-income and minority citizens.

Montgomery County Administrator Michael Colbert said his father instilled a sense of public service and business acumen in him. His mom gave him the accounting side, he said. Michael Colbert and his wife, Marquetta, a nurse practitioner, also operate Colbert Family Health and Wellness in Trotwood, which serves those in need.

Michael Colbert said one of the memories he has of his father was after the 1974 tornado, shortly after the family had moved to Xenia. After making sure his family was safe and the tornado had passed, Michael Colbert said his father got out the hearse at the funeral home and went around to help anyone he could. The National Guard ended up basing operations at the McLin Funeral Home, where he was director at the time.

“He was gone, after he made sure we were ok, he was out helping people in the community,” Michael Colbert said.

Michael Colbert said his father also started a drive to give out turkeys and hams during Thanksgiving and Christmas to those in need.

Sylvia Clark said her dad also gave her an interest in civil rights. She said she was able to meet multiple important people in the Civil Rights movement in the 1970s and 1980s because of her dad, and she became active in the Democratic party while she lived in Dayton because of him.

Tom Kelley, an assistant administrator for Montgomery County, spoke about Colbert’s life and work during a recent Montgomery County Commission meeting earlier this week. Kelley is a longtime friend of the family.

“I think it’s worth celebrating and remembering Anison Colbert today and the work he did on behalf of his community and the entire community and throughout the state of Ohio,” Kelley said.

Funeral services will be held on Thursday, Nov. 19, at noon at the Zion Baptist Church with Pastor Gary Chapman, officiating. Visitation services will be held on Thursday, Nov. 19, at 11 a.m. until time of services also at the church.

Entombment will be at Woodland Mausoleum in Dayton.

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