Fans of Madison County history enjoyed a blast from the past Sunday afternoon. At Union City Park in northwest Madison County, nearly 60 people gathered to witness the unveiling of a memorial marker for Andrew Tribble, one of the nation's great vaudeville performers.
Andrew "Andy" Tribble and his brother Amos were both born in Madison County. The pair went on to become famous vaudeville performers and are said to have been the inspiration for the popular "Amos 'n' Andy" radio show of the 1920s. That show went on to be made into a television show by the same name, running from 1951-1966.
Rev. Dr. Russell Rechenbach spoke about why Andrew Tribble was so important to him and led him to pursue putting up this marker. One way in which he had felt connected to Tribble was their shared love of artistic performing, since Rechenbach grew up with theater and dance as his primary extracurricular activities.
Reagan Taylor, Madison County Judge/Executive, also said a few words before the placard was officially unveiled. He emphasized the importance of working to ensure that valued stories of the past do not end up forgotten.
Howard Miller and Judy Greene-Baker took turns reading a brief history of Tribble's life and career. Andy and Amos Tribble performed in various styles of music, theater and comedy throughout their careers. For example, they joined the Pekin Theater, which was established in 1905 and was the first black-owned theater for music and vaudeville in the U.S.
Tribble broke barriers for black performers and even performed in "black face". This was done as a means of pushing back against the white actors who were putting on black stage makeup to mock black people.
Andy Tribble was known for his dedication to his craft. On Dec. 24, 1908, he was quoted in The New York Age: "I never go on stage unless I try to do my best. That, somehow, has always been my motto, and I have been well paid for sticking to it." A long list of performances Tribble had done during his lifetime illustrates the hard work and storied career he enjoyed.
The mayor of Richmond, Robert Blythe, spoke eloquently about the preservation of history. He noted that memorial markers such as Tribble's are important because they help ensure that future generations will hear the stories of our past.
Other notable speakers shared what Tribble's story meant to them, as well as Rechenbach's journey to have the marker put up in his honor. Sharon Graves from the Madison County Historical Society, said earnestly, "Thank you for taking this on," and acknowledged the long hours and fundraising that went into making the project a reality.
Kentucky State Sen. Reginald L. Thomas of Lexington even made the trip to be a part of the marker's unveiling.
The quest to preserve history continues, as the next marker the Historical Society members are working towards will be for William L. Hawkins, a renowned folk artist from Madison County.
Rechenbach, in his prayer over the ceremony, stated, "all things are possible with hard work and with faith." For someone who has worked so hard to help ensure that Andrew Tribble will not be forgotten, the unveiling of this placard was a satisfying moment.