– May 23, 2022, marks the 45th anniversary of Rep. K. Leroy Irvis becoming the first black speaker of the House in Pennsylvania’s history.
Current Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) marked the occasion at the start of today’s voting session saying in part, “Speaker Irvis was known as the ‘Lion of Pennsylvania,’ and I am personally honored and humbled to try and fulfill the speaker’s duties as well as he did. We are a better chamber today because of the work he did, and we are a stronger Commonwealth because he gave so much of himself to the people of Pennsylvania.”
Irvis was first elected to represent a portion of the city of Pittsburgh in 1958 and would go on to serve 15 terms in the House, including two stints as the House speaker.
When elected to the speaker’s role on May 23, 1977, he addressed the chamber saying, “you have elected not a black man to be speaker of the House, but more importantly, you have elected a man who happens to be black, and that is the direction that this country must continue to go.”
Irvis was a civil rights leader in his community and was responsible for 264 bills being signed into law. He was elected to the speaker’s role by a unanimous voice vote, the only speaker to achieve such support since Ben Franklin.
“The view from this specific seat in our chamber is truly humbling,” Cutler added. “Speaker Irvis lived a life of service to his Commonwealth in which each of us can find inspiration.”
More information on Speaker Irvis’ life and accomplishments is available here