William T. Copeland            Inducted 1984 - Class of 1940

On the day (Dec. 6, 1983) that Bill Copeland was sworn in as vice mayor of Toledo, the article in The Blade reporting the event began this way:

"More than 40 years have passed since Bill Copeland made a name for himself here in high school basketball, but the former Woodward athlete still is known as a team player."

"Toledo's vice mayor-the first black since 1959 to hold that job-is described consistently by political acquaintances and old friends as an unassuming man who prefers a low profile in public and private life ."

Team player Bill Copeland played varsity basketball and baseball at Woodward, from where he was graduated in 1940. He went on to attend South Carolina State University on an athletic scholarship and, after graduating with a degree in education, played professional basketball.

Mr. Copeland made his first imprint on Toledo as a labor union leader. He had joined Local 500, Laborers International Union of North America, when he worked as a summer employee between terms at South Carolina State. He was business agent of Local 500, one of the largest construction unions in the Toledo area, from 1959 to 1971, and business manager of the local from 1971 until his retirement in 1982. When the union built its new headquarters on Ashland Avenue, the building was named the William T. Copeland Hall.

In his first try for political office, Mr. Copeland was elected to Toledo City Council in 1973. He was defeated for re-election in 1975, but was appointed to fill a vacancy in January, 1977, and elected to a two-year term that fall. In the three subsequent elections, he won re-election easily. As his popularity with Toledo voters grew, he finished higher and higher in the race until, in the 1983 election, he led the ticket of 16 candidates. Again quoting from the Blade article: “His tireless campaigning, willingness to show up at nighttime neighborhood meetings, and persistence in citizen grievances have given him the recognition required to lead a Council ticket."

It was this first-place finish that led to his unanimous election by City Council as vice mayor of Toledo.
Among his other activities, Mr. Copeland has served as vice president of the Northwestern Ohio Building Trades Council, executive board member of the Toledo Port Council, an associate member of the Labor-Management-Citizens Committee, and a board member of the Ohio Laborers District Council involved in its training and upgrading programs.

©2020 Woodward Alumni Hall of Fame

  • Facebook