The undaunted Spencer Ambler

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Local News

February 1, 2019 - 4:55 PM

On Jan. 23, Allen Community College honored longtime trustee Spencer Ambler by naming its new board room after the former Iola postmaster. Ambler has served on the board for more than three decades and has dedicated his services to a variety of other civic groups. REGISTER/RICK DANLEY

There was a day in the middle 1950s when Spencer Ambler betrayed his instinct and agreed to join his friends at the Silver Grill Restaurant in Chanute. “All the kids said, ‘Let’s go to the Silver Grill,’” remembered Ambler. “I said, ‘No, I don’t want to go.’” But his friends persisted: “You’re with us, it’ll be fine.” And so he went.

Ambler was a good student, quiet, a top athlete, the vice president of his class, and the only African-American male in his grade. He knew, on a cellular level, what his white friends couldn’t have been expected to know. And when they walked through the front door of the restaurant, the teenagers were met by an employee of the Silver Grill, who gave voice to a warning that Ambler had heard echoing in this thoughts long before he ever set foot on cafe property. ‘We’ll serve these guys,” the man said, “but we won’t serve him.’

“You don’t say anything when you’re that age,” remembered Ambler, “you just leave.”

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