92-year-old honored as Brown-Forman distillery’s first Black chemist

Dollita Okine September 13, 2023
92-year-old Elmer Lucille Allen was given the Bourbon Pioneer Award by The Black Bourbon Society, in recognition of her ground-breaking impact in the industry. Photo Credit: WLKY

92-year-old Elmer Lucille Allen was recognized by the Black Bourbon Society this month in recognition of her ground-breaking impact on the bourbon industry. Allen, a Louisville native and graduate of Central High School and Nazareth College, became the first African-American chemist at Brown-Forman starting in 1966.

She landed the job at Brown-Forman after spending some time working in labs, hospitals, and eventually at the University of Louisville doing medical and dental research. Today, she is seen as a pioneer for women working as scientists and for women in the bourbon industry.

The 92-year-old told WLKY she never planned to become a scientist or make history. “I’m just glad that people appreciate what I have done. I don’t do it for myself. I do it for others. Cause when you do things out here for yourself, it stays with you. But if you do it for other people, you know it’s really something,” she told WDRB.

The founder of the Black Bourbon Society, Samara B. Davis, called Allen a trailblazer in the field. “She made this major contribution to bourbon, but there’s still so much to fill, and there’s so much to do in order for everything to be really diverse and inclusive in our space,” Davis remarked.

According to her, it was important for her to see Allen honored for all she did to break down barriers in the bourbon industry. “I look at her as the person who did it, and what can I do, even if I’m the first, even if it’s never been done before,” Davis added.

Allen received the Bourbon Pioneer Award, Distinguished Citizen Proclamation, among other recognitions at the Louisville Marriott Downtown on September 1. At 92, Allen is also an accomplished ceramic artist and supporter of the arts community. She received a Master of Studio Arts from the University of Louisville for ceramics and fiber arts in 2002 and she also received a WLKY Bell Award in 2021.

She seeks to inspire others with whatever she does.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: September 13, 2023


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